by Bob Bridges
Part Two – tips on what should raise a red flag
Bob McCoy, curator of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, in his book Quack! Tales of Medical Fraud, gives tips on what you should be suspicious of. Of course, PEMF is not quackery and is a well-documented therapy modality. However, I do find that most of his tips can be applied to PEMF machine manufacturers/marketers to help figure out if they are being honest or deceptive. With PEMF, the deception is used to justify higher prices and huge profits.
Below, I will post Mr. McCoy’s tips from his book in black with how I relate those tips to PEMF machine sellers in blue.
Tip #1: It is said to use little-known energies that are undetectable by ordinary scientists.
We do know there are “energies” used that are, so far, undetectable by ordinary scientists. I personally do energy healing, the results of which are hard to dispute. The only thing that can be detected is a thermal change in my hands. What we need to keep in mind is that consciousness plays a large part in this type of thing and machines simply don’t have consciousness. So, when it comes to machines, the author is correct…something like this should be a red flag. With PEMF machines, they all use a magnetic field that is detectable. If a seller is claiming anything other than a magnetic field as a means to transfer frequencies to the body, make them really prove it or run the other way.
Tip #2: It can diagnose or cure people living miles away.
There is good evidence that things like prayer, reiki, and other mental processes can work at a distance. Just as with #1 above, they involve human consciousness. Be wary of PEMF manufacturers/marketers that proport their machines do this. Since machines do not have consciousness, they are not connected in the same way people are. There is absolutely no verifiable evidence that machines can do anything at a distance.
Tip #3: It has a convoluted yet scientific-sounding name.
Yes indeed. With PEMF machines, you should also be suspicious of anything that is used as a way to sound better than the competition, like “proprietary waveforms”, claims of what their machine or software can do, like “stop frequency bleed” (there’s no such thing) or “voice analysis”, and vague forms of proof such as “many studies by so-and-so” without links to those studies or stating anything is “proven” without showing any documentation to verify that claim.
Tip #4: It was invented by a “world famous” doctor that is not actually well known.
He’s generally correct here, but we do have to keep in mind that people might be “world famous” in their field, yet people who are not knowledgeable in that field may have never heard of him. Another thing that happens is what has occurred with Dr. Royal Rife. He was world famous until he discovered frequency therapy. Once he published his findings, he was ostracized, suppressed, and otherwise dropped down the memory hole. Now, 100 years later, almost nobody has heard of him unless you are exploring frequency therapies. None the less, if they claim the machine was “invented”, “created”, or any such terms by some supposed famous anybody, go research that person and see how credentialed they really are.
Tip #5: It has bright lights that serve no apparent purpose.
Since the core concept of PEMF does work, it’s a shame to see some machine makers employ this, especially when they don’t have to or the addition of such things only adds cost to their device. Good examples are the original AmpCoil with the blue and green LEDs under a translucent panel, and the Sentient Element Classic (not to be confused with the ELEMENT Elite by Tiverton Audio) that puts LED lights in the cooling fan. In the case of the Sentient machine, it’s actually worse than lights that serve no purpose, they also put a fraudulent patient number on their machine (a search of this blog will bring up an article I wrote about that). This doesn’t mean their machines don’t work, but you should consider why they have to resort to such things.
Tip #6: It has knobs and dials that serve no practical purpose.
I can’t say I’ve seen any PEMF machines that have knobs or dials with zero purpose. Although “practical” purpose would be in the eye of the beholder, there are plenty that have minimal purpose to a layperson end user. If it is not clear to you what the dials, knobs, and meters are for, get an explanation. If the explanation still does not make it clear to you or is something you really can’t make use of, raise the red flag. It means they are adding in these things to make their machines look for complicated than they need to be in order to command a higher price. Add a 50 cent meter, raise the price $100.
Tip #7: It shakes, rattles, rolls, sucks, shocks, or warms your body.
I can’t speak to other forms of therapy, but when it comes to PEMF this absolutely holds true. The magnetic field of a PEMF machine does not do any of these things, with the minor exception of possibly feeling a little warmth under curtain circumstances, but not much and not all the time. There are a couple machines marketed as PEMF that make your muscles twitch. They spin the marketing by calling it “PEMF exercise”. These are really direct electrical stimulation machines, not PEMF. These types of machines (similar to a T.E.N.S. unit) can be of benefit so long as they are low powered (they can be dangerous if they are high power). Companies that make this type of machine, but market them as PEMF are doing so in order to sell them at a much higher price (T.E.N.S. units have been around quite a while now and are relatively inexpensive). If they call their machines “Rife” then that’s technically OK. The broad use of the term “Rife” includes all frequency modalities. It’s deceptive to call them PEMF, especially if they are doing so just to sell them for a higher price. True PEMF machines can be powerful yet safe, but be cautious of direct electrical stimulation machines that are too powerful.
Tip #8: It supposedly can cure just about anything.
An honest PEMF company will never say it cures anything. We recognize the modality is still experimental and alterative. That said, there exists good evidence (clinical and anecdotal) that PEMF helps with a myriad of ailments, and it is recognized by the FDA as beneficial for a handful of particular things. We do know PEMF can help with a wide range of things if the machine can play the right frequencies (look up the CAFL to see the wide range of frequencies used for various maladies). The red flag you should watch for is when any PEMF machine that does not play above 50Hz is claiming to do anything other than relieve pain, reduce inflammation, or improve circulation. Playing frequencies limited to 50Hz or less simply won’t help with any disease beyond what increasing your blood circulation or reducing inflammation would do, especially if the machine plays only one or two frequencies. The deception used by manufacturers/marketers of these limited low frequency machines is that somehow their “special waveform” or “high gauss” or their particular applicator somehow makes 10Hz work on everything. Don’t be fooled, it’s not true.
Tip #9: It is available only through the mail or at special outlets.
I really don’t know how this one made it onto the list. There are plenty of medical devices that are only sold through specialty supply companies or purchased directly from the manufacturer (usually through a company owned distribution network) and online virtual stores have become a good way to cut costs and lower prices. In any case, it doesn’t apply to PEMF machines. Like many types of durable goods, they are sold by some through brick and mortar stores (including doctors offices) by some online, and by some in both ways.
Tip #10: You can’t find one at a regular doctor’s office.
Here’s another one I don’t understand how it got on the list. There are plenty of things that are valid pieces of equipment that are not available at a regular doctor’s office. Like with #9 above, it doesn’t apply to PEMF machines anyway. There are many chiropractors, naturopaths, and other specialty doctors who offer PEMF in their clinics and/or machines for home use. In this case, there should be no red flag just because a PEMF manufacture sells direct. Some do that for no other reason than to keep the cost down, like we do. On the other hand, watch out for machines that are sold through chiropractors and naturopaths that use multi-level marketing. MLM for cleaning products can be OK because they can often offer superior quality to similar produces you buy at the store, but high-ticket items like PEMF machines sold this way usually means a huge chunk of your money is going to pay sales commission. Likewise, the same goes for any company that turns every customer they can into a sales rep, often called “ambassadors” or some non-sales sounding title.
Tip #11: The manufacturer isn’t exactly sure how or why it works.
I can see where this would be true for an actual quack device that only one company is selling. With PEMF, the machine manufacturers do know the basics of how and why it works, but we are not medical doctors so we don’t all know the intricate details. It’s not necessary for us to know exactly how and why it works so long as we know enough to design the machine properly. What you have to be careful of is anyone claiming to know better because they are a doctor. They might, but it depends on what field of medicine they practice. It also depends on how stuck in the box of mainstream western medicine they are. This holds especially true for doctors who run internet sites for selling machines. In all cases, it’s best to first educate yourself through sources other than machine sellers, then find a machine that does what your research tells you it should do. It’s OK to get some information from machine sellers, just don’t let it be the only way you research PEMF, and take everything a seller says with a grain of salt until you verify through an independent source that they are correct. There are two red flags possible here. One, if they really don’t know anything at all about PEMF or how it works you will probably not be able to get much useable customer support from them, which is a very much needed component to getting the most out of your machine; and two, if they describe how it works that does not agree with any other source they may or may not have a machine that works properly.
Tip #12: To get results, the patient must face a certain direction or use the device only at unusual times.
True of quack devices. I don’t know of any PEMF machine that this would apply to.
Tip #13: You’re supposed to use it even if there’s nothing wrong with you.
Again, true of quack devices. With PEMF, you can still get benefit from using it even when there is nothing in particular wrong with you. Everybody can benefit from improved blood circulation, for example. The red flag should go up when a seller, once knowing there isn’t really anything in particular medically wrong with you, still tries to sell you his machine rather than suggesting less costly options. This shows they are not working in your best interest…it’s all about the money. Even though the ELEMENT Elite is the lowest cost of any high powered, full frequency range PEMF machine on the market at $1999 (in fact, lower cost than nearly all other PEMF machine, even the ones that only play up to 50Hz!), we will recommend something like the Oska Plus at $399 to anyone who is only looking for pain relief, reduced inflammation, and/or improved circulation.
Tip #14: The FDA has outlawed it.
Does not apply to PEMF machines in general. That said, if the FDA has curtailed the activities of a PEMF company, it’s a good bet they are probably not operating honestly and therefore not who you should do business with. If you are trying to figure out if a PEMF company is being honest, check to see if the FDA has done anything regarding their machines, even just sent the company a letter of warning. Some warning letters have been sent to PEMF machine companies, usually in regards to their marketing claims. This doesn’t mean their machines don’t work, just that they don’t do what is claimed in their marketing, which is done to justify a very high price, and is being deceptive. In this case, finding nothing at the FDA about a company is a good thing!
I’ll add one more tip Mr. McCoy should have put on his list:
Tip #15: Is the device extremely high priced?
This is relative but may be a clue to determine if deception is being used. A diamond would command a much higher price than a cut crystal of the same size. But someone selling a cut crystal for more than a diamond, claiming it is “a special cut crystal” or it “will do everything a diamond will do” should be a red flag. With PEMF machines, the ones that will play the entire frequency range and have the high-power levels to do it properly are like the diamond, the machines that will only play 50Hz or below (many of them playing only one or two frequencies) with very little power are like the cut crystal. Don’t pay a diamond price but only get cut crystal! Remember first and foremost, PEMF machine manufacturers and marketers want to make as much money as possible (there are exceptions…have a look at our mission statement as one example), and some of them are willing to use deception to increase profits.
In Part Three, I will point out some of the deceptive practices being used by frequency therapy device companies (broader than just PEMF) and highlight companies we think are being very honest in their marketing.