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Low back pain (LBP) during pregnancy: an exploration of biomechanical precipitating factors using non-invasive telemetric sensing of gait and everyday physical activities


   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

  Dr Dianne Liddle, Dr H Zheng  Monday, February 06, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Over two-thirds of women experience LBP during pregnancy, with symptoms typically increasing as pregnancy advances1. Women often have a history of simple LBP, and continue to experience symptoms after birth2, which directly adds to the substantial cost associated with LBP in the general population3,4. This, along with reports of high relapse rates in later pregnancies5, underlines the importance of identifying and directing women to the most appropriate treatment as early as possible. A UK-wide survey of women receiving maternity care found that many; felt frustrated that their LBP symptoms were not taken seriously, did not receive any treatment, and consequently opted to use over-the-counter painkillers to manage their symptoms, despite concerns about the unknown effects these may have on the foetus2.

In order to better understand the condition and develop safe and effective treatments, more studies are needed to explore the underlying causes and development of symptoms as much still remains unclear6. Current evidence indicates there is no clear causal relationship between levels of the hormone relaxin and pregnancy-related LBP7, so it would seem appropriate to explore some of the other theories and risk factors mentioned above. Therefore, this project aims to explore whether a relationship exists between changes in the way pregnant women walk and carry out other usual daily activities and the development of LBP, and if any changes observed are associated with a sizeable reduction in levels of daily physical activity.

Methods to be used:

1)    Systematic review of studies investigating the causes and development of pregnancy-related LBP.

2)    Online survey or Focus groups / semi-structured interviews exploring pregnant womens’ understanding and experiences of pregnancy-related LBP and how they managed their symptoms.

3)    Prospective case-controlled study using wearable sensors to analyse gait and activity levels in pregnant women.

4)    Use of above listed methods above to inform the design of an intervention and find out whether it can be practically delivered in a typical healthcare setting.

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