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PD Dr. Bernd Wegener, senior physician at the LMU clinic and polyclinic for orthopaedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation and his team have investigated the effect of EMS in patients with chronic back pain in a study.


"We compared 85 back pain patients with EMS treatments with a widely used multimodal therapy (considered the gold standard), focusing the study on the aspect of pain. Our core statement: We were able to achieve significant pain relief in the patients we treated.


The EMS therapy ran for six months with data collection before the start of the therapy and three times during the course. We followed the multimodal program over four weeks. Overall, we saw amazingly positive effects with the EMS therapy, a significant improvement in quality of life and a significant reduction in the depressive aspects.


To better understand medical EMS training in a therapeutic environment newSYSTEMS asked Dr. Wegener the following questions:


What do you see as the biggest advantages of EMS training with regard to the No. 1 common complaint - back pain?

PD Dr. Bernd Wegener: With EMS-Training there is the possibility to get people into sportive movement who are otherwise hostile to physical activities or who cannot do sports without further ado for health reasons.


Different rules apply for chronic back pain than for acute pain. While acute back pain can be influenced well by treatment with painkillers, muscle-relaxing medication, passive active measures of physiotherapy and sometimes even with rest, all these measures do not work in the same way for chronic back pain. Chronic back pain is not necessarily caused by structural changes such as herniated discs. They also lead to a psychosocial component, which cannot be influenced by the above-mentioned measures. This is taken into account in the National Guidelines for Back Pain Care. There, chronic back pain patients are recommended to take active exercise. This movement recommendation should be supported by the treating physician and the treating physiotherapist in an encouraging and motivating way.


However, practice shows that this is "easier said than done". Many affected people initially feel the back pain that plagues them during sporting activities. This leads to a completely counterproductive avoidance behaviour. They are often also affected by other orthopaedic diseases, such as worn joints. Not infrequently, diseases of the cardiovascular system, lung diseases or metabolic disorders also play a significant role. It is precisely these people who can be helped very well with whole-body EMS. You can train the muscles without complex movements that often cause complaints. In the meantime, there are some scientific medical studies that indicate that EMS can successfully relieve chronic back pain. In our own research, we were also able to show that back pain could be successfully combated with a whole-body EMS treatment.


For which other illnesses do you consider EMS to be useful as training to accompany therapy?


PD Dr. Bernd Wegener: First and foremost, EMS is a very effective strength training. Basically, almost everyone benefits from it. In addition to the positive effect on chronic back pain, there are numerous other clinical pictures that can benefit from strength training. Especially people with overweight or joint problems will benefit considerably. I also see a great potential in older people. One of the main problems in old age is the loss of muscle and bone mass (sarcopenia, osteoporosis). Both are mutually dependent. Older people in particular often have problems with classical sports or they have inhibitions about going to a classical gym. This physical deterioration, which is often aggravated by additional diseases, can be successfully counteracted with EMS.


Physical exercise is also important in metabolic diseases such as diabetes. Many diabetics would benefit greatly from more exercise. But for many reasons they do not. With EMS, a very effective strength training is available, which requires only a small expenditure of time.


A completely different group that can benefit from this training are people with joint problems due to other diseases. For example, in patients with haemophilia, frequent bleeding into the joints leads to destruction of the cartilage. These people cannot easily go jogging for an hour. They are also often unable to do classic equipment training due to the limited mobility of their joints. With EMS, on the other hand, it is very successful in training the muscles without putting a massive strain on the joints.


There is also evidence that patients with heart failure can benefit from EMS training. Through EMS training, they achieve a training effect that they would otherwise not achieve through normal training due to the limitation of heart performance.


One could now continue the series of diseases for which a positive effect can be expected from EMS training. With all these illnesses, however, it must be expressly pointed out that close coordination with the attending physician and expert supervision during training are required in order to avoid adverse effects with good will.




In my opinion it would be wrong to wait for the health insurance companies to cover the costs, which would of course be very nice. You must understand EMS training as personal health prevention. Especially in the therapy of chronic back pain and in the prevention of muscle and bone atrophy, lasting success can be expected.



Senior physician at the LMU clinic and polyclinic for orthopaedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation

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