A small study has shown that a pulsed electromagnetic field may be useful in the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia patients.

Researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada carried out the research and published their results in the winter issue of the journal Pain Research & Management.

The study found that exposure to a specific kind of electromagnetic field reduced pain in individuals with fibromyalgia but had no effect on pain in people who did not suffer from fibromyalgia.

The electromagnetic radiation used is known as a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF). Previous experiments with PEMFs have shown that they produce an analgesic (pain relieving) effects in many organisms.

The University of Western Ontario researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled clinical trial involving 17 patients with chronic generalized pain from Fibromyalgia (FM) and 15 patients with chronic localized musculoskeletal or inflammatory pain.

Patients were selected at random and either exposed to a PEMF (400 muT) through a portable device fitted to their head or given an identical looking sham device which did not generate an electromagnetic field. The treatment sessions lasted for 40 minutes and were given twice-daily for seven days.

The effects of the PEMF treatments on pain reduction were recorded using a visual analogue scale in which patients are asked to mark the severity of pain on a line with the left end representing no pain and the right end representing the worst pain imaginable.

It was found that there was a clear reduction in pain in the fibromyalgia patients who received the genuine PEMF treatments. This pain reduction effect was not evident in the fibromyalgia patients receiving the sham treatment or the patients with chronic localized musculoskeletal or inflammatory pain who received either PEMF or sham treatment.

The researchers conclude that: "PEMF may be a novel, safe and effective therapeutic tool for use in at least certain subsets of patients with chronic, nonmalignant pain."

They go on to suggest that a much larger randomized, double-blind clinical trial with just fibromyalgia patients is needed to confirm their findings.

PEMF devices have been advertised as a treatment for fibromyalgia by their manufacturers on the internet and elsewhere for a number of years now. It seems that reliable clinical research is now beginning to validate these claims. This is not the first small scale study to show that PEMF treatment is beneficial for fibromyalgia pain. As the authoprs of this study conclude however, larger such studies are required before PEMF treatment can be accepted as a proven fibromyalgia therapy.

PEMF is also not the only theapy basd on magnetism that appears to be useful for fibromyalgia pain. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has also shown much promise. Small companies are also developing products based on magnetic therapy for the treatment of fibromyalgia. One example is a special material known as Farabloc which the manufacturers own research has shown to be effective with the results being published in medical journals.

Source: Thomas AW Graham K Prato FS McKay J Forster PM Moulin DE Chari S (2007) A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial using a low-frequency magnetic field in the treatment of musculoskeletal chronic pain Pain Research & Management 12(4):249-58



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