Keele University researchers joined forces with the Royal Stoke University Hospital, local community midwives, and physiotherapy services to find out how best to help women with back pain during pregnancy. The EASE Back feasibility and pilot study ended December 2013.

The aims of the EASEBack study

1. Explore the views of pregnant women with lower back pain (LBP) about the acceptability of the proposed trial interventions, the content and mode of delivery of participant information, the most important outcomes, and the most appropriate timing of outcome measures.
2. Investigate the views of midwives and physiotherapists regarding the acceptability and feasibility if acupuncture for women with pregnancy-related LBP.
3. Explore the views of midwives and physiotherapists on the proposed feasibility of the pilot trial design, processes and interventions.
4. Identify standard care and acupuncture practice for pregnancy-related LBP. 

The study team, led by Professor Nadine Foster, would like to thank the women who shared their experiences, the midwives, and physiotherapists who gave their time to advise and support the study, and the NHS managers who allowed access to their staff teams.

About the study

Back pain during pregnancy is common and can affect daily activities, work and sleep. Usual care for pregnant women with back pain typically involves advice about things that they can do to help ease their pain, for example, changes in posture and simple exercises to do at home.

Acupuncture may also be a treatment that could help. It is already recommended in UK guidelines for treating back pain in the general population.Some midwives and physiotherapists also use it to treat pregnant women with back pain. However, we do not know if it is better than usual care.

In order to understand whether acupuncture can really help pregnant women with back pain, we randomly allocated patients to  ‘usual care’ or ‘usual care plus acupuncture’ in what is called a ‘randomised trial’. 

The study was a feasibility and pilot trial assessing whether it is feasible to undertake a larger randomised controlled trial of usual care compared with usual care plus two forms of acupuncture in women experienceing related back pain within Stoke on Trent, using 6 different recruitment methods. 

The study showed that:

  • It is possible to recruit the number of women needed to take part in a full trial
  • There were no safety issues associated with acupuncture
  • There may be a better outcomes for those recieving acupuncture
  • Standard care with acupuncture may be more cost-effective than standard care alone.



NIHR logo, small

EASE Back was funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Health Technology Assessment Programme (HTA) and also supported through an NIHR Research Professorship for NE Forster (NIHR-RP-011-015). It was reviewed and approved by the National Reseasrch Ethics Service Greater Manchester North Research Ethics Committee 12/NW/0227. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarioy those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. EASE Back is registered with the current controlled trials database, ISRCTN, reference: ISRCTN49955124. 

Talking about EASEBack

Study Coordinator, Alice Mackie, gives an overview of the study and how to get involved.

Explaining EASE Back (a) | MP3 (950 KB)

Midwife, Amanda Redford, summarises the effects of back pain in pregnancy and gives details of how to take part.

Explaining EASE Back (b) | MP3 (976 KB)

One of our participants shares her experience of suffering with back pain during pregnancy.

Patient experience | MP3 (1,026 KB)

Professor Nadine Foster summarises the EASEBack study