Acupuncture as an adjunct to standard treatment for pelvic girdle pain in pregnant women: randomised double-blinded controlled trial comparing acupuncture with non-penetrating sham acupuncture

BJOG. 2008 Dec;115(13):1655-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2008.01904.x. Epub 2008 Oct 15.


Objective: To investigate whether acupuncture has a greater treatment effect than non-penetrating sham acupuncture in women with pelvic girdle pain (PGP) during pregnancy.

Design: Randomised double-blinded controlled trial.

Setting: East Hospital, Gothenburg, and 25 antenatal primary care units in the region of Västra Götaland, Sweden.

Population: A total of 115 pregnant women with a clinical diagnosis of PGP who scored > or =50 on a 100-mm visual analogue scale (VAS).

Method: Women were randomly allocated to standard treatment plus acupuncture or to standard treatment plus non-penetrating sham acupuncture for 8 weeks.

Main outcome measures: Main outcome measure was pain. Secondary outcomes were frequency of sick leave, functional status, discomfort of PGP, health-related quality of life and recovery of severity of PGP as assessed by the independent examiner.

Results: After treatment, median pain decreased from 66 to 36 in the acupuncture group and from 69 to 41 in the non-penetrating sham group (P = 0.493) as assessed on a VAS. Women in the acupuncture group were in regular work to a higher extent than women in the sham group (n = 28/57 versus 16/57, P = 0.041). The acupuncture group had superior ability to perform daily activities measured with the disability rating index (DRI) (44 versus 55, P = 0.001). There were no significant differences in quality of life, discomfort of PGP and recovery from severity of PGP between the groups.

Conclusions: Acupuncture had no significant effect on pain or on the degree of sick leave compared with non-penetrating sham acupuncture. There was some improvement in performing daily activities according to DRI. The data imply that needle penetration contributes to a limited extent to the previously reported beneficial effects of acupuncture.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pelvic Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / prevention & control*
  • Quality of Life
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome