A randomized, active-controlled clinical trial was conducted to examine the effect of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMFs) on women with postmenopausal osteoporosis (PMO) in southwest China. Forty-four participants were randomly assigned to receive alendronate or one course of PEMFs treatment. The primary endpoint was the mean percentage change in bone mineral density of the lumbar spine (BMDL), and secondary endpoints were the mean percentage changes in left proximal femur bone mineral density (BMDF), serum 25OH vitamin D3 (25(OH)D) concentrations, total lower-extremity manual muscle test (LE MMT) score, and Berg Balance Scale (BBS) score. The BMDL, BMDF, total LE MMT score and BBS score were recorded at baseline, 5, 12, and 24 weeks. Serum concentrations of 25(OH)D were measured at baseline and 5 weeks. Using a mixed linear model, there was no significant treatment difference between the two groups in the BMDL, BMDF, total LE MMT score, and BBS score (P ≥ 0.05). For 25(OH)D concentrations, the effects were also comparable between the two groups (P ≥ 0.05) with the Mann–Whitney's U-test. These results suggested that a course of PEMFs treatment with specific parameters was as effective as alendronate in treating PMO within 24 weeks. Bioelectromagnetics 34:323–332, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.