Acupuncture, exercise help ease pregnancy pains

Women who experience pelvic and back pain during pregnancy have a variety of treatments to choose from, a new review of available evidence concludes.

However, the authors say the effects of acupuncture, pregnancy-specific exercise and physiotherapy are “small,” and it remains unclear whether these approaches will prevent pain before it develops. “More research is needed on this widespread problem of pregnancy,” Victoria Pennick of the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto and Gavin Young conclude in their Cochrane Library report.

Over two-thirds of women will experience some degree of back pain during pregnancy, and nearly a fifth suffer from pelvic pain, the researchers note. While Pennick and Young found no articles that specifically addressed preventing back or pelvic pain in pregnancy, the investigators did look at eight studies involving a total of 1,305 women that compared adding different interventions to usual prenatal care.

Strengthening exercises, sitting pelvic tilts, and water exercises eased the intensity of lower back pain, and also cut down on the amount of sick leave women took due to pain, compared to regular prenatal care only, they found.

Stabilizing exercises and acupuncture were better than usual care alone for relieving pelvic pain. Among women with both back and pelvic pain, there was evidence that acupuncture was more effective than physical therapy.

The results of this review should be interpreted with caution, they add, given that “the quality of the studies was not the best.” They conclude by calling for more research on the effectiveness of various approaches to treating back and pelvic pain in pregnancy in order to help prenatal care providers give women better advice on treating, and possibly preventing, discomfort.

SOURCE: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2.

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