Looking at therapies and approaches that have helped our members

By Madeleine Speed

This can be a controversial area and we need to state from the very start that we believe that current best practice for treating PGP is through manual therapy or ‘hands on’ treatment provided by a trained physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor. From our experience of talking to women with PGP and key experts in this area, manual therapy is the best way to treat PGP successfully. In PGP the pelvic joints are not working efficiently together and instead one or more becomes ‘stiff’ or ‘stuck’. This is a biomechanical problem which needs ‘hands on’ techniques of manual therapy to free the joints and to restore normal function and mobility again. Manual therapy is also important in addressing pelvic asymmetry, which is often the underlying problem with PGP and the pelvis needs to be realigned to reduce pain and to increase free movement.

Some treatment approaches do not include manual treatment techniques and while they may be relaxing and soothe some of the discomfort of PGP, they can never be expected to address the underlying causes of PGP or to successfully treat the symptoms. The important thing is to sort out the therapies that include the experienced ‘hands on’ treatment necessary to overcome the underlying symptoms of PGP from those that do not. Physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic approaches are all recommended to achieve this if the practitioner is well trained and experienced in treating PGP. Without going into too much detail, manual therapy involves using the hands to exert a force on the body as opposed to using some form of electrotherapy (such as ultrasound). The aim is to bring mobility to areas that no longer move freely and this can be used to increase movement in joints, muscles and connective tissues. Some approaches such as Bowen and Sport massage (amongst others) include techniques that can be described as similar to those traditionally used in physiotherapy and manual therapy in particular. It may be the case that practitioners of these approaches will maintain that they do address the biomechanical issues at the heart of PGP and it is worth asking about their success with PGP.

Other approaches do not include manual therapy and they cannot be expected to solve the underlying alignment problems of PGP. So while aromatherapy can be very soothing and relaxing and many people who have tried it have found it can have some very positive outcomes, it isn’t going to be able to successfully solve a biomechanical problem like PGP. Even where a therapy does include manual therapy techniques it is still important to find out if the practitioner knows anything about PGP and has some experience in treating it. As many of us have found out, even a physiotherapist who can talk about the benefits of manual therapy doesn’t always have the skills at their fingertips to really relieve the symptoms of PGP. Finding the right help can really require some detective skills!

Having said that, some or our members have found that there is a place for some therapies in addition to receiving manual therapy. For example, we have had very positive feedback from women who are receiving manual therapy but between treatment sessions have used acupuncture to reduce their experience of pelvic pain. Similarly, some forms of massage will not be able to address asymmetry in the pelvis but they may help in between manual therapy sessions to just reduce muscle spasm and stiffness. The important thing is to understand enough about treatment options to know what you are getting from each and not be hoodwinked into thinking you are getting pelvic alignment and manual therapy when you are not.

If you try another approach with your eyes open, it can be really relaxing and another way of reducing pain, to supplement the manual therapy you are receiving with an additional approach (as long as your current practitioner does not think that it will adversely affect the treatment they are providing). Again, be wary as it can be costly, so if you are deciding to choose between an approach that includes manual therapy and one that does not, then it may be important to stick to the former – unless you can afford both. If you are in any doubt about a therapy on offer for treating pregnancy-related PGP, do ask a lot of basic questions about what the practitioner knows about PGP, how the treatment works and what it is they will do if you book an appointment. If you are in any doubt about the benefits of treatment for PGP, then walk away. Similarly, if the practitioner says that you need to book a course of ten treatments be wary as you should see some improvement (even if this is limited) during your first or second treatment.

If you want to talk through any of the issues raised in this article (or associated articles) or specifically to find out where to look for good manual therapy, contact us on our helpline on 01235 820921 or complete our feedback form.

Our first article on this topic is ‘Coping with PGP’ which outlines how one of our committee members found an additional therapy helpful between visits to her regular physiotherapist. After this we will have a look at the main approaches that have helped our members and then provide some feedback on each topic from members who have contacted us.

The second article is ‘What are these therapies and how might they help?’ which includes examples of some therapies that our members have found useful to help manage pain.

The third article includes experiences written by members and supporters about the four treatment approaches mentioned in article two; Acupuncture, Bowen Technique, Spinal Touch and Sports Massage. Click here to read this article.

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The Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on both research and the experience of other women with PGP. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice and the information we provide should not take the place of advice and guidance from your own health-care providers. Material on this site is provided for information and support purposes only.

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