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Effects of acupuncture and stabilising exercises as adjunct to standard treatment in pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain: randomised single blind controlled trial

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 31 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:761
  1. Helen Elden, midwife (helen.elden{at},
  2. Lars Ladfors, head of antenatal unit1,
  3. Monika Fagevik Olsen, physiotherapist2,
  4. Hans-Christian Ostgaard, associate professor3,
  5. Henrik Hagberg, professor1
  1. 1 Perinatal Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Institute for the Health of Women and Children, Sahlgrenska Academy, East Hospital, 41685 Gothenburg, Sweden,
  2. 2 Department of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, Sahlgrenska Academy, Sahlgrenska Hospital, Gothenburg,
  3. 3 Department of Orthopedics, Sahlgrenska Academy, Molndal Hospital, Molndal, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to: H Elden
  • Accepted 28 January 2005


Objectives To compare the efficacy of standard treatment, standard treatment plus acupuncture, and standard treatment plus stabilising exercises for pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy.

Design Randomised single blind controlled trial.

Settings East Hospital, Gothenburg, and 27 maternity care centres in Sweden.

Participants 386 pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain.

Interventions Treatment for six weeks with standard treatment (n = 130), standard treatment plus acupuncture (n = 125), or standard treatment plus stabilising exercises (n = 131).

Main outcome measures Primary outcome measure was pain (visual analogue scale); secondary outcome measure was assessment of severity of pelvic girdle pain by an independent examiner before and after treatment.

Results After treatment the stabilising exercise group had less pain than the standard group in the morning (median difference = 9, 95% confidence interval 1.7 to 12.8; P = 0.0312) and in the evening (13, 2.7 to 17.5; P = 0.0245). The acupuncture group, in turn, had less pain in the evening than the stabilising exercise group (−14, −18.1 to −3.3; P = 0.0130). Furthermore, the acupuncture group had less pain than the standard treatment group in the morning (12, 5.9 to 17.3; P < 0.001) and in the evening (27, 13.3 to 29.5; P < 0.001). Attenuation of pelvic girdle pain as assessed by the independent examiner was greatest in the acupuncture group.

Conclusion Acupuncture and stabilising exercises constitute efficient complements to standard treatment for the management of pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. Acupuncture was superior to stabilising exercises in this study.


  • Contributors HE initiated and coordinated the study, did most of the data collection, and contributed to study design and interpretation of results. LL advised on data collection and assisted in study design. MFO assisted in study design and gathered data. H-CO guided the scientific process, assisted in study design, provided advice on the epidemiology of pelvic girdle pain, and obtained funding. HH guided the scientific process and assisted in study design. All investigators contributed to data interpretation and preparation of the manuscript. H-CO and HH are the guarantors.

  • Funding The Vardal Foundation, the Dagmar Foundation, the Trygg-Hansa Insurance Company, and Sahlgrenska University Foundation provided funding. The study sponsors had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report.

  • Competing interest None declared.

  • Ethical approval The local ethics committee approved the study.

  • Accepted 28 January 2005
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