PEMF therapy for Parkinson’s Disease

PEMF therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been significantly researched and applied. There have been numerous trials to test efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic fields as an alternative treatment for Parkinson’s disease. PEMF therapy has neuroprotective effects and perhaps this explains why it works well for relieving Parkinson’s symptoms. Let us learn a little about Parkinson’s disease and then see how PEMF therapy works and benefits Parkinson’s disease as per available research.

PEMF therapy For Parkinsons Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a common modern ailment and the prevalence of this cerebral disease is increasing. There are links to Parkinson’s disease and neurotoxicity, which isn’t  a surprise since the world has gotten significantly polluted in the 20th century.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons defines Parkinson’s disease as a progressive disorder of brain function due to degeneration of nerve cells in the part of brain known as substantia nigra, affecting hormonal and neurotransmitter functions, resulting in tremors, rigidity, reduced flexibility, slowness of movement and impaired balance and co-ordination. Most experts believe that this brain region becomes hyperactive in people with Parkinson’s due to the loss of dopamine.

How does PEMF therapy work?

Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy is the application of safe​1​, non-invasive pulsating magnetic fields for regenerative and functional improvement therapy purposes. Applying pulsed electromagnetic fields to the brain (called transcranial magnetic stimulation) boosts cellular oxygenation by increasing circulation to the brain and by stimulating brain mitochondria (the powerhouses of cells). These changes result in faster and increased natural cellular regeneration and repair.

Pulsed magnetic therapy devices, in general, have evolved after more than 6 decades of research and thousands of studies and hundreds of PEMF clinical trials. A number of terms have been used to describe brain stimulating magnetic fields – T-PEMF (transcranial PEMF), PEMF, TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) and EMS (Electro-Magnetic Stimulation). All are similar technologies and vary by intensity and coil design. Therefore, when we study the available research on treating Parkinson’s disease using PEMF therapy, we consider the studies of all the above electromagnetic therapy technologies.

PEMF therapy research for Parkinson’s disease

Several studies on PEMF therapy exhibit improved gross and fine-motor (movement) function and cognitive abilities. Pulsed magnetic fields have a molecular action and significantly alter the reactivity of molecules (radicals).  With fewer free radicals there is less inflammation and aging related degeneration slows down. PEMF therapy has also been proven to alleviate depression and improve mental health​2​ (up to 40%​3​ of Parkinson’s patients have depression).

PEMFs have a great healing potential for Parkinson’s disease and a help for physical therapy and neurorehabilitation.

Published research on the effects of PEMF therapy on Parkinson’s disease has been available since early 90s.

In 1996, Dr. Reuven Sandyk from Department of Neuroscience at the Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation Services of Touro College, NY, treated a 73 y/o patient with a 10 year history of Parkinson’s disease using PEMFs​4​. Within a week of PEMF therapy, there was  almost complete disappearance of PD tremors, start hesitation and freezing of gait. He was also able to draw better and got back his signature.

In 1999, his research uncovered that AC PEMF therapy improves smell (olfactory function)​5​ in Parkinson’s disease. He also noticed that 7 Hz stimulation was helpful in resolving olfactory dysfunction, which is often ignored in treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Smell and yawning are often indicators of disease status and improvements in these functions means that treatment is working.

Dr. Sandyk has published several studies, and can be considered one of the key scientists from the US involved in early research on the effects of PEMF therapy for PD. In addition, to above mentioned research, he found improvements in speech impairment​6​ and restless leg syndrome​7​ among benefits.

In 2015, a joint research review study​8​ on the mechanisms and therapeutic applications of electromagnetic therapy in Parkinson’s disease by reputed researchers from Italy, Mexico and UK also concluded that PEMFs improve PD symptoms including tremor, slowness of movement and difficulty in walking. It is non-invasive, safe and improves PD patients’ quality of life.

Another large review of 470 PD patients from 2015 concluded that rTMS improves motor symptoms and tremor control for patients with PD.

In 2018, universities in Denmark conducted a randomized clinical trial​9​ to study the benefits of PEMF therapy for Parkinson’s disease. They applied 30 minute treatments using a 50 Hz PEMF field for 8-weeks and concluded that PEMF therapy does indeed benefit Parkinson’s patients, allowingthem to rise up from their chairs faster. The best results are seen in mild Parkinson’s. It’s possible that the results may have been even better if 10 Hz was used instead to stimulate neural stem cells, to result in improved potential for neuro-regeneration, according to this paper from NASA.  

There is a lot more published research on PEMF therapy for Parkinsons, In addition to the research review articles presented above, there is even more research below. We hope you find the information useful in your own search on how to use PEMF therapy effectively.

PEMF therapy for Parkinson’s Disease Research References

(1-9 cited in article), Further reading: 10-32

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    Vonloh M, Chen R, Kluger B. Safety of transcranial magnetic stimulation in Parkinson’s disease: a review of the literature. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2013;19(6):573-585. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2013.01.007
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    van B, Bosker F, Kortekaas R, Beersma D, Schoevers R. Treatment of depression with low-strength transcranial pulsed electromagnetic fields: A mechanistic point of view. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2016;71:137-143. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2016.07.006
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    Sandyk R. Treatment with AC pulsed electromagnetic fields improves olfactory function in Parkinson’s disease. Int J Neurosci. 1999;97(3-4):225-233. doi:10.3109/00207459909000662
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    Sandyk R. Speech impairment in Parkinson’s disease is improved by transcranial application of electromagnetic fields. Int J Neurosci. 1997;92(1-2):63-72. doi:10.3109/00207459708986390
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    Malling A, Morberg B, Wermuth L, Gredal O, Bech P, Jensen B. Effect of transcranial pulsed electromagnetic fields (T-PEMF) on functional rate of force development and movement speed in persons with Parkinson’s disease: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS One. 2018;13(9):e0204478. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0204478
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    Sandyk R. Treatment with AC pulsed electromagnetic fields improves the response to levodopa in Parkinson’s disease. Int J Neurosci. 1997;91(3-4):189-197. doi:10.3109/00207459708986376
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    Gironell A, Kulisevsky J, Lorenzo J, Barbanoj M, Pascual-Sedano B, Otermin P. Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the cerebellum in essential tremor: a controlled study. Arch Neurol. 2002;59(3):413-417. doi:10.1001/archneur.59.3.413
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    Obeso I, Cerasa A, Quattrone A. The Effectiveness of Transcranial Brain Stimulation in Improving Clinical Signs of Hyperkinetic Movement Disorders. Front Neurosci. 2016;9:486. doi:10.3389/fnins.2015.00486
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    Moisello C, Blanco D, Fontanesi C, et al. TMS enhances retention of a motor skill in Parkinson’s disease. Brain Stimul. 2015;8(2):224-230. doi:10.1016/j.brs.2014.11.005
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    Shirota Y, Ohtsu H, Hamada M, Enomoto H, Ugawa Y, Research Committee on rTMS Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease. Supplementary motor area stimulation for Parkinson disease: a randomized controlled study. Neurology. 2013;80(15):1400-1405. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e31828c2f66
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    Cohen OS, Orlev Y, Yahalom G, et al. Repetitive deep transcranial magnetic stimulation for motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease: A feasibility study. Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery. January 2016:73-78. doi:10.1016/j.clineuro.2015.11.017
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    Wagle S, Shuster J, Chung J, et al. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) Therapy in Parkinson Disease: A Meta-Analysis. PM R. 2016;8(4):356-366. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2015.08.009
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    Sandyk R. Improvement in word-fluency performance in Parkinson’s disease by administration of electromagnetic fields. Int J Neurosci. 1994;77(1-2):23-46. doi:10.3109/00207459408986016
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    Sandyk R. Improvement in short-term visual memory by weak electromagnetic fields in Parkinson’s disease. Int J Neurosci. 1995;81(1-2):67-82. doi:10.3109/00207459509015299
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    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
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    Lee S, Kim M, Chang W, Cho J, Youn J, Kim Y. Effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on freezing of gait in patients with Parkinsonism. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2014;32(6):743-753. doi:10.3233/RNN-140397
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