Doctors in osteopathic medicine (DOs) are medical doctors additionally trained in gentle manipulative techniques to help restore function, range of motion, and lessen pain in bones and adjoining muscles supporting the neck, back, chest, shoulders, and hips.
Osteopathic manipulation may particularly benefit pregnant women seeking medication-free back pain relief, note Dr. John C. Licciardone and colleagues at University of Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.
The study, in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, included 144 otherwise healthy pregnant women, about 24 years old on average, with moderate levels of back pain and related movement difficulties during late pregnancy.
The women were randomly assigned to one of three groups: usual obstetric care only, usual obstetric care plus weekly 30-minute osteopathic manipulation treatments from the 30th week of pregnancy through delivery, or usual obstetric care plus sham ultrasound skin stimulation sessions.
Over the course of the study, women in the osteopathic group reported improved back pain and related symptoms, Licciardone noted in an email to Reuters Health. The sham ultrasound group reported no pain improvement and those in the standard care group reported increased pain. However, none of these differences were statistically significant.
Late pregnancy back-related movement problems generally worsened until delivery, but did so to a lesser degree in the osteopathic manipulation group.
Overall, these results suggest osteopathic manipulation may compliment conventional obstetric care, Licciardone and colleagues conclude. They call for further, larger investigations to assess the benefits and costs of this form of combined care.