Initial Exploration of Pulsing Electromagnetic Fields for Treatment of Migraine


  • Presented in part at the Eighth World Congress on Pain (International Association for the Study of Pain) in Vancouver, Canada, August, 1996.

  • The opinions and assertions contained in this manuscript are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the United States Departments of Army or Defense.

Address all correspondence to LTC Richard A. Sherman, PhD, Department of Clinical Investigation, Madigan Army Medical Center, Tacoma, WA 98431.


Two studies were conducted during which 23 patients with chronic migraine were exposed to pulsing electromagnetic fields over the inner thigh. In an open study, 11 subjects kept a 2-week headache log before and after 2 to 3 weeks of exposure to pulsing electromagnetic fields for 1 hour per day, 5 days per week. The number of headaches per week decreased from 4.03 during the baseline period to 0.43 during the initial 2-week follow-up period and to 0.14 during the extended follow-up which averaged 8.1 months. In a double-blind study, 9 subjects kept a 3-week log of headache activity and were randomly assigned to receive 2 weeks of real or placebo pulsing elactromagnetic field exposures as described above. They were subsequently switched to 2 weeks of the other mode, after which they kept a final 3-week log. Three additional subjects in the blind study inadvertently received half-power pulsing electromagnetic field exposures. The 6 subjects exposed to the actual device first showed a change in headache activity from 3.32 per week to 0.58 per week. The 3 subjects exposed to only half the dose showed no change in headache activity. Large controlled studies should be performed to determine whether this intervention is actually effective.