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Acupuncture Can Help Reduce Back and Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy, According to Study

Many pregnant women are recorded to experience lower back and pelvic pain at some point during their pregnancy. Although acupuncture is gaining popularity as a potential treatment for reducing pain and discomfort, health professionals disagree on its effectiveness.

The effects of acupuncture on pain, functional status, and quality of life, were measured in a new meta-analysis released on Nov. 21 in BMJ Open. The study included 1,040 healthy pregnant women (17-30 weeks gestational age on average) who were experiencing lower back and pelvic pain. Some people received body acupuncture, while others got auricular pressure needles. The studies described the acupuncture points, the needle retention time, and the intervention dose.

According to the findings, acupuncture significantly improved lower back and pelvic pain, functional status, and quality of life.

What are the benefits of acupuncture?

As a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)Trusted Source, acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into the body to relieve pain and heal numerous physical, mental, and emotional health conditions.

“Acupuncture is predicated on the idea that energy, or qi, flows through our bodies through channels called meridians,” Jamie Bacharach, a licensed medical acupuncturist, explained to Healthline.

“When the flow of qi is disrupted, lacking, or excessive, illness may follow. Acupuncture needles are inserted at various points on the body to manipulate the flow of qi and achieve healing.”

There are numerous advantages to using this type of complementary therapy, which may include:

• alleviating chronic pain

• migraine management

• helping with the treatment of peripheral neuropathy

• relieving nausea

• alleviating rheumatoid arthritis symptoms (RA)

• overcoming fatigue

Pregnancy acupuncture for low back and pelvic pain

Pregnancy symptoms include lower back and pelvic pain. The ligaments are softened and stretched in preparation for labor, causing additional stress and strain on the back and pelvic joints. Acupuncture relieves pain by increasing blood flow to the affected areas, lessening the stress and anxiety, which may intensify the discomfort.

“Acupuncture during pregnancy can be very beneficial to relieve some of the common ailments people experience during pregnancy, such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, poor circulation, insomnia, anxiety, stress, and depression,” said Dr. Monica Grover, a double board-certified gynecologist, and family medicine specialist.

Grover stated that women who experience severe sciatica-related back, hip, or pelvic pain during pregnancy should avoid taking conventional medications. A lot of people might choose to use acupuncture instead of traditional medicine. It is critical to recognize that providing the proper medical care can involve a multidisciplinary approach.

The director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx, New York, Dr. Kecia Gaither, MPH, FACOG, a double board-certified OB-GYN, and maternal-fetal medicine specialist, said: “I think it’s important to keep an open mind on various approaches to medical care — holistically, Western medicine, Eastern medicine, and otherwise.”

“Acupuncture’s premise of action is to unblock energy channels within the body effectively. While not specifically known, the proposed mechanism of action is that acupuncture may block or delay the pain signals from being sent to the brain, which reduces or eliminates the sensation of pain.”

How many acupuncture sessions are needed to see results?

According to Bacharach, some patients may benefit from acupuncture after just one or two sessions. However, most people might need three or more sessions to see noticeable results. The more frequent visits are the less effective the treatment will be. According to Bacharach, “In most cases, treatment is more effective when it occurs at least weekly.”

Significant results can be seen in 3 to 4 weeks, after which fewer regular maintenance visits are needed. Acupuncture, for example, can be provided weekly during the first trimester. Grover explained that in the second trimester, sessions could be spaced out every 2-4 weeks. In the third trimester, the sessions can be reduced to once a week.

Before attempting acupuncture, consult with your OB-GYN.

Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. However, there is some concern that it may cause premature labor or even miscarriage, although Grover explained that clinical trials have shown that these concerns do not have much validity. To be safe, physicians may refuse to clear some pregnant women for acupuncture if they have a history of preterm labor or miscarriage, or if their current pregnancy is at risk for early labor.

A contraindication could also include any placental problems, such as placenta previa. Acupuncturists should steer clear of a group of injection sites known as the ‘forbidden points’ when treating pregnant patients, especially before 37 weeks. According to Grover, these forbidden areas may result in uterine complications from somatovisceral reflexes and the possibility of uterine perforation.

Recent research has ruled out the dangers of the forbidden points, and traditional acupuncture therapy is still using the method.

Key message

A new meta-analysis finds that acupuncture improves pain, functional status, and quality of life in pregnant women with low back and pelvic pain. Researchers discovered significant progress across the board. Acupuncture during pregnancy, according to experts, can help with some of the most common issues people face, such as low back and pelvic pain.

Results are usually visible after one month of treatment, though this varies from person to person. While most pregnancies are considered safe for acupuncture, it is necessary to consult with your OB-GYN first. People can return to acupuncture between 2-4 weeks postpartum during the fourth trimester to help with any lingering pregnancy symptoms or any new ones that may arise.

“The results from the procedure are cumulative with effects generally noted within 1–3 months,” Gaither explained.

“It is generally recommended to initiate it after the first trimester, certainly to have it performed in the hands of an experienced practitioner — of course, after having a discussion and clearance with a healthcare [professional].”

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