Pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain who received craniosacral therapy had lower pain intensity in the morning, as well as less deteriorated function, compared to a similar group of women who received standard care alone, according to recent research.

The study, “Effects of craniosacral therapy as adjunct to standard treatment for pelvic girdle pain in pregnant women: a multicenter, single blind, randomized controlled trial,” involved 123 pregnant women, all of whom had been diagnosed with pelvic girdle pain.

These women were randomly assigned to either the control group, where they received standard care alone, or the intervention group, where they received standard care along with craniosacral therapy.

According to the researchers, standard care for both groups of women consisted of receiving general information about pelvic girdle pain, as well as the anatomy of the back and pelvis. A physiotherapist gave each woman specific advice about activities of daily living.

As part of the standard care, all subjects were provided with an elastic pelvic belt, as well as a home-training program with exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the shoulders, hips and trunks. The women were instructed to call the physiotherapist if the exercise worsened their pain or if they had any questions or needed more advice or crutches.

Along with this standard-care protocol, the women in the intervention group also received craniosacral therapy. Each session lasted 45 minutes and took place once a week for two weeks, then every other week for six weeks.

“They were treated with a manual release technique of the pelvis while supine,” state the study’s authors. “The therapist attempted release of tension in the fascia, ligaments and muscles using L5-S1 release, sacroiliac release, superior and inferior pubis symphysis release.”

The primary outcome measures for this study were frequency of sick leave, as well as the intensity of morning and evening pain. Secondary outcome measures included function, health-related quality of life, unpleasantness of pain and severity of pelvic girdle pain, as assessed by an independent examiner.

Results of the research revealed significantly lower morning pain intensity and less functional deterioration among the women who received craniosacral therapy, as compared to those who received standard care alone.

“Diminished function deterioration in combination with lesser morning pain may represent an important outcome for these women,” state the study’s authors. “Treatment effects were, however, small and clinically questionable, and conclusions should be drawn carefully.”

Authors: Helen Elden, Hans-Christian Östgaard, Anna Glantz, Pia Marciniak, Ann-Charlotte Linnér and Monika Fagevik Olsén.

Sources: Institute of Health and Care Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden; Department of Orthopedics, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Mölndal, Sweden; Obstetric Antenatal Care, Primary Health, Gothenburg, Sweden; Obstetric Antenatal Care, Primary Health, Bohuslän, Sweden; Barnmorskegruppen Antenatal Care, Gothenburg, Sweden; and Department of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden. Originally published in July 2013 in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, the official publication of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 92(7), 775-782.

This research report ran in the print edition of MASSAGE Magazine‘s December 2013 issue.