Support garments can make a difference with pregnancy back pain

March 19, 2008

Support garments, such as the BellyBra (T&J Designs Inc., Lakewood, CO) and the tubigrip, reduce the severity of pregnancy-related low back pain, but the BellyBra is superior at improving sleeping, sitting, and walking, according to the results of a small randomized Australian trial.

Support garments, such as the BellyBra (T&J Designs Inc., Lakewood, CO) and the tubigrip, reduce the severity of pregnancy-related low back pain, but the BellyBra is superior at improving sleeping, sitting, and walking, according to the results of a small randomized Australian trial.

The trial involved 115 women between 20 and 36 weeks' pregnant who were randomized to wear either the BellyBra (the study device group), a nylon/spandex undergarment worn like a vest, or the tubigrip (the control group), a more generic form of support, for 3 weeks.

Both garments decreased pain similarly and significantly; mean pain severity scores decreased from 6.1 to 4.5 in the device group (P=.001) and from 6.0 to 4.7 in the control group (P=.003). However, women in the device group reported significantly greater reductions in Likert scale assessments of the impact of back pain on sleeping (P=.007), rising from a sitting position (P=.02), and walking (P=.007) than the control group. And the women in the device group used considerably less analgesic medication than those in the control group (P=.01).

Kalus SM, Kornman LH, Quinlivan JA. Managing back pain in pregnancy using a support garment: a randomized trial. BJOG. 2008;115:68-75.

Commentary from Sharon T. Phelan, MD, Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of New Mexico Health Science Center School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM.

Given the increasing obesity among pregnant women, the complaint of back pain is an increasingly common concern. In the past, we have been able to offer patients a few recommendations, including posture changes, exercises, and avoiding excessive weight gain. Although the study raises a number of design issues, it appears that this type of mechanical support system has a valid place among our suggestions.