Pelvic girdle pain (PGP) is often regarded as a normal result of physiologic changes during pregnancy, but it may also cause significant disability that cannot be ameliorated by standard conservative measures such as analgesics and physical therapy. This review seeks to explore the recent literature regarding the efficacy of acupuncture as an alternative treatment for PGP.
References were obtained through a search of PubMed and Google Scholar databases using the keywords “pelvic girdle pain,” “pregnancy,” and “acupuncture.” Nine papers published within the past 10 years were selected that studied acupuncture use for PGP during pregnancy.
Six of the selected studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and the remaining three papers were surveys/qualitative studies. All RCTs comparing acupuncture to standard treatment demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in pain intensity, disability, and quality of life. Two RCTs also demonstrated that adjuvant acupuncture therapy was superior to other modalities such as manipulation and stabilizing exercises alone. The qualitative studies showed that 21% of women sought out acupuncture during pregnancy, and all patients reported a subjective improvement in pain. However, 66% of providers hesitate to perform acupuncture on pregnant patients, citing unfounded concerns that acupuncture can cause miscarriages, despite no reported major adverse effects.
Though higher powered studies still need to be conducted, current literature shows that acupuncture use in pregnancy is safe and effective at reducing PGP and is more efficacious than standard treatments alone. Physicians should consider promoting acupuncture for pregnant patients with PGP whose pain is refractory to other conservative measures.