Study design: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial.

Purpose: To investigate the efficacy of pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy combined with therapeutic exercises in the treatment of chronic low back pain (CLBP).

Overview of literature: Low back pain (LBP) is the most common musculoskeletal pain disorder. Most available interventions for CLBP have modestly beneficial outcomes. Despite the potential effect of PEMF therapy on LBP, there have been few studies regarding its effectiveness.

Methods: Forty-two patients (22 males, 20 females), were randomized into either the treatment group (PEMF and therapeutic exercises) or placebo group (sham PEMF and exercises). Primary outcome measures were pain intensity on the 10-point Numeric PainRating Scale and disability measured by the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire. The patients were assessed at baseline, during the treatment period (weeks 3, 6, and 9), and after treatment (week 13).

Results: The treatment group experienced a more rapid improvement in both pain and disability compared with the placebo group. The analysis showed a significant improvement in the pain intensity and disability scores in the treatment group at week 3 (p<0.05), whereas an improvement in the placebo group was detected at week 6. The significant improvement in both groups was sustained for weeks 6, 9, and 13. There was no difference between the groups in scores of pain intensity and disability at weeks 6 and 13.

Conclusions: PEMF therapy improved pain and disability in patients with CLBP. However, it does not seem to be superior to other treatment options.