Microcurrent Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain


Name: Ann Nayback-Beebe

Rank: COL

Organization: The Geneva Foundation

Performance Site: Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, San Antonio Military Medical Center

Year Published: 2016

Abstract Status:


Background: For the military healthcare system, chronic musculoskeletal low back pain (LBP) is a particularly salient public health problem in an otherwise young, healthy active duty military population. It has a significant impact on the health of the force and mission readiness since service members (SM) with LBP have higher rates of healthcare utilization, lost work time, and attrition from the combat theater and the military service. For those SMs experiencing chronic LBP, certain medication therapies can adversely affect physical, mental, and social functioning and interfere with functional performance and duty status. Moreover, conservative management with stretching and strengthening exercises and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications have been only somewhat effective in treating the symptoms long-term, and medications can result in untoward side effects. Microcurrent Therapy (MCT), otherwise known as low-frequency Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF), is a self-care complementary and integrative medicine modality that has demonstrated efficacy in small scale studies in speeding muscle recovery and function in injured athletes, controlling pain, and treating musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. 

Aims: The aims of this randomized double blind, sham-controlled study are: (1) to determine the efficacy of MCT delivered via the Biomodulator device, when compared to sham, in reducing LBP intensity and medication use in SMs; (2) determine whether treatment with MCT produces any variability in the secondary sequelae of chronic LBP (Depression, Anxiety, Fatigue, Pain Interference, Mental, Physical, and Social Functioning).

Sample and Instruments: A sample of 190 (95 per group) active, reserve and retired SMs will be recruited and randomly allocated to active MCT or sham. Data will be collected at baseline, post-treatment and 1 month follow-up using the following instruments: Demographic Questionaire; PROMIS-57 v.2.0; PROMIS Pain Intensity Scale v.1.0; Medication Log. 

Data Analysis: Data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and a two factor generalized linear mixed model (treatment, time) with repeated measures on the factor time, followed by two-tailed non-parametric rank-based tests corrected for multiple comparisons.  

Philosophically, nursing has been at the forefront of treating patients from a holistic perspective. Military nurse scientists, advanced practice nurses and clinical nurses continually strive to expand the boundaries of the traditional medical model of pain treatment, and are at the forefront of advancing the science of holistic, patient-centered, clinical pain nursing practice of military nursing, exploring alternative remedies for patient self management of acute and chronic pain symptoms is essential to realizing this goal