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Injuries and Medical Advice

Electromagnetic Snake Oil

Some sage advice from Rock and Ice's resident doctor regarding pulsed electromagnetic field therapy.

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This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 249 (April 2018).

I have an occupational connection with pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) and began using a PEMF device to aid my recovery. As I expected, the therapy is helping reduce my recovery time tremendously. Can you provide feedback on pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy for recovery?


The challenge in answering your question is in part trying to convey the utter lack of any scientific rigor surrounding therapeutic electromagnetic fields (and other electrotherapy modalities like TENS, ultrasound and laser), but mostly it is about articulating this without referring to idiocy.

I could just as easily strap a cow turd to my arm and tell people that the cutaneous absorption of excreted comfrey chlorophylls (the cow grazed only on organic comfrey pasture) significantly enhances cellular division, of which comfrey is a known catalyst, thereby supersizing my healing capacity. Quite convincing, really.

Having reviewed the website you sent, I don’t have enough space in this column, or magazine, to address the sheer inadequacy of supporting evidence provided. There is no peer-reviewed data that shows this reiki strap-on to be any more therapeutic than my poo poultice.

If you are looking for improved recovery, I suggest you look first at the fuel you put in your mastication hole. One simple rule—after any significant exercise bouts, ingest sugar within 10 minutes and protein within half an hour. Chocolate milk. Get a little more sleep. Listen to slow-tempo music. All are known to be helpful in recovery. That said, if you are by nature experimental or susceptible to placebo effects, the $400 price tag will also stimulate the economy.

Note that there are untold of studies looking at the detrimental effects of electromagnetic fields and whether they increase the risk of cancer. These too found little or no adverse correlation with typical environmental doses (e.g., microwaves, blenders, induction cook tops, overhead power lines, mobile phones). But would I live near high-voltage wires? No chance. And I use a headset with my phone and threw my microwave out years ago. Call me cautious.

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