Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy

Publication type
Journal article
Pennick VE Young G
Date published
2007 Jan 25
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Open Access?

BACKGROUND: More than two-thirds of pregnant women experience back pain and almost one-fifth experience pelvic pain. The pain increases with advancing pregnancy and interferes with work, daily activities and sleep. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of interventions for preventing and treating back and pelvic pain in pregnancy. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Review Group's Trials Register (February 2006). SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials of any treatment to prevent or reduce the incidence or severity of back or pelvic pain in pregnancy. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. MAIN RESULTS: We found no studies dealing specifically with prevention of back or pelvic pain. We included eight studies (1305 participants) that examined the effects of adding various pregnancy-specific exercises, physiotherapy, acupuncture and pillows to usual prenatal care.For women with low-back pain, participating in strengthening exercises, sitting pelvic tilt exercises (standardised mean difference (SMD) -5.34; 95% confidence interval (CI) -6.40 to -4.27), and water gymnastics reduced pain intensity and back pain-related sick leave (relative risk (RR) 0.40; 95% CI 0.17 to 0.92) better than usual prenatal care alone.The specially-designed Ozzlo pillow was more effective than a regular one in relieving back pain (RR 1.84; 95% CI 1.32 to 2.55), but is no longer commercially available. Both acupuncture and stabilising exercises relieved pelvic pain more than usual prenatal care. Acupuncture gave more relief from evening pain than exercises. For women with both pelvic and back pain, in one study, acupuncture was more effective than physiotherapy in reducing the intensity of their pain; stretching exercises resulted in more total pain relief (60%) than usual care (11%); and 60% of those who received acupuncture reported less intense pain, compared to 14% of those receiving usual prenatal care. Women who received usual prenatal care reported more use of analgesics, physical modalities and sacroiliac belts. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: All but one study had moderate to high potential for bias, so results must be viewed cautiously. Adding pregnancy-specific exercises, physiotherapy or acupuncture to usual prenatal care appears to relieve back or pelvic pain more than usual prenatal care alone, although the effects are small. We do not know if they actually prevent pain from starting in the first place. Water gymnastics appear to help women stay at work. Acupuncture shows better results compared to physiotherapy