Comparative Efficacy and Safety of Conservative Care for Pregnancy-Related Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-analysis

Phys Ther. 2021 Feb 4;101(2):pzaa200. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzaa200.


Objective: More than one-half of pregnant women experience pregnancy-related low back pain (LBP). Pregnancy-related LBP greatly affects activities of daily life, and although many interventions have been proposed, the optimal treatment for pregnancy-related LBP remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to compare conservative care strategies on their efficacy and safety for women with pregnancy-related LBP through systematic review with pairwise meta-analysis and network meta-analysis.

Methods: MEDLINE, Embase, the Cochrane Library, AMED, CINAHL, PEDro, PsycINFO, and were searched from inception to November 2019. Randomized controlled trials and observational controlled studies were included without restriction to language, sample size, or duration of follow-up. Two independent investigators extracted the data and assessed the risk of bias. The quality of evidence was evaluated through Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation.

Results: Twenty-three studies were included in the qualitative synthesis (18 randomized controlled trials were included in the network meta-analysis). For women with LBP during pregnancy, progressive muscle relaxation therapy (mean difference = -3.96; 95% CI = -7.19 to -0.74; moderate-quality evidence) and Kinesio Taping (mean difference = -3.71; 95% CI = -6.55 to -0.87; low-quality evidence) reduced pain intensity (Visual Analog Scale, range = 0 to 10) compared with placebo. Moderate-quality evidence suggested that transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation improved physical function (mean difference = -6.33; 95% CI = -10.61 to -2.05; Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire, range = 0-24) compared with placebo.

Conclusion: For patients with LBP during pregnancy, progressive muscle relaxation therapy and Kinesio Taping may help to decrease pain, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation may improve physical function.

Impact: This review helps fill the gap in evidence regarding optimal treatment for pregnancy-related LBP.

Lay summary: If you have LBP during pregnancy, your physical therapist has evidence to support the use of progressive muscle relaxation therapy and Kinesio Taping to help decrease pain and the use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation to help improve physical function.

Keywords: Conservative Treatment; Low Back Pain; Network Meta-Analysis; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Tape
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Safety*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy*