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J Pain Res. 2018 Sep 20;11:1949-1957. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S164904. eCollection 2018.

Effects of whole-body electromyostimulation on chronic nonspecific low back pain in adults: a randomized controlled study.

Author information

1
Institute of Medical Physics, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany, anja.weissenfels@imp.uni-erlangen.de.
2
Department of Sports Science, University of Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany.
3
Institute of Training Science and Sport Informatics, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany.
4
Department of Medical and Life Sciences University of Furtwangen, Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.

Abstract

Purpose:

Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most frequent chronic conditions worldwide. Data from a recent meta-analysis indicated that whole-body electromyostimulation (WB-EMS), a time-effective, joint-friendly, and highly individualized training technology, demonstrated promising effects on LBP; however, methodologic limitations prevent definitive evidence for this result. Thus, the aim of this study was to conduct a randomized controlled WB-EMS trial to determine the corresponding effect on chronic, nonspecific LBP in people with chronic LBP.

Patients and methods:

Thirty LBP patients, 40-70 years old, were randomly assigned into two groups (WB-EMS: 15; control [CG]: 15). While the nonactive CG maintained their lifestyle, the WB-EMS group completed a 12-week WB-EMS protocol (1×20 min/week) with slight movements, specifically dedicated to LBP. Pain intensity and frequency were determined by a 4-week pain diary before and during the last 4 weeks of intervention. Primary study endpoint was average pain intensity at the lumbar spine.

Results:

At baseline, no group differences apart from nonregular exercise were observed. Mean intensity of LBP decreased significantly in the WB-EMS group (P=0.002) and remained unchanged in the CG (P=0.730), with a significant difference between both groups (P=0.027). Maximum isometric trunk extensors improved significantly in the WB-EMS group (P=0.005), while no significant difference was seen in the CG (P=0.683). In contrast to the significant difference between WB-EMS group and CG for the latter parameter (P=0.038), no intergroup difference was determined for maximum isometric trunk flexors (P=0.091). The WB-EMS group showed a significant increase of this parameter (P=0.003), while no significant change was determined in the CG (P=0.563).

Conclusion:

WB-EMS is a time-effective training method for reducing chronic nonspecific LBP and increasing maximum trunk strength in people with such complaints. After this promising comparison with a nonactive CG, research needs to be extended to include comparisons with active groups (WB-Vibration, conventional back strengthening).

KEYWORDS:

EMS; LBP; electrical muscle stimulation; electrical stimulation; muscle strength; pain intensity

Conflict of interest statement

Disclosure The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.

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