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Electromagnetic Field Therapy claims to help everything from pain to collagen production – we tried it

Electromagnetic Field Therapy claims to help everything from pain to collagen production – and all you have to do is lie down on a mat twice a day. Healthista Anna Magee tried a 12 week course

The list of benefits of the new EMPpad Omnium reads like a wellbeing pipe dream: improved joint and muscle pain, better skin and nails and even sleep, hormone balance, more energy and increased circulation.

Recently launched into the UK by osteopaths Samuel Maddock and Steven Harper, the EMPpad is a mat attached to an android tablet that when switched on, emits Pulsed Electro Magnetic Fields (PEMFs) which over time, can lead to its impressive list of claimed benefits. The ideas is, you lie on it twice a day for 8-12 minutes and let it do its thing.

lady lying on omnium pad, electromagnetic therapy, by
Someone lying on an EMPpad Omnium1 which emits that Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) to the body


What exactly are Pulsed Electro Magnetic Fields (PEMFs)?

The earth emits electromagnetic radiation at a low rate, around 10-30 Hertz (this measurement is named after Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the first physicist to provide conclusive proof of the existence of electromagnetic waves). This, says Samuel Maddock, is the kind of electromagnetic wavelength the body likes; that he says, can help circulation and wellbeing. ‘It’s particularly potent by the sea, in forests and also in certain parts of the earth such as Arizona, known as ‘vortexes’,’ Maddock explains.  ‘This optimum level of electromagnetic radiation is associated with making the communication between the cells in the body more efficient and can help lead to profound and widespread health benefits.’

When it comes to electromagnetic radiation, more is not better and large amounts from mobile phones, wi-fi and bluetooth technology can lead to heart palpitations, headaches, irritability and tiredness

But when it comes to electromagnetic radiation, more is most definitely not better. In fact, large amounts of it – from mobile phones, wi-fi and bluetooth technology – can lead to heart palpitations, headaches, irritability and tiredness and has also been associated with potential cancer and tumour formation (though the jury is still out on the latter). The difference between good and bad benefits of electromagnetic radiation is known as the ‘biological window’, a term coined by neuroresearcher Ross Adey, who found that the body responded favourably to electromagnetic radiation of up to 30 Hertz. But outside that range, the effects on the body were negative.

For example, a typical mobile phone emits about 2.4 GigaHertz, which is about a billion times stronger than the earth’s magnetic field. Indeed, our mobile lives and permanent use of wireless technology in homes and offices has led to growth of what experts now call Electro-Smog, the large amounts of high frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that we are exposed to daily. Though the evidence isn’t conclusive, it has been linked to a raft of health problems and after a review of over 2000 studies, the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences concluded that ‘EMFs should be regarded as possible carcinogens.’

In fact, earlier this week, The Daily Beast reported that a family in Massachusetts is suing their son’s school alleging the Wi-Fi in his classroom is causing him to have allergic reactions such as a bloody nose, dizziness, heart palpitations and nausea – his mother claimed these were down to a condition known as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) in which EMFs can cause allergic reactions. The World Health Organisation has said the symptoms associated with EHS include fatigue, nausea and heart palpitations.

The android tablet in its leather case has an inbuilt biorhythm clock and knows which PEMF setting you need at which time of day.
The android tablet in its leather case has an inbuilt biorhythm clock and knows which PEMF setting you need at which time of day.

Pulsed Electro Magnetic Fields (PEMFs) therefore relate to optimum therapeutic dosages of EMFs from devices such as the EMPpad Omnium.

What are the proven benefits of PEMFs therapy?

One four year study by the team at NASA assessed the ability of PEMFs to improve healing, growth and regeneration of tissues in mammals. It also looked at other similar forms of ‘energy medicine’ such as lasers, LED lights and static magnets.

Led by physicist Dr Thomas Goodwin, the team assessed many different parameters of PEMFs including waveform, frequency and intensity the study found the best results came from the therapy that used PEMF technology in a low frequency (10-30 Hertz) and intensity and for varied times during the day (the EMPpad is also used for varying times, depending on your needs – which it assesses through a questionnaire – for example, eight minutes in the morning and 12 at night).  The team found that the static magnets, lasers and LED lights had little of no effect.

But the PEMFs, in varying daily doses, were associated with improved tissue healing, accelerated cell growth, greater cell longevity, up-regulation of genes related to collagen production (that is, skin improvements), cell restoration and growth. In other words, it affected just about every function in the body at a cellular level. Subsequent studies have shown specific benefits of PEMF therapy associated with lower back pain, pain reduction after fractures, post-operative pain after boob jobs, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and chronic pain.

Are any high-profile people into it?

You bet. One of the reasons I was so intrigued by the EMPpad Omnium is that the list of famous names that have already shelled out £2K for the product reads like a High-Achiever’s Hall of Fame. They include Muhammad Ali, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Campbell (Ex-Arsenal and England football player), Roger Moore, Tony Robbins (global super-coach) and Dr. John Gray (author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus series).

What happened when I tried it?

Still, the idea that you can have such a plethora of wellbeing benefits from lying on a mat a couple of times a day – with or without the sciency-sounding explanations – set off every inch of my skeptic’s mind. So I tried it for 12 weeks.  What did I want to achieve?  I was looking for an improvement in my niggling joint issues – odd bits of knee and ankle pain when I overdo it at the gym – and my chronically sore and tired muscles. And like most, I would love more energy, better skin and hair too, thanks very much.

Anna lying on an EMPpad, electromagnetic wave therapy, by
Anna lying on the Omnium EMPPad after an introductory session with founders, osteopaths Samuel Maddock, left, and Steven Harper, right.

Week one – getting started

Here’s how it works: you switch on the super-charged Android tablet attached to the mat and then lie down and let it do its thing for your allocated time – mine was eight minutes in the morning and 12 at night. Some people can feel a little heat at first though many, like myself, feel nothing at all, which is normal. The tablet has an inbuilt biorhythm clock attached to it so it knows how long you need at what time of day, making it easy to use. Though I couldn’t sense any benefits, I certainly couldn’t complain about having a reason to lie down on a mat in my bedroom and do nothing for twice a day. The magnetic field produced from the mat is about 1-1.5 metres so it can move through all tissues in body as well clothing and cushions so I used a pillow and got busy doing zero.

Week two – nothing much

Oddly enough, I felt a real pain in my right knee when doing squats and lunges during my workout, an old running injury that seems to be coming back to haunt me. ‘Sometimes using the EMPpad can unlock injuries at first,’ says Maddock. It’s a typical reaction which didn’t worry him. Indeed, two days later it was gone completely.  The mat is portable so I was able to take it with me on a driving holiday through Scotland and not miss my therapy.

Week six – decreased muscle pain

So my husband has started calling it the ‘NASA mat’ and referring to my ‘lying down’ as the non-negotiable time when myself and my EMPpad have our time together. I am still loving this enforced relaxation; a luscious compulsory escape where I am forced to do nothing.

The biggest change so far – it’s almost miraculous – is zero muscle pain

The biggest change so far – it’s almost miraculous – is zero muscle pain. Before the experiment I used to get muscle cramps at night and post workout, had so much trouble with muscle recovery that I often could barely muster three tips a week to the gym. Now, that gnawing, dragging pain post-exercise has completely gone and I am managing five workouts a week, quite tough combinations of resistance training, boxing and kickboxing. I am delighted.

that gnawing, dragging pain post-exercise has completely gone and I am managing five workouts a week

According to Samuel Maddock, the most researched effects of the EMPpad technology are those on natural pain relief.  He puts it down to its ability to promote tissue repair, a key documented benefit. and explains the evidence showing that PEMF therapy increases something in the body called Heat Stress Protein 70 (HSP70). This is a substance the body produces during a warm-up which protects cells from the thermal and oxidative stress caused by exercise. In a 2012 study on rats, it was found this protein was increased by PEMF therapy and it induced faster repair of muscle fibres.

I should say though, that I have also been following a vegan diet for the last two months – for a separate feature in the Sunday Telegraph.  So I can’t be sure which effects are down to the mat and which are down to veganism.

Week ten – No PMT, more energy

By the tenth week I get a period with none of the mood swings, back pain or breast tenderness I have had in the past.  Without even any period pain, I didn’t even know I was pre-menstrual, something Samuel Maddock puts down to the mat’s ability to improve circulation. ‘If circulation is more efficient, tissue can become less pain sensitive,’ he says.  Improvement in pre-menstrual tension and pain are two of the key areas for which he receives testimonials from users of the mat.

I’m struck by the increase in my energy.

I’m also struck by the increase in my energy. I can manage more work and more exercise through the day without a flooding of fatigue that used to come over me most nights. In fact, I am going out in the evening more than ever. One of the reasons for my increased energy could be that increased use of laptops, mobile phones and tablets – of which I use all three like my very existence depends on them – has been shown to cause a clumping of red blood cells in the body. These are the body’s principal method of delivering oxygen throughout the system and clumping, says Maddock, can contribute to a sense of brain fog and fatigue.

Week 12 – Faster-growing hair

This week I went to my hairdresser’s Tom Tsang at Smith’s in Soho and he commented on how quickly my hair has grown – like three inches in six weeks! It’s astounding but it doesn’t surprise Samuel Maddock. ‘If we go back to the NASA study, it found an increase in the production of collagen and keratin, both substances in the body that make hair and nails grow more quickly and to also affect skin positively too.’ Skin-wise too, I now remember that I’ve been getting a lot of comments along the lines of ‘You’re glowing, what’s going on?’ I guess I have my NASA mat to thank for that.

Week 14 – I’ve stopped….and muscle pain is back!

I was devastated at having to give back my beloved mat and wondered whether the effects I observed were all in my head. While my energy has remained high and my PMT still non-existent, my muscle pain, though not back in full force, has begun to plague me a little again, with the odd gnawing night cramp rearing its ugly head.  Even my eternally skeptical mind has to admit, there is something in this PEMFs therapy after all.

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