Pregnant women (n=113) with clinically verified pelvic girdle pain in gestational weeks 12-28, recruited from maternity healthcare centres, randomised (1:1) into two groups.
Exclusion criteria: any obstetrical complication, systemic disease or previous disorder that could contradict tests or treatment.
Interventions: The intervention consisted of either 10 acupuncture sessions (two sessions per week) provided by a physiotherapist or daily home-based TENS during 5 weeks.
Primary outcome variables: Disability (Oswestry Disability Index), functioning (Patient Specific Functional Scale), work ability (Work Ability Index) and physical activity level according to general recommendations.
Secondary outcome variables: Functioning related to pelvic girdle pain (Pelvic Girdle Questionnaire), evening pain intensity (Numeric Rating Scale, NRS), concern about pain (NRS), health (EuroQoL 5-dimension), symptoms of depression/catastrophising (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale/Coping Strategies Questionnaire).
Results: No mean differences were detected between the groups. Both groups managed to preserve their functioning and physical activitylevel at follow-up. This may be due to significantly (p<0.05) reduced within groups evening pain intensity; acupuncture -0.96 (95% CI -1.91 to -0.01; p=0.049), TENS -1.29 (95% CI -2.13 to -0.44; p=0.003) and concern about pain; acupuncture -1.44 (95% CI -2.31 to -0.57; p=0.0012), TENS -1.99 (95% CI -2.81 to -1.17; p<0.0001). The acupuncture group showed an improvement in functioning at follow-up; 0.82 (95% CI 0.01 to 1.63; p=0.048).
Conclusion: Treating pelvic girdle pain with acupuncture or TENS resulted in maintenance of functioning and physical activity and also less pain and concern about pain. Either intervention could be recommended as a non-pharmacological alternative for pain relief and may enable pregnant women to stay active.