Pilates-based therapeutic exercise: effect on subjects with nonspecific chronic low back pain and functional disability: a randomized controlled trial

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006 Jul;36(7):472-84. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2006.2144.


Study design: A randomized controlled trial, prestest-posttest design, with a 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up.

Objectives: To investigate the efficacy of a therapeutic exercise approach in a population with chronic low back pain (LBP).

Background: Therapeutic approaches developed from the Pilates method are becoming increasingly popular; however, there have been no reports on their efficacy.

Methods and measures: Thirty-nine physically active subjects between 20 and 55 years old with chronic LBP were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups. The specific-exercise-training group participated in a 4-week program consisting of training on specialized (Pilates) exercise equipment, while the control group received the usual care, defined as consultation with a physician and other specialists and healthcare professionals, as necessary. Treatment sessions were designed to train the activation of specific muscles thought to stabilize the lumbar-pelvic region. Functional disability outcomes were measured with The Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMQ/RMDQ-HK) and average pain intensity using a 101-point numerical rating scale.

Results: There was a significantly lower level of functional disability (P = .023) and average pain intensity (P = .002) in the specific-exercise-training group than in the control group following the treatment intervention period. The posttest adjusted mean in functional disability level in the specific-exercise-training group was 2.0 (95% CI, 1.3 to 2.7) RMQ/RMDQ-HK points compared to a posttest adjusted mean in the control group of 3.2 (95% CI, 2.5 to 4.0) RMQ/RMDQ-HK points. The posttest adjusted mean in pain intensity in the specific-exercise-training group was 18.3 (95% CI, 11.8 to 24.8), as compared to 33.9 (95% CI, 26.9 to 41.0) in the control group. Improved disability scores in the specific-exercise-training group were maintained for up to 12 months following treatment intervention.

Conclusions: The individuals in the specific-exercise-training group reported a significant decrease in LBP and disability, which was maintained over a 12-month follow-up period. Treatment with a modified Pilates-based approach was more efficacious than usual care in a population with chronic, unresolved LBP.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Exercise Therapy / instrumentation
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Lumbosacral Region / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Posture / physiology
  • Treatment Outcome