French researchers have found acupuncture to be a cost-effective treatment for pelvic girdle and lower back pain in pregnancy. Women given acupuncture in addition to standard care reported less pain and disability than those given standard care alone.
A total of 199 women at gestations of between 16 and 34 weeks, were randomly allocated to receive either five sessions of acupuncture plus routine care, or routine care alone, over four weeks. Additional sessions were available at the patients’ request. The study took place across five maternity hospitals in the Paris region. Routine care comprised a pregnancy belt, lifestyle recommendations and exercises. Painkillers, rest and sick leave were prescribed by the referring physician or midwife.
The proportion of days on which women reported a pain score less than 4/10 was 61% in the acupuncture group, compared with 48% in the routine care group. Mean disability scores were also lower in the acupuncture group. As well as being more effective, acupuncture plus routine care was more than 300 euros per patient cheaper for the economy overall: the cost of providing acupuncture was offset by the costs of reduced absence from work.