Effectiveness of motor control exercises versus other musculoskeletal therapies in patients with pelvic girdle pain of sacroiliac joint origin: A systematic review with meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2022;35(4):713-728. doi: 10.3233/BMR-210108.


Background: Pelvic girdle pain represents a group of musculoskeletal pain disorders associated with the sacroiliac joint and/or the surrounding musculoskeletal and ligamentous structures. Its physical management is still a serious challenge as it has been considered the primary cause of low back pain.

Objective: This review sought to determine the effectiveness of motor control exercises for two clinically relevant measures; i.e., pain and disability, on patients with pelvic girdle pain of sacroiliac joint origin.

Methods: This review covered only randomized controlled studies. Online databases, such as PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and Cochrane Library, were searched from January 1, 1990, to December 31, 2019. PEDro scale was used to assess the methodological quality of included studies, while Review Manager was employed to synthesize data in view of meta-analysis. The PRISMA guidelines were applied for this review.

Results: Twelve randomized controlled trials of moderate-to-high quality were included in this review. The studies involved 1407 patients with a mean age ranging from 25.5 to 42.1 years as well as intervention and follow-up durations from 1 week to 2 years. Motor control exercises alone for pelvic girdle pain of sacroiliac joint origin were not effective in terms of pain reduction (SMD = 0.29 [-0.64,1.22]) compared to control interventions whereas they were slightly effective in terms of disability reduction (SMD =-0.07 [-0.67, 0.53]) at short-term. The combination of motor control exercises with other musculoskeletal therapies, however, revealed to be more effective than control interventions in terms of pain reduction (SMD =-1.78 [-2.49, -1.07]; 95%CI) and lessened disability (SMD =-1.80 [-3.03, -0.56]; 95%CI) at short-term.

Conclusion: Motor control exercises alone were not found to be effective in reducing pain at short-term. However, their combination with other musculoskeletal therapies revealed a significant and clinically-relevant decrease in pain and disability at short-term, especially in peripartum period.

Keywords: Exercise therapy; meta-analysis; musculoskeletal manipulation; pelvic girdle pain; pelvic pain; physical therapy modalities; sacroiliac joint; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Girdle Pain* / therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sacroiliac Joint*