The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility of a trial to evaluate a trunk muscle training program augmented with neuromuscular electrical stimulation (TMT+NMES) for the rehabilitation of older adults with chronic LBP and to preliminarily investigate whether TMT+NMES could improve physical function and pain compared with a passive control intervention. The authors conducted a single-blind, randomized feasibility trial. Patients aged 60-85 years were allocated to TMT+NMES (n=31) or a passive control intervention (n=33), consisting of passive treatments, i.e. heat, ultrasound and massage. Outcomes assessed 3-months and 6-months post-randomization included Timed Up and Go Test, gait speed, pain and LBP-related functional limitation. Feasibility was established by acceptable adherence (>/=80%) and attrition (<20%) rates for both interventions. Both groups had similar, clinically important reductions in pain of greater than 2 points on a numeric pain rating scale during the course of the trial. But, only the TMT+NMES group had clinically important improvements in both performance-based and self-reported measures of function. In terms of the participants’ global rating of functional improvement at 6-months, the TMT+NMES group improved by 73.9% and the passive control group improved by 56.7% compared to baseline. The between-group difference was 17.2% (95%CI: 5.87-28.60) in favor of TMT+NMES.
It appears that a larger randomized trial investigating the efficacy of trunk muscle training augmented with NMES for the purpose of improving physical function in older adults with chronic LBP is warranted.