Interventions for preventing and treating pelvic and back pain in pregnancy

  • Review
  • Intervention


  • G Young,

  • D Jewell

Dr Gavin Young, Temple Sowerby Medical Practice, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 1RW, UK.



More than a third of women experience back pain during pregnancy. The pain can interfere with work, daily activities and sleep.


The objective of the review was to assess the effects of preventive interventions and treatments for pelvic and back pain in pregnancy.

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register (October 2001) and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2001).

Selection criteria

Randomised trials of any treatment to reduce the incidence or severity of pelvic/back pain in pregnancy, or to prevent pelvic/back pain arising in pregnancy.

Data collection and analysis

Trial quality was assessed and data were extracted independently by two reviewers.

Main results

Three trials are included in this review involving 376 women. One randomized trial compared water gymnastics from 20 weeks with no treatment. The authors report less pain in the treatment group but the data are hard to interpret; there was a difference in rates of absence from work after 32 weeks of pregnancy (odds ratio 0.38, 95% confidence intervals 0.16-0.88). In another trial, acupuncture was rated as giving 'good' or 'excellent' help more frequently than physiotherapy (odds ratio 6.58, 95% confidence intervals 1.0-43.16) but this may reflect the benefit of individual compared with group therapy. One trial of 109 women compared the use of a special shaped pillow to fit under the woman's abdomen (Ozzlo pillow) with a standard pillow. Fewer women rated the Ozzlo pillow of 'little help' compared with the standard pillow (odds ratio 0.32, 95% confidence interval 0.18 to 0.58).

Authors' conclusions

Water gymnastics appear to reduce back pain in pregnancy. More women are able to continue at work. Specially shaped pillows help reduce back pain in late pregnancy and improve sleep. It is a pity that the Ozzlo pillow seems no longer to be available. Both physiotherapy and acupuncture may reduce back and pelvic pain. Individual acupuncture sessions were rated as more help than group physiotherapy sessions.

Plain language summary

Plain language summary

Specially shaped pillows, like a nest for the abdomen, help reduce back pain especially at night. The reviewers believe this Ozzlo pillow is no longer made. Both physiotherapy, as education and exercises, and acupuncture may reduce pain. Individually tailored programs are more effective than group programs. It is not clear whether the apparent greater effect of acupuncture over physiotherapy was because it, unlike the physiotherapy, was provided on an individual basis. Water gymnastics classes reduced the number of days sick leave taken because of back pain. More research is needed, particularly into the use of trochanteric (pelvic and hip) belts.