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EMS eliminates chronic back pain and is more efficient than multimodal treatment

The new study was published in a peer-reviewed Public Library of Science journal (PLoS) by Karl Konrad and his 9 colleagues. The researchers have examined whole-body EMS training vs. traditional multimodal treatment for chronic back pain. They compared the results of 128 patients and found EMS Training to be as effective and more efficient.

This study was carried out at the Department of Orthopedics, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU), Germany, during the period between 04/2017 and 12/2018. This clinical trial was registered in the German clinical trials register (ID: DRKS00011896) and is therefore listed in the International clinical trials registry of the World Health Organization. The study was also approved by the University Ethics Committee (Project number 547–16). The study complies with the ethical guidelines of the Helsinki Declaration (last modification 2013).

Study Title

The effects of whole-body electromyostimulation (WB-EMS) in comparison to a multimodal treatment concept in patients with non-specific chronic back pain—A prospective clinical intervention study.

Background According to present guidelines, active exercise is one key component in the comprehensive treatment of nonspecific chronic back pain (NSCBP). Whole body electromyostimulation (WB-EMS) is a safe, and time-effective training method, that may be effective in NSCBP-patients.

Methods In this prospective and controlled nonrandomized clinical study, two therapeutic approaches were compared. One group received 20 minutes WB-EMS per week. An active control group (ACG) received a multimodal therapy program. A third group included subjects without back pain. To all groups, the following measurement instruments were applied: Numeric Rating Scale (NRS), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), North American Spine Society Instrument (NASS); SF 36 survey and measurements for muscular function and postural stability. In the EMS-group: T0: baseline; T1: at 6 weeks; T2: at 12 weeks and T3: at 24 weeks. In the ACG: T0 baseline and T1 after 4 weeks.

Results In the intervention group, 128 patients with low back pain were enrolled, 85 in the WB-EMS group and 43 in the ACG. 34 subjects were allocated to the passive control group. The average age was 58.6 years (18–86 years). In the EMS group, the NRS (1–10) improved statistically and clinically significantly by 2 points. The ODI was reduced by 19.7 points. The NASS and most of the SF 36 items improved significantly. In the multimodal treatment group, only the muscular function improved slightly.


This study demonstrates significant and clinically relevant improvements in the symptoms of NSCBP by use of a dedicated WB-EMS training program. Parameters of musculoskeletal function improved similarly to the ACG. Our data support the hypothesis that WB-EMS is at least as effective as the multimodal low back pain concept used in this trial. Therefore WB-EMS may be an effective and, with a training time of 20 minutes per week, a very time-efficient alternative to traditional multimodal therapies.

Our data support the hypothesis that WB-EMS is at least as effective as a multimodal treatment, which is often referred to as being the golden standard. Therefore WB-EMS may be an effective and, with 20 min./week training time, very time-efficient alternative to established multimodal treatment models.

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