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Acupuncture can help pregnant women relieve back and pelvic pain

For the study, the team looked at 10 clinical trials involving 1,040 pregnant women in the UK, USA, Sweden, Spain and Brazil.

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(Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata via Pexels)

By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Acupuncture can relieve back and lower pelvic pain mums-to-be often experience during pregnancy, according to a new study.

Researchers say this may be because the needle-based treatment releases endorphins or "happy chemicals" as well as increasing blood flow to the skin and muscles.

However, the exact method by which it may do so is unclear and the effectiveness of the alternative medicine on back pain in pregnancy, which affects up to 90 percent of expectant mothers, remains “hotly contested”.

A team in China came to their conclusion by analyzing 10 existing clinical trials which probed the issue.

There were few obvious side effects on newborns although only a few of the published studies evaluated outcomes such as premature births.

Nine of the studies suggested that needle therapy significantly reduced pain.

Four of these showed physical function was “significantly” better after it while the five studies which recorded quality of life all suggested the therapy improved it.

Four studies suggested acupuncture made a significant difference to pain when compared with other interventions or none at all.

Two studies on pain relief medication suggested there was no difference in the amount people took if they were given acupuncture or not.

Of the four studies that reported on the difference in health between babies whose mums were given the therapy and those whose mothers were not, none said there was a significant difference in the babies’ health.

Preterm contractions were reported in two studies, but these babies were healthy at birth.

Seven studies recorded other expected minor side effects for the mums-to-be, such as pain, soreness, bleeding at the needle site and drowsiness.

Nevertheless, participants rated acupuncture favorably and most were willing to repeat it if they needed to.

For the study, the team looked at 10 clinical trials involving 1,040 pregnant women in the UK, USA, Sweden, Spain and Brazil.

Unhappy black expecting woman suffering from lower back pain sitting on sofa with copy space. Tired middle aged african pregnant woman suffer from lower back pain on last month of pregnancy.
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

The studies, which were all published between 2000 and 2020, compared the amount of pain relief afforded to pregnant women given acupuncture.

They looked at its effect either on its own or combined with other therapies, with and without dummy treatments and the potential impact on newborns.

The mums-to-be were all healthy, 17 to 30 weeks into their pregnancy on average, and had lower back and/or pelvic pain.

Acupuncture was delivered either by trained acupuncturists, physiotherapists, or midwives.

Seven trials looked at body acupuncture while three looked at ear lobe acupuncture.

All studies recorded the points where needles were inserted, needle retention time and dose.

In seven, needles were inserted at points where they are normally forbidden in pregnancy.

Study author Dr. Wei Dong from Yuman University of Chinese Medicine said: “Acupuncture significantly improved pain, functional status, and quality of life in women with lower back/pelvic pain during the pregnancy.

“Additionally, acupuncture had no observable severe adverse influences on the newborns.

“More large-scale and well-designed randomized controlled trials are still needed to further confirm these results.”

However, the team said they should be cautious about the findings because the studies were fairly small.

Their design, methodology, participant characteristics and outcomes all varied.

In two studies, 20 percent of participants in the control group dropped out.

The findings were published in the journal BMJ Open.

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