Acupuncture provides effective support for patients experiencing pelvic and back pain in pregnancy.
As the belly expands, many pregnant patients feel increased pressure on their low back and pelvic area. Those with a history of low back issues may especially feel discomfort; but even people with no previous history may experience back and pelvic pain for the first time. The symptoms can range from mild pressure and ache to sharp pain that limits walking and movement.
Current Research of Acupuncture for Back and Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy
In a 2008 systematic review published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers found that “acupuncture, as an adjunct to standard treatment, was superior to standard treatment alone and physiotherapy in relieving mixed pelvic/back pain.” Although they recommend that quality research on a larger population is needed, the researchers found that “we conclude that limited evidence supports acupuncture use in treating pregnancy-related pelvic and back pain.” You can read the abstract: link here.
In a 2018 research study of 81 pregnant patients in a New Zealand hospital-based acupuncture clinic, they offered evidence that acupuncture is safe and beneficial for lumbopelvic pain in pregnancy. You can read the abstract: link here.
Acupuncture is Safe in Pregnancy
Acupuncture continues to be researched around the world as a natural approach to treat many medical conditions. Acupuncture has been shown to be safe in pregnancy. In all the studies to date on the use of acupuncture in pregnancy, none of these studies have shown any adverse affects from acupuncture.
In Traditional East Asian Medicine, there are acupuncture points that are traditionally forbidden to be used in pregnancy because they are said to stimulate the uterus. In modern research, these points have not been shown to actually cause adverse affects. In my practice, my mission is to provide the safest possible experience for my patients, so I avoid these forbidden points throughout pregnancy. I trust the wisdom of the ancient practitioners.
When a patient comes in with back or pelvic pain, I first assess their overall health. I often make dietary and other natural recommendations that may support them during this time. I determine their diagnosis and choose acupuncture points that help restore balance. I may also recommend complementary therapies that can be combined with acupuncture to maximize the results. These may include physical therapy, yoga, chiropractic, massage, or osteopathic treatments to align and balance the body.
During the acupuncture treatment, I typically have patients lay on their side propped comfortably with pillows. I have a very gentle and effective acupuncture technique to make the treatment as comfortable as possible. Patients have the choice to listen to soothing music as they lay on the table for 20-30 minutes.
Frequency of Treatments
Acupuncture has a cumulative effect. Although some patients notice a major shift after a single treatment, most patients will need several treatments to feel a difference. Many patients experience a significant lessening of the pain to a more manageable situation. Some even experience complete resolution which is always wonderful.
If you want to try acupuncture for back or pelvic pain in pregnancy, I recommend acupuncture treatments one to two times per week for the first two weeks to help shift the symptoms. After that, many patients will need less frequent maintenance appointments to keep the symptoms manageable.
The side benefit of the acupuncture is that in addition to pain relief, patients report feeling relaxed, rested, and a sense of well-being after the treatments.
Studies on Acupuncture safety in pregnancy:
2019. Moon HY and MR Kim et al. Safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: A retrospective cohort study in Korea. BJOG (British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology). The study analyzed 20,799 pregnant women.
2014. Park Jimin and Sohn Youngjoo et al. The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review. Acupuncture in Medicine. The study analyzed 105 studies.