Randomized Trial Comparing Interferential Therapy With Motorized Lumbar Traction and Massage in the Management of Low Back Pain in a Primary Care Setting

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Study Design.

A randomized trial designed to compare interferential therapy with motorized lumbar traction and massage management for low back pain in a primary care setting.


To measure and compare the outcome of interferential therapy and management by motorized lumbar traction and massage.

Summary of Background Data.

Management of low back pain by interferential therapy and motorized lumbar traction and massage is common in Germany. No reports of previous randomized trials for the outcome from interferential therapy were found.


Consenting patients were randomly assigned into one of two groups. A pretreatment interview was performed by the patient using a computer-based questionnaire. It also incorporated the Oswestry Disability Index and a pain visual analog scale. Management consisted of six sessions over a 2- to 3-week period. Oswestry Disability Indexes and pain visual analog scale scores also were obtained immediately after and at 3 months after treatment.


A total of 152 patients were recruited. The two treatment groups had similar demographic and clinical baseline characteristics. The mean Oswestry Disability Index before treatment was 30 for both groups (n = 147). After treatment, this had dropped to 25, and, at 3 months, were 21 (interferential therapy) and 22 (motorized lumbar traction and massage). The mean pain visual analog scale score before treatment was 50 (interferential therapy) and 51 (motorized lumbar traction and massage). This had dropped, respectively, to 46 and 44 after treatment and to 42 and 39 at 3 months.


This study shows a progressive fall in Oswestry Disability Index and pain visual analog scale scores in patients with low back pain treated with eitherinterferential therapy or motorized lumbar traction and massage. There was no difference in the improvement between the two groups at the end of treatment. Although there is evidence from several trials that traction alone is ineffective in the management of low back pain, this study could not exclude some effect from the concomitant massage.

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