Effect of pulsed electromagnetic field on nonspecific low back pain patients: a randomized controlled trial

Braz J Phys Ther. 2019 May-Jun;23(3):244-249. doi: 10.1016/j.bjpt.2018.08.004. Epub 2018 Aug 21.


Background: Further research on pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) effects on the different conditions of low back pain was warranted due to lack of studies in this area.

Objectives: To investigate the effects of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy with 50Hz frequency, with low intensity of 20Gauss compared to conventional non-invasive treatment modalities in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.

Methods: Design - A prospective, randomized, patient-blinded, controlled trial. Setting - The study was conducted at Outpatient Physiotherapy Clinic in Cairo, Egypt. The study was conducted between May 2015 and September 2016. Participants - Fifty participants with non-specific low back pain enrolled into experimental and control groups. Interventions - The experimental group received the Conventional physical therapy Protocol as well as magnetic field, while the control group received the same Conventional physical therapy and sham electromagnetic field. Both groups received 12 sessions over 4 weeks' period. Outcome measures - Primary outcome measures was pain intensity while the secondary outcome measures were disability and lumbar range of motion - ROM. There were no adverse events occurred during the study.

Results: Fifty participants with non-specific low back pain (control group n=25; experimental group n=25) were randomized. There were significant between-group differences in pain scores (mean difference - MD 1.52; 95%CI -0.34 to 3.35), function disability (MD 8.14; 95%CI 6.5 to 9.96), Range of Motion (ROM) of lumbar flexion (MD -1.27; 95%CI -1.09 to -1.45), ROM of lumbar extension (MD -1.1; 95%CI -0.97 to -1.23), ROM of lumbar right side bending (MD 8.2; 95%CI 6.56 to 9.84) and ROM of lumbar left side bending (MD 10.4; 95%CI 8.81 to 11.99) in favour of the experimental group.

Conclusion: Adding pulsed electromagnetic field to Conventional physical therapy Protocol yields superior clinical improvement in pain, functional disability, and lumbar ROM in patients with non-specific low back pain than Conventional physical therapy alone.

Keywords: Conventional physical therapy program; Non-specific low back pain; Pulsed electromagnetic field.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Lumbosacral Region / physiology
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular