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Researchers at the University of Plymouth are looking for 60 women from the local area who have been suffering with pelvic girdle pain for three months or more since childbirth to take part in a new study testing customised pelvic support shorts as an innovative alternative treatment.

The ‘Evaluating the Management of Chronic Pelvic Girdle Pain following pregnancy: A randomised controlled feasibility’ (EMaPP) trial aims to find out the best way to help women who experience persistent pelvic girdle pain following childbirth. The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is being supported locally by the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula (CRN SWP).

Professor Jenny Freeman, Professor of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation at the University’s School of Health Professions, and Chief Investigator for the study, said:

“Pelvic girdle pain is common during pregnancy. However, for some women it continues for longer than expected after giving birth and can cause difficulty in everyday activities such as walking, rolling in bed and caring for your child. Rigid pelvic belts are often used to manage this condition but can be uncomfortable to wear. Customised pelvic support shorts, which are made of Lycra material, offer an alternative with the potential for improved comfort and effectiveness. Our study will allow us to explore whether these innovative support shorts hold promise as an intervention for women who are experiencing this long-term pain following childbirth.”

Professor Jenny Freeman

The EMaPP study has two groups: one group will receive standard physiotherapy (advice and exercises), and the other group will receive the same standard physiotherapy (advice and exercises) plus two pairs of customised pelvic support shorts. Participants will be randomly allocated to one of these two groups (like tossing a coin). The treatments are delivered over two sessions. The first session of 1 hour and the follow up session about 10 days later lasting 30 minutes. The trial has been designed to be run virtually with all reporting from the participants occurring through a web-based app. Participants will be involved for 24 weeks after their first session.

At the end of the trial the study team will run a number of one to one interviews to find out how the participants got on.

The support shorts in this study have been previously tested in a randomised controlled trial of women with pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy, demonstrating to be more effective than a rigid pelvic belt. The researchers have also studied the use of the support shorts in eight women with persistent pelvic girdle pain following childbirth, finding that the support shorts were beneficial for some of the women. The team now needs to test this in a larger sample to better understand whether these support shorts have promise as an intervention.

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

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