Study Shows EMS Training Decreases Chronic Low Back Pain by 30%

EMS can help reduce back pain and increase trunk strength.

Study Title: Similar Pain Intensity Reductions and Trunk Strength Improvements Following Whole-Body Electromyostimulation vs. Whole-Body Vibration vs. Conventional Back-Strengthening Training in Chronic Non-specific Low Back Pain Patients: A Three-Armed Randomized Controlled Trial

Publication: Front. Physiol., 13 April 2021, Sec. Exercise Physiology, Volume 12 - 2021

Authors: Micke F., Weissenfels A., Wirtz N., von Stengel S., Dörmann U., Kohl M., Kleinöder H., Donath L., Kemmler W.

Read Katalyst's Summary

This study aimed to compare three different types of exercises for people with chronic low back pain: whole-body electromyostimulation (WB-EMS), whole-body vibration (WBV), and conventional back-strengthening training (CT). They studied 240 patients aged 40-70, mostly female. All participants trained for 12 weeks in their usual gym setting. They measured changes in back pain and trunk strength. The results showed that all three groups experienced a moderate decrease in back pain (about 30%), and their trunk strength improved significantly. There were no significant differences between the three groups in terms of pain reduction or strength improvement. What's interesting is that the WB-EMS group required less training volume compared to CT and WBV, making it a potentially more efficient option for managing chronic low back pain.

Check out more specific key findings below: 

  • All three intervention groups (WB-EMS, WBV, and CT) experienced a significant decrease in mean back pain intensity (MPI) over the 12-week training period, with each group achieving a moderate reduction of around 30% in MPI.
  • The study found that maximal isometric trunk extension and flexion strength significantly increased in all three groups. For trunk extension, the improvements were approximately 17.1% for WB-EMS, 16.2% for WBV, and 21.6% for CT. For trunk flexion, the improvements were approximately 13.3% for WB-EMS, 13.9% for WBV, and 13.9% for CT.
  • WB-EMS required significantly less training volume compared to CT and WBV. Specifically, the training volume of WB-EMS was 43% to 62% lower than that of CT and WBV, while still achieving comparable results in terms of pain reduction and strength improvement. This suggests that WB-EMS may be a more efficient option for individuals with chronic low back pain.