20 September 2018
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.
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.
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).
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).