*Note: For more information on Sports Medicine see our Clinical Studies.

CAN MAGNETIC AND ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS BE USED FOR MUSCLE RELAXATION?

Marko Markov, Ph.D.
Former Visiting Professor
Bioelectrochemistry Laboratory
Mt. Sinai Medical Center, New York

&

Carlton F. Hazlewood, Ph.D.
Retired, Former Professor
Molecular Physiology & Biophysics
Baylor College of Medicine

Summary

Introduction
Magnetic/electromagnetic field therapy
THERAMAG USA CORPORATION and Theramag
Magnetic fields and sports medicine
Baseball
Hockey
Football
Golf

How this technology works
Potential for relaxation and well-being

Introduction
Despite the significant success of western medicine in the second half of the twentieth century, there are a number of conditions associated with acute or chronic injuries and pain for which successful treatments were not established. While acute pain and trauma is related mainly to traumatic injuries or swelling/inflammation and can be easily controlled, the chronic conditions represent a serious problem for society. The National Institutes of Health estimate that more than 48 million Americans suffer chronic pain that results in a $65 billion annual loss of productivity and over $100 billion spent on pain care. Today western medicine is based mainly on the achievements of chemistry which have been utilized and expanded by the pharmaceutical industry. Unfortunately, nearly all pharmaceuticals affect, not only the target tissues, but also the entire organism and in many cases initiate adverse effects. In contrast, physical medicine in general, and magnetobiology in particular, provides non-invasive, safe and easily applied methods to directly treat the site of injury, the source of pain, and the inflammation. Recent advances in biomagnetic technology make magnetic and electromagnetic fields a useful modality for treatment of various pathologies and diseases. It has been shown that electromagnetic fields (EMF) provide a practical, exogenous method for inducing cell and tissue modifications which correct selected injuries and pathological conditions. However, electromagnetic fields are still not widely used in clinical medicine.

In addition, various magnetic fields were evaluated worldwide and found to be effective not only for therapy of diseases and injuries, but also for the relaxation and well-being. This becomes even more important with respect to increasing physical and emotional stress in the everyday life of millions and millions of people on a global perspective.

Magnetic/electromagnetic field therapy
Interest in magnetic field therapy in the USA was stimulated in the last decade by the large commercial marketing of permanent magnets (which triggered the interest of the general public). It is fair to say, that for many reasons, including restrictive policy of FDA and the resistance of insurance companies, the US is about two decades behind the rest of world in utilization of these modalities which have created a revolution in modern medicine. It should be noted that more than a million patients have been treated with magnetic field (MF) therapy worldwide, with application to practically all areas of management of musculoskeletal problems. This large number of patients has exhibited a success rate of up to 80%, with virtually no reported complications.

It is accepted that magnetotherapy operates via a series of integrated stages, each of which has particular objectives essential to the tissue/system repair processes. During the past 25 years it has been shown that magnetic fields offer an excellent possibility to be a non-invasive method of stimulation for management and control of various health conditions. Having in mind that the most important clinical principle of injury management is to provide a natural physiological environment for optimum healing, the proper choice of the MF parameters may significantly enhance the healing process. Electric and magnetic stimulation has been shown to provide beneficial and reproducible healing effects even when other methods have failed. It has been also shown that the required energy of magnetic fields should have some specific characteristics which vary, depending on the problem to be solved. To make a general statement that a patient was “energy stimulated" is as nonspecific as saying a patient was given a drug. But, more importantly, serious manufacturers of EMF devices will tell you what the characteristics of the acting field are, and will be interested in applying appropriate signals to appropriate targets.

Caution is recommended when people come to you with “energy delivering” devices and tell you nothing about the physical characteristics of their device, nothing about the specific conditions of treatment and nothing of the pathologies being treated. They will often tell you that somewhere in Dominican Republic or in Europe this device was used to treat hundreds or thousands of patients with a success rate of 95-100%. When you see such success rates, further caution is recommended. Centuries of medical history show such success rates to be impossible. These “entrepreneurs” who may better be characterized as charlatans running to offer worthless devices for energy delivery for the purposes of therapy of diseases and/or for well-being. Thus, they stimulate those who claim energy medicine as quackery.

Permanent magnets and electromagnetic field therapies are now riding the crest of a tidal wave of interest in “alternative and complimentary” medicine. Consequently, any magnetic stimulation starts with identification of the desired target tissue and the MF parameters to be delivered to this tissue. The evaluation of the efficacy of EMF modalities should be based on recognition of the clinical problem, identification of the physiological responses, and a critical review of the reported basic science and clinical data.

MF stimulation represents an effective approach to the healing process - it is an easy, inexpensive and comfortable therapy. MF can be applied in the presence of a cast or wound dressing because the MF applicator does not need to contact either the skin or the dressing.

ELECTROMAGNETIC RESOURCES, INC. and THERAMAG USA CORPORATION
THERAMAG USA CORPORATION has made great effort to distinguish itself from these “entrepreneurs” and to attain a leading position in engineering and application of magnetic field generating system for a very focused use: treatment of selected problems such as RSD or for the purpose of muscle relaxation for well-being and for sports medicine. In addition to the continuing improvement of engineering design of the device, we aggressively investigate the potential of this technology to be applied in various clinical settings, engaging world respected experts from science and clinical medicine.

There is a paradigm of cellular communications which are achieved via transport of energy, and mainly information at a physical level, involving energies far below the temperature kT limits. However, there is nothing mysterious – the information transfer or cellular signaling is regulated by the rules of physics. The information transfer is performed via existing biophysical and biochemical pathways.

Why is this important? Because the design of Theramag is based upon the philosophy that magnetic fields might have, not only a direct effect on the target tissue, but also a systemic effect. This explains the beneficial effects obtained at sites distant from the localization of treated limb. More likely, this involves also the functioning of the central and peripheral nerve systems.

In his acceptance speech, receiving in 1932 the Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine, Sir Charles Sherrington said: “… the XIX century medicine found a nerve which when irritated prevented its muscle from contracting…The role of inhibition in the working of the central nervous system has proved to be more and more extensive and more and more fundamental. Its role as a coordinative factor comprises that and goes beyond that. In the working of the central nervous machinery inhibition seems as ubiquitous and as frequent as excitation itself….”

If one embraces this hypothesis, the potential of magnetic field to cause muscle relaxation in diseased and healthy individuals would be more and more important.

Magnetic fields in sports medicine
There are a number of modalities used in sports medicine that exploit electric current and electric fields. Not so many systems which utilize magnetic fields are known in the US.

Here are four examples from the use of magnetic fields:

Baseball
During the spring camps in 1995, pulsed radiofrequency magnetic fields were used with several teams whose camps were located in South Florida. The treatment was done on the shoulder of pitchers prior to warm-up period. As result ,they were able to pitch 30% longer than usual. However, the strike baseball went on forced the early termination of this study without analyzing the effect in real game conditions.

Hockey
In the inauguration year of Florida Panthers, the same pulsed radiofrequency magnetic field was used to treat hockey players who received a muscle injury during practice and/or play. The therapy was applied immediately and in consecutive days (once a day, 30 min session) until recovery. For each player depending on the type of injury a team consisted of the coach, physician and physical therapist predicted the duration of absence of the player from practice and/or games. In average, the applied treatment cut the absence in half and allowed the players to come back to the ice within 2-3 times shorter than the expected period of time. The management of Florida Panthers purchased one stationary set up for their camp in Pompano Beach and a portable one to be used while traveling.

Golf
Permanent magnets became very popular within professional golf players in the mid and late 1990’s basically because of Jim Colbert, senior PGA player. Using light-weight permanent magnets to fight low back pain (typical for golf players), Jim Colbert and later Bob Murphy and Donna Andrews contributed to the fact that by 1996 approximately 70% of senior tournament golfers did not go to the golf course without permanent magnets placed at their low back area.

Football
In the late 1990’s, the Miami Dolphins football team received “magnetic mattresses” for their massage tables. Results were far beyond any expectation. Magnetic field made the manual therapy much more efficient. Players wanted to remain on the table after the massage was over because they exhibited very comfortable relaxation. Some of players purchased “magnetic mattresses” for their homes and were very pleased with relaxation they had each morning. We will try to explain this phenomena a little bit later. Here is an anecdotal fact: The same type of mattress seriously helped the eldest son of one of the players, Dan Marino, who was suffering from autism.

Some ideas of how magnetic field works in the above-mentioned applications for sports:
These examples might be explained by different mechanisms, but in general they are connected with enhancement of the action of cardiovascular system. There are series of studies that indicate the acceleration of blood flow under magnetic field influence. Thus more oxygen, ions and nutrients are delivered to any cell which in turn might bring the metabolic activity to a higher rate.

To explain the effect of magnetic field on pitcher’s ability to perform, we would need to consider that the metabolic activity in the shoulder area, enhanced by magnetic fields, might be beneficial for actual warm-up, since the body is already prepared for more efficient utilization of the physical abilities of the players.

In case of musculoskeletal injury (in hockey) magnetic fields play a dual role. On one hand, by enhancing the blood and lymphatic flow, magnetic fields help in reducing internal inflammation which resulted in less pain. On the other hand, magnetic fields help the body (the injured area) to return faster to normal level of functioning, eventually working to reduce the injury currents. Similar mechanisms might be discussed in case of low back pain relief in golf players.

The third mechanism (in football) is even more important for both healthy and sick people. At any level of body activity the metabolic processes produce energy and waste products. In normal conditions the body has mechanisms to evacuate the waste products. But as result of some diseases and heavy physical work, this evacuation might be depressed. Magnetic fields (by the same reasons of enhancing the efficiency of blood-vessel and lymphatic system) help detoxification i.e. evacuation of these waste products. Thus the subjective feeling of tiredness disappears, but more importantly, magnetic fields clear the way to restore a normal functional status of the body.

Potential for use of Theramag for relaxation and well-being
As it was stated above, magnetic fields, with selected physical parameters, may be useful for the purpose of relaxation and well being. This requires, first, a definition of what type of relaxation is looked for, and, second, identification of muscles or body parts subject for relaxation. One must remember that “magnets are not equal”. Moreover, different magnetic fields may affect different systems by different ways. In other words, the relaxation should be based on strong science. THERAMAG USA CORPORATION possesses the vision and scientific potential to achieve these goals.

It is known now that EMF are more effective for systems out of equilibrium. It is known also that in most of these cases an injury current originates. The best compensation for this current is electromagnetic compensation achieved by various magnetic fields. If this is correct on the level of simple tissue, it should be correct on the level of system treatment. The art here is to identify the source of the problem and to select proper physical parameters which the device would deliver.

We are well aware that this is a long way to go yet. But as the ancient Greeks said: “Even the longest journey starts with the first meter.” Looking around, you may see that most of the countries from Europe and many countries in Asia (Japan, China, India) are decades ahead of the USA. We would like to see the EMFT evualated as an effective contemporary treatment modality and allocate adequate funding for research, both basic science and clinical research, in order to speed development of this therapy in the USA.