Electromagnetic pulses significantly decrease pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis of the knee, according to Henry Ford Hospital researchers.
In the double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled study, 34 patients used a portable battery-operated device that emits a low-intensity pulsating electromagnetic frequency and experienced more than 40% pain relief on their first day.
“Our results show pulsed electromagnetic fields caused a significant decrease in pain,” Fred Nelson, MD, associate program director for research and director of the Osteoarthritis Center, department of orthopaedics, Henry Ford Hospital, said in a press release.
Nelson explained that in the laboratory, electromagnetic signals have been shown to decrease calcium in cartilage cells. This sets off a series of chemical events that can lead to reduced inflammation. Previously, the electromagnetic fields have been used to control pain related to cosmetic surgery.
“We are really fine-tuning what we are doing to the cell environment with a very specific pulse sequence and frequency,” Nelson said.
Patients strapped the small, ring-shaped plastic device around their knees for 15 minutes, twice daily for 6 weeks. The device was lightweight and patients could position the device directly over clothing. All participants were given a device with a coil that appeared to work but some were assigned active coils and others were given non-active coils.
“The exciting thing about this new approach is that it has been found to have no side effects, it is relatively low-cost in the long-run and the onset of pain relief is immediate,” Nelson said. “We look at electromagnetic pulses as a potential way to improve quality of life and independence for those who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee.”