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Electromagnetic wave therapy: the new £2000 gadget that claims to reduce pain, boost collagen in skin and muscle recovery

You lie on a mat attached to a high-powered Android tablet day and night and after six weeks can hope for reduced pain, better skin and improved sleep thanks to the electromagnetic wave therapy it emits. Is this new gadget a techie pipe-dream or proven therapy? Anna Magee found out

Lie on a mat attached to a tablet for eight minutes in the morning and 12 minutes in the evening. After around 12 weeks of daily use, you can hope for improved joint and muscle pain, better skin and nails and even better sleep. As you lie on it you won’t feel anything. Oh, and it costs £2315.

Yer, what?

That was the initial description I got of the new EMPpad Omnium1. It set off every little micro-millimetre of my quackery radar.

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

Just launched into the UK by osteopaths Samuel Maddock and Steven Harper who claim the process triggers cellular healing in the body, in fact, a cursory glance at the studies on it shows a surprisingly robust body of evidence.

Moreover, the list of famous names that have already shelled out £2K for the product reads like a High-Achiever’s Hall of Fame and includes:

Muhammad Ali (yes, that one)
Jeff Bridges
Kevin Campbell (Ex-Arsenal and England football player)
Roger Moore
Shaquille O’Neal
Tony Robbins (global super-coach)
Olympic Champion ‪LaShawn‬ Merritt
David Wolfe (spokesperson for the Nutribullet)
Dr. John Gray (author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus series)

Here’s how it’s supposed to work.  The earth emits electromagnetic radiation at a low rate, around 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 Maddock, is the kind of electromagnetic wavelength the body likes.

However, a typical mobile phone emits about 2.4 GigaHertz. Our mobile lives and permanent use of wireless technology in homes and offices has led to growth of what experts now call Electro Smog, he large amounts of high frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that we’re exposed to daily. Though the evidence isn’t conclusive, it’s 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.’

Conversely, the kind of Pulse Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy that the EMPpad emits is associated with a host of health benefits. And while the claim sounds daft, the science is impressive.

For example, a 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. Let by physicist Dr Thomas Goodwin, the team assessed many different parameters of PEMFs including waveform, frequency and intensity.

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They found the best results came from the therapy that used PEMF technology in a low frequency 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.

Turns out, the NASA study wasn’t a flash in the pan and subsequent studies have shown specific benefits of PEMF therapy associated with the following (each point links to the study summary or text):

Lower back pain

Pain reduction after fractures

Post-operative pain after boob jobs

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Chronic pain

So, how do you use it? 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. Some people might feel a little heat at first though many 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 super-easy to use.

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.

It comes with  mat for all-body use along with two smaller shaped pads that can be used to treat localised areas of pain or injury such as knees or back.

Omnium pad kit, electromagnetic therapy by
The Omnium Pad kit featuring the Android tablet that powers it, the mat for full-body use and two smaller mats for localised areas such as knees or back

I began trying out the EMPPad about three days ago and I can’t say I have felt any difference yet. Indeed, according to Samuel Maddock, most results begin to appear after 2-6 weeks of daily use but 12 weeks use is optimum.

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

What do I want to achieve? Well, world domination and walking on water, would be nice but no one has done a placebo-controlled study on those. So I would be happy to get 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. I am heartened by decent evidence showing that PEMF therapy also increases something in the body called Heat Stress Protein 70 (HSP70) that it 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 – that is what I want.

Oh, and that thing about boosting collagen production? I want that. Mostly that. So, watch this space. After my 12 weeks’ trial use time is up, I will be bringing you a detailed review faster than you can say: ‘Does it work?’

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