Prevention of progressive back-specific dysfunction during pregnancy: an assessment of osteopathic manual treatment based on Cochrane Back Review Group criteria

J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2013 Oct;113(10):728-36. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2013.043.


Context: Back pain during pregnancy may be associated with deficits in physical functioning and disability. Research indicates that osteopathic manual treatment (OMT) slows the deterioration of back-specific functioning during pregnancy.

Objective: To measure the treatment effects of OMT in preventing progressive back-specific dysfunction during the third trimester of pregnancy using criteria established by the Cochrane Back Review Group.

Design: A randomized sham-controlled trial including 3 parallel treatment arms: usual obstetric care and OMT (UOBC+OMT), usual obstetric care and sham ultrasound therapy (UOBC+SUT), and usual obstetric care (UOBC).

Setting: The Osteopathic Research Center within the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.

Participants: A total of 144 patients were randomly assigned and included in intention-to-treat analyses.

Main outcome measures: Progressive back-specific dysfunction was defined as a 2-point or greater increase in the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) score during the third trimester of pregnancy. Risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to compare progressive back-specific dysfunction in patients assigned to UOBC+OMT relative to patients assigned to UOBC+SUT or UOBC. Numbers needed to treat (NNTs) and 95% CIs were also used to assess UOBC+OMT vs each comparator. Subgroup analyses were performed using median splits of baseline scores on a numerical rating scale for back pain and the RMDQ.

Results: Overall, 68 patients (47%) experienced progressive back-specific dysfunction during the third trimester of pregnancy. Patients who received UOBC+OMT were significantly less likely to experience progressive back-specific dysfunction (RR, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.3-1.0; P=.046 vs UOBC+SUT; and RR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2-0.7; P<.0001 vs UOBC). The effect sizes for UOBC+OMT vs UOBC+SUT and for UOBC+OMT vs UOBC were classified as medium and large, respectively. The corresponding NNTs for UOBC+OMT were 5.1 (95% CI, 2.7-282.2) vs UOBC+SUT; and 2.5 (95% CI, 1.8-4.9) vs UOBC. There was no statistically significant interaction between subgroups in response to OMT.

Conclusion: Osteopathic manual treatment has medium to large treatment effects in preventing progressive back-specific dysfunction during the third trimester of pregnancy. The findings are potentially important with respect to direct health care expenditures and indirect costs of work disability during pregnancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / prevention & control*
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation
  • Manipulation, Osteopathic / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult