- A meta-analysis finds that noninvasive pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is safe and effective for knee osteoarthritis (KOA).
- PEMF may be effective for hand OA, but not for cervical OA, although studies are too few to draw firm conclusions.
Why this matters
- There are few effective treatments for KOA.
- Meta-analysis of 12 randomized, sham-controlled clinical trials (n=385 given PEMF; 385 given sham PEMF).
- 10 of the 12 trials were of KOA, 2 were of cervical OA, and 1 was of hand OA.
- Funding: National Natural Science Foundation of China; others.
- The PEMF group had greater pain alleviation (vs sham) in knee OA (standardized mean difference [SMD], −0.54; P=.03) and hand OA (SMD, −2.85; P<.00001 but not cervical oa according to subgroup analysis.>
- Pain alleviation only occurred at ≤30 minutes per session (SMD, −1.01; P=.001), but not at >30 minutes per session.
- The PEMF group had greater physical function improvement (vs sham) in knee OA (SMD, −0.34; P=.0006) and hand OA (SMD, −1.49; P<.00001 but not cervical oa.>
- Function improvement only occurred at ≤30 minutes per session (SMD, −0.50; P=.002), but not at >30 minutes per session.
- No differences between groups in adverse events.
- Too few studies of hand OA and cervical OA.
- High heterogeneity across studies.