PEMF therapy can be an effective treatment for headache and migraine as evident from clinical research. There have been some compelling studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy for treating migraine and headache disorders.
A headache is something almost all of us experience at some point in life or another. There are several types of headaches, but the three common types are – migraine, tension-type headache and cluster headache1.
According to the World Health Organization, migraines affect up to 15% of the world’s population and can also cause serious neurological disabilities.
To learn about the effects of PEMF therapy for headache and migraine, we need to learn about these conditions, their causes and symptoms. And then evaluate the clinical evidence of PEMF treatment for these pain conditions.
Why PEMF for headache and migraine?
As a complementary therapy, PEMF for headache and migraine could be a viable solution as it is non-invasive and drug-free pain relief technology. Pulsed electromagnetic fields applied to the brain work as transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Headaches and migraines can occur due to anxiety, stress as well as inflammation in the brain. Also overuse of certain medicines can be a reason for having headaches or migraines1. In an article by scientists from the Department of Neurology, UCLA (California) it was reported that blood flow or vascular function is disturbed during a migraine attack and may be used as a target for treatment.2
In a recent study from Mayo Clinic, the impact of PEMF therapy on vascular function and blood pressure in hypertension patients was assessed in a placebo-controlled trial. It was concluded that 12 weeks of PEMF therapy may improve blood pressure and vascular function in hypertensive patients.3
Headaches and migraine due to menstrual cycle and PEMF
Hormonal imbalances can occur in women during menstrual cycles could also be responsible for frequent migraines or headaches. In a research review from Graharm Headache Centre, published in the Headache journal, Estrogen levels fall leading to loss in serotonin triggering migraine and depression.4
There has been ample research on PEMF therapy for depression. In 1996, Dr. Sandyk, one of the pioneers of PEMF research in the United States published a case studies which found that PEMF facilitates serotonin neurotransmission5. Thus by supporting the recovery from these causes and symptoms PEMF could be a viable option. For women with menstrual distress or dysmenorrhea too, PEMF has been found effective6.
Headache and migraine treatment with PEMF
Low-frequency, low-intensity PEMFs have been studied in several research studies for migraine and headache treatment as well as sleep disorders, stroke rehabilitation and pain management.
In 2016, the International Journal of Clinical Trials, published the results of a randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled trial which studied the effectiveness of PEMF in refractory migraine or persistent long term headache disorders. They concluded that 10 Hz 40-50 Gauss PEMF stimulation can be a beneficial treatment in such cases where standard and/or aggressive treatments have failed.7
Migraine is multi-dimensional and often manifests silently causing pain or discomfort in other parts of the body. The nervous system which makes us feel pain which is necessary for survival connects our entire body that includes the brain, spine, muscles, etc. Therefore, balancing and stimulating the entire body maybe an easy to use strategy with a higher success rate that urgently needs further clinical investigation. There are many benefits of PEMF therapy besides treating headaches and migraines, so a full featured system might be the best go-to-strategy for obtaining a decent PEMF machine for regular use.
The Madigan Army Medical Center, Washington conducted a clinical trial and found positive benefits of PEMF therapy for migraine.8 They used an interesting approach by applying PEMF to inner thighs for treating migraine. Acupuncture, physiotherapy and TCM practitioners will be easily to explain the connection here.
PEMF being a non-invasive and drug-free treatment modality can certainly be a great headache treatment option of the future. There is ample evidence for allowing further research and trials for applying PEMF therapy for headaches and migraines.
1. Classification and diagnostic criteria for headache disorders, cranial neuralgias and facial pain. Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society. Cephalalgia. 1988;8 Suppl 7:1-96. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3048700
2. Brennan K, Charles A. An update on the blood vessel in migraine. Current Opinion in Neurology. Published online June 2010:266-274. doi:10.1097/wco.0b013e32833821c1
3. Stewart G, Wheatley-Guy C, Johnson B, Shen W, Kim C. Impact of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy on vascular function and blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2020;22(6):1083-1089. doi:10.1111/jch.13877
5. Sandyk R. Freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease is improved by treatment with weak electromagnetic fields. Int J Neurosci. 1996;85(1-2):111-124. doi:10.3109/00207459608986356
6. Kamal H, Abd El Aziz A, El Nahas E. Effect of pulsed electromagnetic field on menstrual distress in primary dysmenorrhic women. J Med Sci Res. Published online 2018:250. doi:10.4103/jmisr.jmisr_85_18
7. Hatef B, Hashemirad F, Meftahi GH, et al. The efficiency of pulsed electromagnetic field in refractory migraine headaches: a randomized, single-blinded, placebo-controlled, parallel group. Int J Clin Trials. Published online February 14, 2016:24. doi:10.18203/2349-3259.ijct20160475
8. Sherman R, Acosta N, Robson L. Treatment of migraine with pulsing electromagnetic fields: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Headache. 1999;39(8):567-575. doi:10.1046/j.1526-4610.1999.3908567.x