BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Medical Policy Manual

Electrical Stimulation for the Treatment of Arthritis


Pulsed electrical and electromagnetic stimulation (e.g., BioniCare Bio-1000™, OrthoCor™ Active Knee System, SofPulse™, ActiPatch®, Magnetofield®). are being investigated to improve functional status and relieve pain related to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis that is unresponsive to other standard therapies. Noninvasive electrical stimulators generate a weak electrical current within the target site using pulsed electromagnetic fields, capacitive coupling, or combined magnetic fields. In capacitive coupling, small skin pads or electrodes are placed on either side of the knee or wrist. Electrical stimulation is provided by an electronic device that noninvasively delivers a sub-sensory low-voltage, monophasic electrical field to the target site of pain. Pulsed electromagnetic fields are delivered using coils placed over the skin Combined magnetic fields deliver a time-varying field by superimposing that field onto an additional static magnetic field.




Evidence is lacking to demonstrate improved health outcomes with the use of electrical stimulation in comparison to other available treatments for arthritis.


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2013). Treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee; evidence based guideline, 2nd ed. Retrieved September 22, 2016 from

American College of Rheumatology. (2016). 2015 American College of Rheumatology guideline for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Retrieved August 9, 2017 from

Bagnato, G.L., Miceli, G., Marino, N., Sciortino, D. & Bagnato, G.F. (2016). Pulsed electromagnetic fields in knee osteoarthritis: a double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Rheumatology, 55, 755-762. (Level 2 evidence)

BlueCross BlueShield Association. Evidence Positioning System. (4:2019). Electrical stimulation for the treatment of arthritis (1.01.27). Retrieved August 9, 2019 from (17 articles and/or guidelines reviewed)

CGS Administrators, LLC. (2017, January). Local Coverage Determination (LCD): Transcutaneous electrical joint stimulation devices (TEJSD). L34821). Retrieved August 9, 2017 from

Dündar, Ű., Aşik,G., Ulaşi, A.M., Sinici, Ş. Yaman, F., Solak, Ő., et al. (2016). Assessment of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy with serum YKL-40 and ultrasonography in patients with knee osteoarthritis. International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, 19 (3), 287-293. Abstract retrieved August 9, 2019 from PubMed database.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2014). Osteoarthritis: care and management. Retrieved August 9, 2017 from

Negm, A., Lorbergs, A., & Macintyre, N.J. (2013). Efficacy of low frequency pulsed subsensory threshold electrical stimulation vs placebo on pain and physical function in people with knee osteoarthritis: systematic review with meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage, 21 (9), 1281-1289. Abstract retrieved August 9, 2017 from PubMed database.

Nelson, F., Zvirbulis, R., & Pilla, A. (2013). Non-invasive electromagnetic field therapy produces rapid and substantial pain reduction in early knee osteoarthritis: a randomized double-blind pilot study. Rheumatology International, 33 (8), 2169-2173. Abstract retrieved September 22, 2016 from PubMed database.

U. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2008, December). Center for Devices and Radiological Health. 510(k) Premarket Notification Database. K07541. Retrieved August 9, 2017 from

U. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2008, July). Center for Devices and Radiological Health. 510(k) Premarket Notification Database. K073386. Retrieved September 10, 2012 from

Wuschech, H., von Hehn, U., Mikus, E., & Funk, R.H. (2015). Effects of PEMF on patients with osteoarthritis: results of a prospective, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Bioelectromagnets, 36 (8), 576-585. Abstract retrieved August 9, 2019 from PubMed database.

Zeng, C., Li, H., Yang, T., Deng, Z., Yang, Y., Zhang, Y., et al. (2015). Electrical stimulation for pain relief in knee osteoarthritis: systematic review and network meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage, 23 (2), 189 – 202. Abstract retrieved October 21, 2015 from the PubMed database.




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