I Tried PEMF Therapy, and It Eased My Chronic Shoulder Pain—While Also Leaving Me More Relaxed and Focused
In the wellness world, it seems there’s always another product, gadget, self-improvement book, or way of hacking our system to feel your best. As capitalistic as that may seem, there’s no denying that some wellness launches really are worth the hype. For example, in the past few weeks, I’ve found that pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, aka PEMF therapy, with the HigherDOSE Infrared PEMF Go Mat ($699) most definitely makes the list.
To be honest, the perks of a PEMF therapy mat seemed too good to be true—it's purported benefits include boosting your mood, reducing stress, relieving pain, and increasing energy. But, after seeing HigherDOSE’s mat rise in popularity on TikTok (over 146 million views and counting!)—and after one of my close friends texted me raving about it—I knew I had to try it out.
Unfamiliar with the technology? According to Rahi Sarbaziha, MD, an integrative aesthetics doctor based in Beverly Hills, PEMF therapy isn’t just some woo-woo ploy to get folks to spend cash on yet another wellness device. “PEMF therapy occurs via a bio-electromagnetic-energy device that energizes and recharges cells through low field magnetic stimulation,” she explains.
Low-level PEMF therapy produces an electromagnetic induction (the production of an electric current) , according to Marc Matarazzo, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and was the former assistant team physician for the New York Jets and New York Islanders. “This has been shown to alter cell activity and biology by activating and deactivating certain types of cells and inducing cell signaling,” he explains. Cell signaling or communication is how a cell responds to substances like hormones and neurotransmitters outside of its membrane, on its surface, and internally, and it’s important for cells to grow and function normally.
How PEMF therapy works
In short, PEMF therapy has the ability to affect some of the most important cells in our body—and it all happens through the manipulation of the body’s natural magnetic field. Cells altered by PEMF therapy include stem cells—both mesenchymal (which play a vital role in the production and repair of skeletal tissues like cartilage and bones) and stromal (which play a fundamental role in connective tissues and overall health)—as well as macrophages (a type of white blood cells that help protect the body from infection).
“PEMF uses magnetic energy to work with your body's natural magnetic field to help improve healing,” says Neil Paulvin, DO, a longevity and regenerative medicine doctor based in New York. Dr. Paulvin notes that it can affect cellular metabolism on a large scale.
As far as how it’s applied, Dr. Sarbaziha says, “The patient will lie on a mat or have a small flexible pad for targeted therapy of one region. It pulses electromagnetic fields to stimulate cells to help with cellular dysfunction and overall health.”
The benefits of PEMF therapy
Since PEMF Therapy targets a variety of cells, it has the ability to boost various components of overall health.
“There is scientific evidence that PEMF can up-regulate anti-inflammatory cells and cell-signaling cytokines and de-regulate pro-inflammatory cells,” Matarazzo reveals, noting that it can actually help manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis and some cancers. Additionally, he says that PEMF can reduce states of chronic inflammation (and subsequent pain from such), restore altered blood flow and boost circulation, suppress the breakdown of (and induce the regeneration of) articular cartilage, enhance bone healing and tissue regeneration, and more.
Because of these benefits, Dr. Paulvin says that PEMF therapy is especially popular among athletes and those who work out. “PEMF therapy can help athletes manage pain, recover faster, and function at a higher level,” he explains.
Though, let it be known: PEMF therapy doesn’t only offer physical benefits. It has the potential to reduce stress and mitigate depression and anxiety disorders, too. Anxiety and depression are complex mental health disorders that involve various factors, including biochemical imbalances, brain activity patterns, and environmental influences. PEMF therapy is thought to affect these factors by influencing the electrical and chemical processes in the body.
Several studies have investigated the effects of PEMF therapy on depression. While the results are mixed, some research suggests that PEMF therapy may have antidepressant effects and could potentially be a non-invasive and safe treatment option. However, the existing evidence is not yet robust enough to draw definitive conclusions or make broad recommendations.
Similarly, there is limited research on the use of PEMF therapy for anxiety disorders. However, some studies have explored the effects of PEMF therapy on anxiety-related symptoms in specific populations, such as patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). These studies have reported promising results, but further research is needed to establish the efficacy of PEMF therapy specifically for anxiety disorders.
It's important to note that while PEMF therapy shows potential as a complementary approach, it should not be considered a substitute for conventional treatments for anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, it is essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional who can provide a comprehensive evaluation and guide you toward appropriate treatment options, which may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and other evidence-based interventions.
Before diving into my review of the HigherDOSE Infrared PEMF Go Mat, here’s why I was so tempted to give it a whirl
For starters, I’m a fairly anxious person. I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety in 2017 and prescribed Lexapro as a result. In the years since, I’ve learned techniques and embraced habits that have allowed me to manage my symptoms without medication. That said, I definitely have moments (and sometimes days) where my anxiety is at an all-time high, and having a calming, restorative practice to fall back on is priceless.
When I lived in New York, I would book an infrared sauna session at HigherDOSE; when I moved back to the DC Metro Area, I added a HigherDOSE Infrared Sauna Blanket to my at-home arsenal of wellness goodies. Considering the Go Mat has infrared heat plus the mood-boosting benefits of PEMF, I was instantly interested in testing it out when the brand reached out to tell me about the launch.
Beyond my mental health, I live with chronic pain in my upper right shoulder and neck, which is connected to a knot that’s been there (and stubbornly refuses to disappear) for roughly 10 years. Thankfully, it’s not always inflamed, however, when it flares up, it’s the worst. On less intense flare days, it can feel like a persistent throb stretching along my trap and up into the side of my neck; on the most intense days, it wraps around and makes it feel like my collarbone could quite literally snap. (I’ve gotten endless deep tissue massages; I’ve been to the doctor about it—but alas, here we are.)
Another thing about me: I love to spend time outdoors but rarely make the time to actually go on a hike. The beauty of PEMF Therapy is that it can mimic the grounding qualities of a day spent forest bathing because most mats (including the HigherDOSE Go Mat) have a range of frequencies for different effects, including one that’s based on the Earth's natural 7.83 Hz frequency. Lastly, according to recent research, PEMF therapy can help boost sleep.
Needless to say, when I first read through the potential benefits of the Go Mat, as well as the research behind PEMF, I felt like I was a dang good candidate to give it a go.
How I feel about the HigherDOSE Infrared PREMF Go Mat after trying it
The HigherDOSE Infrared PEMF Go Mat comes in a convenient fabric case with handles. The small mat (a mini version of the brand’s Infrared PEMF Mat, $1,295) is designed to fold in the middle, which makes it ideal not only for carrying and traveling, but also for using midday in your office chair, too.
The mat itself is comprised of five main layers: PEMF, nontoxic PU leather, infrared, a layer of compressed individual charcoal, clay, and magnetic layers, and a crystal therapy layer. According to the site, where the PEMF layer “mimics the healing vibrations of the Earth) and the PU leather ensures the device won’t melt during use, the infrared layer emits deeply-penetrating heat to promote a full body detox.
Meanwhile, the charcoal, clay, and magnetic layers are said to boost circulation and further promote detoxification by binding to bodily pollutants, and the crystal therapy layer utilizes tourmaline and amethyst to generate negative ions and fight free radicals throughout the body.
Of course, from looks alone, you wouldn’t know any of that. All you see is the padded black mat with its a wave-embroidered mesh top exterior inlaid with tiny amethyst and black tourmaline crystals.
Once plugged in, you can decide to use it solely as an infrared or PEMF mat, or you can opt to combine the two therapies. Where the infrared heat range is between 30℃ and 70℃ (86℉ and 158℉) and is broken down into seven levels, the PEMF therapy component consists of four levels.
- Level 1 (known as the Delta Brain Wave at 3Hz) is intended for deep relaxation, primarily before bed.
- Level 2 (known as Theta Brain Wave at 7.8Hz) is intended for grounding, as it mimics the Earth’s natural frequency.
- Level 3 (known as the Alpha Brain Wave at 10Hz) is designed to boost creativity, focus, and flow, and is recommended to help reduce the mental and physical effects of stress.
- Level 4 (known as the Beta Brain Wave at 23Hz) is similar, in that it’s energizing and helps enhance concentration.
PEMF cycles last just 20 minutes on the blanket, but HigherDOSE recommends starting at 10 to 15 minutes and increasing from there. Dr. Matarazzo recommends following the instructions on your PEMF therapy device in regards to duration and says daily use is acceptable, but you shouldn't exceed more than that.
To play it safe, I kept my infrared PEMF sessions to between 15 and 30 minutes. And let me tell you: They’ve been such a treat. While it’s hard to say if the effects are genuine or a placebo effect, I can attest to feeling deeply relaxed following Level 1 sessions and more focused after Level 3 sessions. What’s more, my shoulder hasn’t flared at all in the little over three weeks of using this mat daily Monday through Friday (generally, it flares a few times a month, typically lasting a few days at a time). Additionally, I’ve been sleeping better. (Though, I also switched back to my favorite melatonin gummies, the Olly Sleep Gummies, from a different brand I had been sent to try that wasn’t cutting it, so that could be part of it, too.)
My favorite part about the mat, though, is how cozy and centered it makes me feel. Whether I use it while laying on the ground or sitting in my office chair, the adjustable heat and tailorable PEMF therapy has been a transformative addition to my daily routine. (It’s also worth noting that, now that I’m PMSing, this mat is so incredibly soothing. I genuinely don’t want to turn it off.)
All this to say: If you, like me, have been inundated with mentions of PEMF therapy on social media, the HigherDOSE Go Mat may just be the wellness tech accessory you’ve been hoping for. While it’s an investment, it could provide the healing modality you’ve been craving—but if not, the brand offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
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