Efficacy of Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment for Management of Postpartum Pain

J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2016 Aug 1;116(8):502-9. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2016.103.


Context: Pain is one of the most common postpartum complaints by women in the United States, and the pain varies in its location. Research on intervention strategies for postpartum pain has focused primarily on the lower back, but pain management for other types of postpartum pain remains unclear.

Objective: To investigate the effects of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on postpartum pain; the location, quality, and timing of pain; and the difference in pain between vaginal and cesarean delivery.

Methods: Postpartum patients who reported having pain were recruited at St Barnabas Hospital in Bronx, New York. The short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire was administered along with a screening questionnaire. Second- or third-year residents in neuromusculoskeletal medicine and osteopathic manipulative medicine examined patients and then diagnosed and managed somatic dysfunction with OMT for approximately 25 minutes. The short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire was again administered after OMT. Paired t tests and McNemar tests were used to analyze changes before and after OMT for continuous and categorical variables, respectively. Differences in visual analog scale (VAS) pain scores between patients who had vaginal vs cesarean delivery were tested using analysis of variance, and group differences in pain location were tested using a Pearson χ2 test.

Results: A total of 59 patients were included in the study. The mean VAS score for pain was 5.0 before OMT and 2.9 after OMT (P<.001). The VAS scores before OMT significantly differed between patients who had a vaginal delivery and those who had a cesarean delivery (P<.001), but the mean decrease in VAS score was similar in both groups. Decreases in low back pain (34 [57.6%] before and 16 [27.1%] after OMT), abdominal pain (32 [54.2%] before and 22 [37.3%] after OMT), and vaginal pain (11 [18.6%] before and 5 [8.5%] after OMT) were reported after OMT (P<.05).

Conclusion: Preliminary results demonstrate that OMT is efficacious for postpartum pain management. The lack of a control group precludes the ability to make causal claims. Future studies are needed to solidify OMT efficacy and generalizability.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Manipulation, Osteopathic / methods
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Puerperal Disorders / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Analgesics