Context: Lower back pain (LBP) is prevalent and is a leading contributor to disease burden worldwide. Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) can alleviate alterations in the body that leads to musculoskeletal disorders such as LBP. Bio-electromagnetic Energy Regulation (BEMER; BEMER International AG), which has also been shown to relieve musculoskeletal pain, is a therapeutic modality that deploys a biorhythmically defined stimulus through a pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF). Therefore, it is possible that combined OMT and BEMER therapy could reduce low back pain in adults more than the effect of either treatment modality alone.
Objectives: To investigate the individual and combined effects of OMT and BEMER therapy on LBP in adults.
Methods: Employees and students at a medical college were recruited to this study by email. Participants were included if they self-reported chronic LBP of 3 months’ duration or longer; participants were excluded if they were experiencing acute LBP of 2 weeks’ duration or less, were currently being treated for LBP, were pregnant, or had a known medical history of several conditions. Ultimately, 40 participants were randomly assigned to four treatment groups: an OMT only, BEMER only, OMT+BEMER, or control (light touch and sham). Treatments were given regularly over a 3 week period. Data on LBP and quality of life were gathered through the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), Short Form 12 item (SF-12) health survey, and Oswestry Low Back Pain Questionnaire/Oswestry Disability Index prior to treatment and immediately after the 3 week intervention protocol. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed retrospectively and absolute changes for each participant were calculated. Normal distribution and equal variances were confirmed by Shapiro–Wilk test (p>0.05) and Brown-Forsythe, respectively. Significance was set at p<0.05.
Results: Despite a lack of statistical significance between groups, subjective reports of pain reported on the VAS showed a substantial mean percentage decrease (50.8%) from baseline in the OMT+BEMER group, compared with a 10.2% decrease in the OMT-only and 9.8% in BEMER-only groups when comparing the difference in VAS ratings from preintervention to postintervention. Participants also reported in quality of life assessed on the Oswestry Low Back Pain Questionnaire/Oswestry Disability Index, with the OMT+BEMER group showing a decrease of 30.3% in score, the most among all groups. The OMT+BEMER group also reported the greatest improvement in score in the physical component of the SF-12, with an increase of 21.8%.
Conclusions: The initial data from this study shows a potential additive effect of combination therapy (OMT and BEMER) for management of LBP, though the results did not achieve statistical significance.