Study design: A prospective randomized controlled 6-year follow-up study of women with back pain during pregnancy.
Objectives: To describe the long-term development of back pain in relation to pregnancy and to identify the effects of a physiotherapy and patient education program attended during pregnancy.
Summary of background data: Pain incidence and intensity during pregnancy can be reduced by physiotherapy. No study has described the development of pain experienced for a period of years after delivery or the long-term effect of physiotherapy.
Methods: Pregnant women, registered consecutively, were randomly assigned to one control group and to two intervention groups and were observed throughout pregnancy, with follow-up after 3 months and 6 years.
Results: The first phase of the study was completed by 362 women. After 3 months, 351 and after 6 years, 303 women had been observed. Back pain among 18% of all women before pregnancy and among 71% during pregnancy declined to 16% after 6 years. Pain intensity was highest in Week 36 (visual analog score, 5.4) and declined markedly 6 years later (visual analog score, 2.5). Slow regression of pain after partus correlated with having a back pain history before pregnancy, (r = 0.30; P < 0.05), with high pain intensity during pregnancy (r = 0.45; P < 0.01), and with much residual pain 3 months after pregnancy (r = 0.41; P < 0.01). These correlations were not found in the intervention groups. Furthermore, frequency of back pain attacks at 6 years correlated with frequency of attacks during pregnancy (r = 0.41; P < 0.01) and with a vocational factor (r = -0.25; P < 0.01). Physiotherapy and patient education had no effects on back pain development among women without pain during pregnancy.
Conclusions: Back pain during pregnancy regressed spontaneously soon after delivery and improved in few women later than 6 months post partum. Expected correlations between back pain in relation to pregnancy and back pain 6 years later were not present in the intervention groups who had attended a physiotherapy and education program during pregnancy. The program had no prophylactic effects on women without back or pelvic pain during pregnancy.