Daily pilates exercise or inactivity for patients with low back pain: a clinical prospective observational study

Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2014 Feb;50(1):59-66. Epub 2013 Oct 9.


Background: Studies have shown the effectiveness of a few weekly pilates sessions as helping to reduce lower back pain (LBP). However many patients fear that physical activity can actually make the pain and disability worse.

Design: We carried out this observational prospective clinical study to look at the effects that taking part in daily pilates has one on side and on the other the effects of LBP management without physical exercise.

Setting: The volunteers who participated in this study were recruited from among some local cultural associations.

Population: Patients affected by LBP were evaluated.

Methods: The subjects were 60 volunteers (27 males and 33 females) with a mean age of 51.2 years who had chronic low back pain (CLBP). They were allocated to pilates group (N.=30) or inactivity control group (N.=30). The pilates group performed one-hour lesson of pilates exercise, 5 lessons per week during the following 6 months. The inactivity group continued with their normal daily activities. The Roland-Morris Disability, the Oswestry, the SF-36 and the Spinal Functional Sort Questionaries of all subjects were measured at the baseline (T1) and at 6 months (T2).

Results: At T2 improvements were observed in the pilates group with increases in physical and social functioning, general health and vitality (P<0.05) and decreases in disability and pain (P<0.05). The inactivity group showed worsening in the same measures at T2.

Conclusion: We found an important improvement of pain, disability and physical and psychological perception of health in individuals who did the daily sessions of pilates.

Clinical rehabilitation impact: Some authors underlined the possible risk of a lack of adherence to an exercise program at home. This study suggests that a daily pilates program is effective for the management of CLBP. On the other hand, the inactivity contributes to further worsening, inducing a vicious cycle in which pain and physical activity intolerance follow each other.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Exercise Movement Techniques / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome