Osteoarthritis is a slowly and cyclically evolving disease with a high prevalence, especially among the elderly. Most often, it affects the joints in the hip, knee, cervical and lumbar spines, and fingers. Having a noninvasive and nonpharmacologic treatment that is effective in relieving pain and improving joint function is desirable.
Several studies have suggested using pulsed electromagnetic field as a therapeutic option, one of the applications being pulsed signal therapy (PST).
Since the efficacy of these methods is still debated, the Collège des médecins du Québec asked the Agence d’évaluation des technologies et des modes d’intervention en santé (AETMIS) to assess PST in the treatment of osteoarthritis. This assessment is essentially based on a critical review of studies published on the subject.
The results of the studies examined strongly suggest an analgesic effect and improved joint function in osteoarthritis, but these results need to be confirmed by larger, methodologically well-designed studies and by a better understanding of the mechanisms of action at work. The role of this therapy in relation to the other available treatments may then be better defined.
However, it is difficult to consider this technology purely experimental, since it is already being used by physiotherapy clinics, physicians in private practice and private individuals in Québec and elsewhere in the world. Consequently, AÉTMIS believes that the use of pulsed signal therapy cannot be generalized and that research should continue on its efficacy and cost-effectiveness in the treatment of osteoarthritis.