Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of therapeutic electromagnetic fields (TEMF) on chronic low back pain. Secondary objectives included the investigation of the effects of TEMF on psychometric measures.
Setting: Pain Research center in an Urban Academic Rehabilitation Facility.
Design: Prospective, randomized, single-blind, placebo (sham) treatment-controlled design in which participants were evaluated over a 6-week period. A total of 40 subjects were randomly assigned: 20 subjects to 15 milliTESLA (mT) treatment using a prototype electromagnetic field device and 20 to sham treatment.
Interventions: After a 2-week baseline period, eligible individuals were randomized to one of the treatment groups (sham or 15 mT) for six 30-minute treatments over 2 weeks, then a 2-week follow-up period.
Outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was the self-report of pain severity using a 100 mm visual analog scale collected using a twice daily McGill Pain Questionnaire-Short Form. Several secondary measures were assessed.
Results: Both groups (15 mT and sham) improved over time (P < 0.05). Although groups were similar during the treatment period, treated subjects (TEMF of 15 mT) improved significantly over sham treatment during the 2-week follow-up period (20.5% reduction in pain; F(1,34) = 10.62, P = 0.003). There were no reported serious adverse events.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that TEMF may be an effective and safe modality for the treatment of chronic low back pain disorders. More studies are needed to test this hypothesis.