Review article
Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy effectiveness in low back pain: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials
Renato Andradea,b,c, Hugo Duarted, Rogério Pereirae,b,c, Isabel Lopesf,b, Hélder Pereirag,h,i,j,c, Rui Rochak,b, João Espregueira-Mendesb,c,h,i,l,,
a Faculty of Sports, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
b Clínica do Dragão, Espregueira-Mendes Sports Centre – FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, Porto, Portugal
c Dom Henrique Research Centre, Porto, Portugal
d Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
e Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Fernando Pessoa, Porto, Portugal
f Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department, Centro Hospitalar São João EPE, Porto, Portugal
g Orthopaedic Department, Centro Hospitalar Póvoa de Varzim, Vila do Conde, Portugal
h 3B's Research Group – Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics, University of Minho, Headquarters of the European Institute of Excellence on Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, AvePark, Parque de Ciência e Tecnologia, Zona Industrial da Gandra, Barco, Guimarães, Portugal
i ICVS/3B's – PT Government Associate Laboratory, Braga/Guimarães, Portugal
j Ripoll y De Prado Sports Clinic FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, Murcia-Madrid, Spain
k Orthopaedic Department, Centro Hospitalar Vila Nova de Gaia/Espinho, Portugal
l Orthopaedics Department of Minho University, Minho, Portugal
Recebido 24 Julho 2016, Aceitaram 23 Setembro 2016

Low back pain is a worldwide prevalent musculoskeletal condition in the general population. In this sense, the pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) therapy has shown significant clinical benefits in several musculoskeletal conditions.


To assess the effectiveness of the PEMF therapy in reducing pain and clinical symptomatology in patients with low back pathological conditions.


It was performed a comprehensive database search using Pubmed, Scopus, Cochrane Library and PEDro databases to assess the effectiveness of the PEMF therapy in reducing pain and clinical symptomatology in patients with low back pathological conditions. The search was performed from January 2005 to August 2015 and conducted by two independent investigators, which scrutinize the reference list of most relevant studies. The methodological quality was assessed by the PEDro scale and the level of evidence was set according Oxford Center for Evidence-Based Medicine scale.


Six studies were eligible inclusion on the qualitative analysis and five into the quantitative analysis, scoring an overall 6.8 points according the PEDro scale. The studies showed heterogeneity concerning the intervention protocols. Nevertheless, the effect sizes’ indicated a clear tendency to reduction of the pain intensity favoring the PEMF groups, reaching a minimal clinically important difference.


PEMF therapy seems to be able to relieve the pain intensity and improve functionality in individuals with low back pain conditions. Further research is needed regarding PEMF effects on the different conditions of low back pain, with standardized protocols, larger samples and adjustment for low back pain confounders in order to achieve stronger conclusions.


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