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W.-U. Boeckh-Behrens, N. Grützmacher and J. Sebelefsky, unpublished thesis, University of Bayreuth, 2002.

Description of study
EMS training started in the medical field and was initially used to help patients in their rehabilitation from injuries and reduce symptoms of chronic back pain.  Besides activating te major back muscle groups, EMS also activated the deeper muscle groups that are hard to reach with conventional training methods. With strength training being the most effective long lasting therapy for back pain, EMS provides a low impact solution for pain relief. Boeckh-Behrens and colleagues from the University of Bayreuth in Germany, started a study to map out how big the effects of EMS training can be for people struggling with lower back pain.
The scientist assessed 49 people that scored high on an index of chronic lower back pain before, during and after 5 weeks of EMS training.

Result highlights
– After 6 weekly sessions 88.7% of the participants that used to suffer from chronic lower back pain reported a significant decrease in pain (in frequency and intensity)
– After 2 sessions 25% of participants were completely pain free
– After 6 sessions 50% of participants were completely pain free
– 75% of participants noticed an overall improvement of mood and vitality

Conclusion
The findings of this study showed that EMS training is a highly effective method of treatment for chronic lower back pain. Not only did the participants find relief in back pain frequency and intensity, they reported a major positive effect on mental wellbeing and physical vitality.

 

Effects of Whole-Body Electromyostimulation on Low Back Pain in People with Chronic Unspecific Dorsal Pain: A Meta-Analysis of Individual Patient Data from Randomized Controlled WB-EMS Trials

Kemmler and colleagues, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017; 2017:8480429

Description of study
With lower back pain being the leading cause of functional disabilities worldwide, scientist set out to research the effect of EMS training in people suffering from unspecified lower back pain in people aged 60+. While recognised in all medical fields that physical exercise is the preferred option of treatment, it is found kinesiophobia (the fancy word for fear of moving while in pain) is restricting this treatment option. Their theory was to test if EMS was a time efficient, safe and joint friendly option of treatment for this group of 310 patients.

Result highlights

  • When compared to TENS, stabilisation exercises and electrical acupuncture, EMS training showed to be significantly and dramatically more effective.
  • All groups training with EMS reported significant reduction of lower back pain compared to the control groups.

Conclusion
The researchers found EMS to be highly effective as a method of pain management in senior individuals debilitated with this injury, much more so then the pain relief experienced by TENS treatment. They explained the possible short term effect of pain management is caused by reduced transmission of pain by the nerves due to electrical stimulation. The long term effect is by build-up of spinal muscle causing support and stabilisation.