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Alternatives to medication

Manual therapies such as physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic treat the underlying mechanical joint problem with the aim of relieving pain and preventing deterioration. Other treatments can reduce the chance of pain becoming a chronic (long-term) problem which can happen when it is not controlled or treated in the early stages of a condition such as PGP.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of alternative and complementary methods of managing pain – you may find other alternatives. Do ask about any risks, benefits and side effects of these.

TENS pain relief

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a medication-free method of pain relief that has proved very popular in the treatment of many persistent conditions including PGP.

How does it work?
Adhesive electrode pads are placed around the area of pain and these are connected to a battery-powered unit that is small enough to be attached to a belt. Mild electrical impulses are then transmitted to stimulate the nerves in the affected area. This is usually felt as a slight tingling sensation, and it leads to the body’s releasing natural painkillers called endorphins and reducing the pain messages reaching the brain. TENS can be used in conjunction with medication and is now used in both pregnancy and labour for pain relief.

Acupuncture and dry needling

Acupuncture is a therapeutic treatment using fine needles derived from ancient Chinese medicine which uses meridians within the body. The acupuncture used by most manual therapists, also known as dry needling, is slightly different. It can be very helpful during and following pregnancy to manage pain and to release tight muscles or painful ‘trigger points’ using acupuncture needles. It can be useful to allow manual therapy to become more effective if your muscles are not responding as you had hoped to manual therapy. You may find it helpful (and cost-effective) to find a physiotherapist who uses a combination of manual therapy and dry needling if your symptoms are not responding quickly to manual therapy alone.

For more information about acupuncture please visit the British Acupuncture Council website or the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists website.

Intramuscular stimulation (IMS)

Intramuscular stimulation (IMS) is a total system for the diagnosis and treatment of myofascial pain syndromes (chronic pain conditions that occur in the musculoskeletal system when there is no obvious sign of injury or inflammation). IMS relies heavily on a thorough physical examination of the patient, who is presenting the physical signs of neuropathic pain.

The treatment uses acupuncture needles because they are the thinnest implements available that are designed to penetrate deep within muscle tissue, specifically targeting injured muscles that have contracted and become shortened from distress. It involves dry needling of affected areas of the body without injecting any substance. The needle sites can be at the epicentre of taut, tender muscle bands, or they can be near the spine where the nerve root may have become irritated and supersensitive. Penetration of a normal muscle is painless, but a shortened, supersensitive muscle will ‘grasp’ the needle in what can be described as a cramping sensation. The result is threefold. Firstly, a stretch receptor in the muscle is stimulated, producing a reflex relaxation (lengthening). Secondly, the needle also causes a small injury that draws blood to the area, initiating the natural healing process. Thirdly, the treatment creates an electrical potential in the muscle to make the nerve function normally again.

Please note that IMS is not recommended during early pregnancy; please speak to a registered IMS practitioner and/or visit the iSTOP website for more information about IMS.

Meditation

There are many different types of meditation, including mindfulness, yoga nidra and raja yoga, each using different relaxation techniques which can help to relax muscles, calm tension and ease/help manage pain. Mindfulness is now widely available on the NHS to help people with long-term health conditions including chronic pain. Some women find that meditative techniques can be helpful to manage pain, allowing manual therapy treatment of their pelvic joints to become more effective.

Hypnosis

When you are under hypnosis you focus on relaxation and letting go of distracting thoughts. This temporarily tunes out the conscious part of your mind, opening your mind to the power of suggestion. At this point, your hypnotherapist can make suggestions to encourage pain relief.

Rather than convincing you that your pain doesn't exist, hypnosis for pain aims to manage any fear and anxiety you may be experiencing relating to your pain. It also helps to reduce stress and relax the nervous system to help it become less reactive to pain.

Please see the Hypnotherapy Directory for more information about hypnotherapy for pain relief and to find a registered hypnotherapist in your area.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies, for example, massage, homeopathy, reflexology, the Bowen technique, are used to help with a variety of health conditions, and women with PGP may find these therapies useful to help manage acute or chronic pain. However, most pain in PGP is as a result of a mechanical joint problem such as stiffness in one side of your pelvis, so the joint cannot move normally. The cause is unlikely to get better using alternative therapies alone, although they may temporarily relieve the pain. If you have to choose between spending money on manual therapy or on complementary therapy, we suggest that you are likely to get more long-lasting relief from manual therapy; if you can afford both, that is a bonus.

See our 'Links to other organisations' page under 'Alternatives to pain medication' for links to various complementary therapy websites.

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Please note, the Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had Pelvic Girdle Pain and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on research evidence where available. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice. The Pelvic Partnership takes no responsibility for any action you do or do not take as a result of reading this information.
 
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