Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy may reduce cellular inflammation associated with disc degeneration


A study published in The Spine Journal has shown that pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy may reduce cellular inflammation and degradation associated with disc degeneration in human intervertebral disc cells.

The Orthofix study was designed to determine how pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy affects gene expression of IVD cells in normal and inflammatory environments.

“The results of this study are clinically important as they demonstrate PEMF has disease modifying activities that may, in the future, provide a minimally-invasive solution for patients living with painful degenerative disc disease,” says Jeffrey C Lotz, professor and vice chair of Research at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), San Francisco, USA, and co-author of the journal article. “While an important first step, more studies are needed to determine if this is indeed a viable option for managing inflammation and impaired healing associated with painful intervertebral discs.”

In an in-vitro human cell culture and microarray gene expression study, cells were stimulated to elicit the inflammatory environment associated with degenerative disc disease (DDD). The cells were exposed to the Orthofix Physio-Stim PEMF for four hours daily. At day four, this study revealed that cells treated with PEMF showed a reduction in proinflammatory markers, and a decrease in degeneration of the cellular matrix relative to the control group, although this reduction did not persist to day seven.  

Orthofix Chief Scientific Officer and co-author James Ryaby, says, “We believe this study suggests that PEMF may be an important future treatment option for patients suffering from degenerative disc disease.”

The Orthofix Physio-Stim and Cervical-Stim PEMF technology is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These devices generate a uniform, low-level electrical field that helps activate and augment the body’s natural healing process to enhance bone fusion, according to a company release.