Study design: A systematic review with meta-analysis.
Objectives: To compare pain and disability in individuals with persistent nonspecific low back pain who were treated with Pilates exercises compared to minimal or other interventions.
Methods: Searches of Medline, CINAHL, Embase, Cochrane library, PEDro, and ProQuest Dissertations and Thesis databases were conducted. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were selected and reviewed if they compared pain and disability in individuals with persistent nonspecific low back pain who were treated with Pilates exercises compared to other treatment approaches. Quality of the trials was evaluated. Data for pain and disability scores were extracted. Narrative synthesis plus meta-analyses were performed, with either a fixed-effects or random-effects model, standardized mean differences (SMDs), and tests for heterogeneity.
Results: Seven RCTs were identified and included in the meta-analyses. Data pooling was performed using RevMan 5. When compared to minimal intervention, Pilates-based exercise provided superior pain relief (pooled SMD, -2.72; 95% CI: -5.33, -0.11; P = .04) but the pooled disability scores were not significantly different (pooled SMD, -0.74; 95% CI: -1.81, 0.33;P = .17). No significant differences were found when comparing Pilates-based exercise to other forms of exercise for pain (pooled SMD, 0.03; 95% CI: -0.52, 0.58; P = .92) or disability scores (pooled SMD, -0.41; 95% CI: -0.96, 0.14; P = .14).
Conclusion: Pilates-based exercises are superior to minimal intervention for pain relief. Existing evidence does not establish superiority of Pilates-based exercise to other forms of exercise to reduce pain and disability for patients with persistent nonspecific low back pain. However, the relatively low quality of existing studies and the heterogeneity of pooled studies in this systematic review combine to suggest that these results should be interpreted with caution.
Level of evidence: Therapy, level 1a.