EMS Research Summary: Improving back pain with EMS

EMS Research Summary

The effects of EMS vs multiple traditional treatments on chronic back pain

back pain

Research Title

The effects of whole-body electromyostimulation (WB-EMS) in comparison to a multimodal treatment concept in patients with non-specific chronic back pain


Karl Lorenz Konrad, Jean-Pierre Baeyens, Christof Birkenmaier, Anna Helena Ranker, Jonas Widmann, Johannes Leukert, Lisa Wenisch, Eduard Kraft, Volkmar Jansson, Bernd Wegener




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.



The aim of this scientific research was to compare the effects of EMS on improving nonspecific chronic back pain (back pain not attributable to a specific diagnosed problem) compared to physiotherapy, traditional exercise, psychotherapy, occupational therapy and education combined.

The researchers assigned 128 patients to either EMS treatment or the combined treatment approach and measured their pain levels over 6 months. They amazingly found at the end of the 6 months that the patients doing 20 minutes EMS per week vs non-EMS treatment 5 days per week showed at least the same if not more improvement in their back pain.


The aim of this research was to investigate the effects of EMS on Patients with non-specific chronic back pain over 6 months and compare the effects to an established traditional multimodal treatment.


128 patients with low back pain were enrolled. One group (85 patients) received 20 minutes WB-EMS per week. An active control group (43 patients) (ACG) received a multimodal therapy program 34 subjects were allocated to the passive control group (meaning they received no treatment)


In the EMS group, the patient’s self-ratings of their pain improved significantly. Their disability level was reduced by 19.7 points and their spine assessments improved significantly. In the active control group (receiving a multimodal treatment), only the muscular function improved slightly.

What did the patients do each week?

EMS training group: The duration of all sessions, except the first, has been 20 minutes once a week. The complete training period lasted six months. Dynamic EMS-Training had shown to be more effective than static EMS-training. Therefore the subjects performed the following dynamic exercises : Squat, butterfly reverse left, butterfly reverse right, trunk rotation left, trunk rotation right, left diagonal crunches, right diagonal crunches, straight crunches, trunk extension and table position.

Active Control Group: Multimodal low back pain program: All subjects in the active control group were included in an established multimodal therapy program for the treatment of NSCBP. The program consisted of physiotherapy, physical therapy, psychotherapy, occupational therapy and education. Patients stayed at the clinics from Monday through Friday from 9 am. to 4 pm. and received coordinated treatments. The treatment period in total was 4 weeks.


The data supports 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, a very time-efficient alternative to established multimodal treatment models.

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