Acupuncture relieves back and pelvic pain during pregnancy, study finds | women’s health

Acupuncture can significantly relieve low back or pelvic pain commonly experienced by pregnant women, according to a new global data analysis of available evidence.

There were no major observable side effects in babies whose mothers opted for the procedure, the results suggest, although only a few of the studies assessed the results. The meta-analysis was published in BMJ Open magazine.

“Acupuncture has significantly improved the pain, functional status and quality of life of women with [lower back/pelvic pain] during pregnancy. Additionally, acupuncture had no observable serious adverse effects on the newborns,” the researchers concluded. “More large-scale and well-designed [randomised controlled trials] are still needed to further confirm these results.

Acupuncture is emerging as a potential treatment for different types of pain, largely because it doesn’t involve the need for medication and is considered safe, researchers say.

Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine. Fine needles are inserted into certain areas of the body for therapeutic or preventive purposes. It is already being used in NHS GP surgeries, as well as pain clinics and hospices across the UK.

It’s not yet known exactly how it might relieve pain, but it’s thought to involve the release of the body’s innate “happy” chemicals – endorphins – as well as increasing blood flow to the local skin and muscles. . The NHS says it is likely that these naturally released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects of acupuncture.

But whether it can relieve the debilitating lower back or pelvic pain experienced by as many as nine out of 10 women during pregnancy remains hotly contested.

To add to the evidence base, the team of Chinese researchers scoured research databases around the world for relevant clinical trials that examined the pain relief offered to pregnant women receiving acupuncture alone or in combination. combination with other therapies, as well as the potential impact. on their newborns.

The final analysis included 10 randomized controlled trials, involving over 1,000 women. Each study was published between 2000 and 2020 and carried out in different ways in Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain and Brazil.

The expectant mothers were all healthy, averaging 17 to 30 weeks pregnant, and suffered from low back or pelvic pain, or both. Acupuncture was provided either by trained acupuncturists, physiotherapists or midwives. A total of seven trials described body acupuncture; three described auricular (earlobe) acupuncture.

Analysis of pooled data from trial results for nine studies suggested that acupuncture significantly relieved pain during pregnancy. Of the four studies reporting acupuncture’s potential to restore physical function, the results showed that it was significantly improved.

Quality of life was recorded in five studies. When the results of these were put together, the results suggested that acupuncture also improved this significantly.

Analysis of the adjusted pooled data also suggested that acupuncture was safe and, for the four studies that reported it, there was no significant difference in babies’ health scores when acupuncture was compared to other interventions, or none.

Seven studies recorded other minor side effects expected for expectant mothers, such as pain, needle site pain and bleeding, and drowsiness. Nevertheless, participants rated acupuncture favorably and most were willing to repeat it, if needed.

The researchers cautioned that the number of included studies was relatively small and their quality varied. The design, methodology, results and participant characteristics also differed significantly, they added.

Nevertheless, they concluded that acupuncture deserves greater attention for its potential to relieve pain at a time when drugs are best avoided due to potential side effects for mother and baby.

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