Up to 70% of pregnant women, from all parts of the developed world, suffer from back pain. Finding drug-free options to provide relief for these women is important, as many of them do not want to take medications that may harm the growing fetus.

Since PMR relaxes body and mind, researchers from the Ege University Izmir Ataturk School of Health in Izmir, Turkey, wanted to test whether it could reduce pain and improve quality of life for prenatal women. Sixty-six pregnant women with lower-back pain, aged 20-35, participated in the randomized controlled trial. Thirty-three women served as controls; 33 others joined the intervention group and agreed to practice PMR while listening to relaxing music for 20 minutes at least twice a day for 8 weeks. Control group subjects simply lay down for the same amount of time daily, to equalize activity levels among all participants.

Assessments of pain and quality of life were taken at the beginning of the study, after 4 weeks and at the study’s end. Pain levels were comparable for all participants at the outset.

Data analysis revealed that, after 8 weeks, pain levels were significantly lower and quality of life was better for women who practiced PMR. Study limitations included the small sample size and the fact that both PMR and music were used together, so the result could not be attributed to PMR alone. More research is needed.

The study was published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health (2014; 59 (5), 503-509).