When it comes to the treatment of fractures, healthcare professionals are continually exploring new therapeutic options to improve patient outcomes. One such avenue is Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy, which has garnered attention for its potential benefits in bone healing. However, the evidence surrounding its effectiveness remains inconclusive, and it is not currently recommended in clinical guidelines for bone and osteochondral defects. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence supporting the use of Extremely Low-Frequency PEMF (ELF-PEMF) treatment. In this article, we will delve into the physiological processes behind PEMF therapy and discuss the research findings related to fracture healing.

Understanding the Physiological Response to PEMF Therapy

Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields have been found to promote the synthesis of skeletal extracellular matrix, a vital component of bone tissue. When skeletal cells are exposed to PEMF, they undergo a physiological process that involves the synthesis of structural and signaling molecules in the wound area. This response instructs skeletal cells to produce these molecules and enhances the ability of skeletal tissues to adapt to changing environments and biomechanical demands, thereby facilitating the healing process. The potential of PEMF therapy lies in its ability to reduce the time to union and increase the percentage of fracture healing, as observed in studies focusing on fresh tibial fractures and femoral neck fractures.

A Brief Historical Perspective

The exploration of PEMF therapy dates back several decades. Prior to the year 2000, while research in Western Europe, the United States, and Japan was ongoing, scientific work behind the Iron Curtain was conducted in isolation. A comprehensive technical report compiled during this period documented the promising benefits of PEMF therapy across various medical applications. These applications included peripheral vascular disease, lung disease, gastrointestinal disease, neurological disease, rheumatic disease, pediatrics, dermatology, surgery, gynecology, oral medicine, otorhinolaryngology, ophthalmology, immunity, inflammation, reproduction, and tumors. The report referenced over 200 scientific papers, involving both human and animal studies, providing a foundation for future investigations.

Early Adoption in Veterinary Medicine and FDA Approval

Veterinarians were among the first healthcare professionals to embrace PEMF therapy, primarily using it to aid in the healing of broken legs in racehorses. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a specific PEMF system as an adjunct to cervical fusion surgery for high-risk patients. In September 2020, the FDA recommended reclassifying PEMF medical devices from Class 3 to Class 2, recognizing their potential for safe and effective use in medical settings. Cleared PEMF devices are allowed to make health claims, requiring a doctor’s prescription for use.

Advancements in Wellness Devices

Over time, PEMF devices have evolved from the original Helmholtz coil design, where the patient’s body was placed inside the magnetic field for treatment. Modern PEMF wellness devices, resembling yoga mats, utilize flat spiral coils to generate an electromagnetic field. A frequency generator energizes these coils, creating a pulsed electromagnetic field. A wide range of professional and consumer PEMF devices, registered as FDA wellness devices, are available on the market. Though predominantly manufactured in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, they are widely used in North America as electric massagers or full body electric yoga mats. It is important to note that companies marketing these devices as “general wellness products” are not permitted to make medical claims regarding their effectiveness in treating diseases.


While PEMF therapy shows promise in the treatment of fractures, current evidence remains inconclusive and does not support its routine use in clinical practice. However, there is strong scientific evidence for the efficacy of ELF-PEMF treatment. The synthesis of extracellular matrix and signaling molecules in response to PEMF stimulation can enhance skeletal tissue healing and improve fracture outcomes. As research continues to unfold, further exploration of PEMF therapy may lead to advancements in fracture treatment and other medical applications.

Keywords: PEMF therapy, fractures, evidence, clinical practice, skeletal cells, extracellular matrix, healing, time to union, fracture healing, history, veterinary medicine, FDA approval, wellness devices.