Did you know that the heart accounts for only about twenty percent of the total circulation in the human body? The heart has taken center stage for centuries. It is the engine that runs the whole circulatory system, beating 100,000 times a day on average and pumping approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through the body each day.
The heart is such a vital organ that it has its own electrical system, pumping blood with each beat and working to supply oxygen to working muscles or to the lungs for re-oxygenation through the arteries and veins. But it is the study of the webbed system of capillaries within the microcirculatory system, their response to pulsed electromagnetic signals, and their role in human health and recovery, that is beginning to gain more attention in medical and scientific research. And PEMF, or pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, which is also known as low field magnetic stimulation, is beginning to make waves in the medical community.
THE SCIENCE OF MICROCIRCULATION
Consider for a moment that veins constitute about 14.5 percent of your circulatory system and arteries account for about 11.5 percent of your vascular system. This means that approximately 74 percent of your circulatory system consists of micro-capillaries. Scientists estimate that the vascular system in an adult human contains around 60,000 miles of microvessels—which, if stretched end to end, would be enough to circle two and a half times around the earth.
Capillaries are key players within microcirculation, carrying oxygen and nutrients directly into the tissues and organs of the body and removing metabolic byproducts from virtually all living cells. These microvessels are also capable of vasomotion, which is the expanding and contracting of the blood vessel walls, independent of heartbeat or respiration rate. In other words, the heart doesn’t pump all the blood in the body and vasomotion is how these tiny vessels pump oxygen and nutrients to cells at the furthest reaches from the heart.
Scientists are discovering that if blood cannot flow easily into these microvessels, then there will be a deficiency of oxygen and nutrients to cells, which will have cumulative negative effects on all tissues and organ systems in the body. Additionally, known factors such as age, diet and stress can affect vasomotion, and some of our most common chronic degenerative diseases are associated with impaired micro-capillary circulation, with ongoing scientific studies exploring the links between microcirculation and some aspects of cardiovascular disease, the epidemic of metabolic disorders related to elevated blood sugar, cognitive decline like dementia and Alzheimer’s, and poor wound healing.
THE ELECTRICITY OF CELLS
But how do you change or measure microcirculation? It can’t be seen or felt on a daily basis, yet medical studies indicate that it can impact our overall health
One of the ways to target the cells and smaller vessels of the body is through the field of PEMF therapy. PEMF stands for Pulsed Electromagnetic Field. Devices that use PEMF technology for therapy produce electromagnetic fields with different waveforms that stimulate various cells and tissues in the body.
Each tissue and organ in the body has a unique electromagnetic signature. Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans take advantage of the body’s unique signatures to create a map of the body’s tissues using pulsed electromagnetic fields.
While the diagnostic benefits of PEMFs like CAT scans and MRI’s are accepted and widely used, the FDA is still reviewing the therapeutic benefits of PEMF therapy. But the benefits of PEMF therapy have been documented in multiple peer-reviewed clinical studies for a wide range of medical conditions, especially in Europe where it is more commonly used in hospitals and clinical practices. Randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials using PEMF therapy have shown beneficial effects for chronic low back pain, fibromyalgia, cystic fibrosis, osteoarthritis, recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery, tendinitis, depression, wound healing, infection, Alzheimer’s disease, and even for relief from symptoms of tinnitus and Parkinson’s disease.
And while there are very few FDA-approved PEMF devices in the U.S., residents here in the Wood River Valley have access to several different PEMF therapies.
Dr. Nancy Parry, MD, who retired from medical practice this past August but still acts as medical director for Sun Valley Hyperbarics (oxygen hyperbaric chamber therapy), has been using PEMF therapy to treat a variety of conditions from sports injury and planar fasciitis to neuropathy. Parry uses the BEMER device, which was developed in Germany over 23 years ago is the only FDA Class II cleared PEMF medical device that uses low output power and frequencies to therapeutically stimulate muscles and improve local blood flow (FDA Class II approval designates devices with “medical claims that are supported by science”).
“BEMER helps get rid of inflammation,” said Parry, who points to a half a dozen patients who have been using BEMER to help with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. “After 52 years in practice,” Parry said, “it is one of the most amazing medical devices I have ever seen.”
BEMER works by delivering a proprietary wavelength that is similar to the earth’s geomagnetic field. It is safe and non-invasive. “You don’t even really feel it,” said Michelle Barrow of Hailey, who had been renting a BEMER unit through Lisa Hamilton Pilates to treat a shoulder injury and noticed that it helped with her symptoms of vertigo, then decided to invest in a BEMER unit for her home. “I have found no research related to vertigo,” Barrow said, “but I know my symptoms subside and I feel better after using it.”
Dr. Joshua Berka, NMD, chief medical consultant for BEMER USA, described the technology this way: “BEMER uses induction, not conduction technology, so it is not putting electricity into the body, but is using PEMF therapy to deliver a low power and frequency PEMF that mimics the earth’s geomagnetic field. IT is a patented signal that targets the smallest vessels for therapeutic benefits .”
Berka described PEMF waves like a musical song that has a specific melody, rhythm and tempo, or pulse. “It is a song which these vessels know the dance to,” Berka said. “We are using a specific wave pattern to work with the body as a way to help increase blood flow. This, in turn, supports the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and better disposal of metabolic waste.”
Dr. Molly Brown, PhD, DNM, of CENTER Health & Performance in Ketchum, uses PULSE, a PEMF therapy with higher frequencies than consumer PEMF devices, that delivers nanosecond pulsed electromagnetic fields (which are basically powerful, ultrashort voltage pulses in the form of ion induction therapy). It is certified by the German safety standards authority TÜV and has been used to promote therapeutic and regenerative processes, especially in cases of injury, edema, pain, wound healing, infection, and bone fractures. The nanopulses harmlessly slip past a cell’s exterior to shock the vital structures within, which Brown describes as “cellular exercise” saying that it increases cellular metabolism and helps amplify natural energy.
“I have seen amazing results in wound healing, nerve regeneration, sprains and fractures,” said Brown, who has also used the device as part of a comprehensive treatment for both autoimmune disorders and antibiotic resistant infections. “I have seen remarkable improvement in immunity with this device for some patients in only a handful of treatments.”
Perhaps the highest validation of the science behind PEMF is the non-consumer applications being explored. BEMER was chosen as a cooperative partner for NASA and is working with NASA on integrating BEMER technology into human space flight. NASA scientists are collaborating with Dr. Berka and BEMER USA on how to integrate BEMER technology in the development of undergarments that are designed to promote functional blood circulation and countermeasures for muscle and bone degeneration on earth and in space.
And the PULSE technology, the PEMF therapy used by Brown, is currently involved in a large collaborative research program supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, in Arlington, Va., with promising results that include a recent discovery that certain pulsed electric fields can reduce skin tumors in mice. Researchers found that a few hundred pulses totaling just 120 microseconds of treatment shrank melanoma tumors in mice by 90 percent and a second treatment, days later, destroyed the tumors completely.
THE FUTURE OF PEMF
PEMF is “team player” meaning that it may be used an adjunctive therapy in conjunction with other treatments. Relatively new to the U.S., PEMF therapy is growing in popularity and acceptance, and proponents claim it can act as a preventative therapy, working as a lifestyle enhancement that helps promote wellness and healing. Thousands of studies and a growing body of research continues to show how PEMF therapy can help optimize athletic training, improve energy and endurance, enhance nutrient and oxygen delivery, improve physical fitness, increase wound healing, improve sleep management, and accelerate the recovery process.
“Microcirculation and PEMF therapy is one of the hottest ‘silent’ topics in all of medicine and science,” Berka said.
And if it can help the astronauts of the International Space Station stay in optimum health, it seems worth exploring for those of us down here on Earth as well.
The “Heart” Facts
- The average human heart beats more than 2.5 billion times before a person reaches their 75th birthday.
- The heart expels 2 ounces of blood with each beat, five quarts of blood each minute, around 220 million quarts in 70 years.
- Human blood retains a link to ancient Cambrian seas; the same balance of salts and minerals that existed in the primitive oceans half a billion years ago are present in human blood.
- Red blood cells (erythrocytes) are the body’s cellular lungs; their job is to ferry oxygen to every cell and remove carbon dioxide.
- If the red blood cells from one person were to be stacked in the sky, they would reach 31,000 miles.
- Venous blood that delivers carbon dioxide back to the lungs makes up 75 percent of blood flow at any given moment.