PEMF was originally developed and tested for the treatment of fracture non-unions and delayed union, both of which are costly and debilitating conditions. This method has been accepted and widely used by many in orthopedics. Extensive basic research revealed the probable underlying mechanisms and extensive clinical trials documented safety and effectiveness and led to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Pulsed electromagnetic fields applied to the outside of the body induce small but measurable micro-currents within the tissues. Two firmly established nineteenth century laws of electromagnetism are involved:
1. Ampere’s Law states that the flow of electric currents, as in a wire or coil, must produce magnetic fields in the surrounding space.
2. Faraday’s Law of Induction states that oscillating magnetic fields, such as those produced by a coil, will give rise to oscillating electric currents in nearby conductors, including in living tissues.
Success with bone healing led to testing PEMFs on other tissues, which led to the discovery that each tissue responds to a particular frequency. PEMF frequencies were identified that could stimulate healing in skin, ligament, tendon, muscle, and nerve. The key to the success of PEMFs is the use of very low levels of stimulation, so that the currents flowing through a bone fracture or other injured tissue are on the order of the currents set up naturally within tissues when they are stretched or compressed. The mechanisms by which these micro-currents are produced during normal movements have been documented and involve the piezoelectric effect and streaming potentials. There are a wide variety of tissues that respond favorably to low level signals of particular frequencies. Clinically, significant frequencies range from 0.1 Hz to millions of Hz. Cells are sensitive to such tiny signals because there is a cascade of events that takes place across the cell surface, through the cytoplasm, and to the nucleus, where transcription is activated. In essence, cells amplify tiny signals.
PEMF treatments are not effective on 100% of the patient population because research has shown that optimal therapeutic frequencies must be determined on an individual basis. The most effective way of determining the optimal frequencies is through “biofeedback” using the radial arterial pulse commonly known as VAS. The VAS evolved from the work of a French physician, Dr. Paul Nogier, who taught neurology at the medical school in Lyon, France. In 1966, Dr. Nogier discovered that the Vascular Autonomic Signal (VAS) was evoked in the radial pulse when he touched certain points on the ear of a patient. Subsequently, he discovered that the arterial system responds in a reproducible manner to a variety of changes to key physiological systems in the body. To be specific, the VAS is a rapid change in the tone of the smooth muscles in the walls of the arterial system throughout the body, mediated by sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons. Detectable changes in the pulse are triggered by specific events within the body. The effect is consistent and is both repeatable and measurable by modern equipment. The response that is felt by the practitioner is a qualitative variation in the perception of the pulse that begins from 1 to 3 cycles after the stimulus begins and continues for about 8 to 15 cardiac cycles. Dr. Nogier found that there are four pulse responses to stimuli: no response, the weakening of the pulse signal (negative VAS), increase of the pulse signal (positive VAS), and a sharp pulse spike. These responses occur from colors, magnetically induced currents, sound frequencies, light waves, emotions, touch, substances, and electromagnetic frequencies. Both diagnostic and therapeutic tools are based on this phenomenon. VAS is sometimes referred to as Peripheral Arterial Tonometry (PAT).
Although the term “signal” as in the “Vascular Autonomic Signal” is widely used, many who use the system consider the term “response” more accurate. A response is an answer to a question and the VAS is the body’s reaction or answer to a question posed by the introduction of stimulation into the body or into its energy field. The VAS is rapid, extremely sensitive and can be used to discover both the best treatment for a condition as well as more subtle levels of disturbance or imbalance. These include blockages to the healing response, layers of pathology, appropriate priority for treatments and subclinical issues. The VAS can be used both before and after a treatment to determine the accuracy of the diagnosis and the success of the treatment. In essence, the VAS is a very sensitive way of “listening” to the body as well as a way to provide feedback to the patient.
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