STERILE water injections can provide effective pain relief for women with persistent lower back pain in labour, Oxford researchers have said.

The research team say their results prove that water injections are simple, effective and safe, and have no effect on birth outcomes.

The ICARIS trial, published in The Lancet journal, was a collaboration between Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford University and Australia's Queensland University.

Professor Sally Collins, OUH Consultant Obstetrician, who led the UK part of the study, said: "Although many other countries were already using this simple pain-relieving technique, the evidence it works was sadly lacking so many healthcare professionals dismissed it as nonsense.

"The NICE guidelines even go as far as to say it shouldn't be used."

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She added: "This robust trial provides much needed evidence that it works using the strongest possible research method, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

"The fact that it is cheap, simple and needs minimal training should mean it will be able to provide pain-relief for women in developing countries where access to other pain-relief may be limited,"

More than 1,000 women with severe back pain took part in the trial between 2012 and 2017 at the John Radcliffe and 15 Australian maternity units.

They were randomised to either water injections or a placebo of saline solution.

Compared to the placebo, twice as many women who received the water injections reported that their pain was reduced by at least half and the effect lasted for 90 minutes and longer.