Back Pain in Relation to Pregnancy: A 6-Year Follow-Up

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Abstract

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.

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