Comparative Effects of 12 Weeks of Equipment Based and Mat Pilates in Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain on Pain, Function and Transversus Abdominis Activation. A Randomized Controlled Trial

Complement Ther Med. 2017 Aug;33:72-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.06.004. Epub 2017 Jun 27.


Background: Pilates method has been recommended for patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP) and the activation of transversus abdominis has been deemed to play an important role in the improvement of these patients. Nevertheless, the evidence of the activation of TrA in Pilates practitioners remains unclear.

Objective: To assess the effectiveness of 12 weeks of Pilates practice in disability, pain, kinesiophobia and transversus abdominis activation in patients with chronic nonspecific Low Back Pain.

Design: A randomized controlled trial was carried out.

Methods: A single-blind randomized controlled trial with repeated measures at 6 and 12 weeks was carried out. A total of ninety eight patients with low back pain were included and randomly allocated to a Pilates Mat group (PMG) equipment based with apparatus Pilates (PAG) or control group (CG). Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ), visual analog scale (VAS) Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia (TSK), and transversus abdominis (TrA) activation assessed by real time ultrasound measurement (US) were assessed as outcome measures.

Results: Improvement were observed in both intervention groups in all the included variables at 6 and 12 weeks (p<0.001). Faster enhancement was observed in the equipment based Pilates group (p=0.007).

Conclusions: Equipment based and mat Pilates modalities are both effective in the improvement of TaA activation in patients with CLBP with associate improvement on pain, function and kinesiophobia. Significant differences were observed after 12 weeks of intervention in PMG and PAG with faster improvement in PAG suggesting that, feedback provided by equipment could help in the interiorization of Pilates principles.

Keywords: Chronic low back pain; Pilates; Real time ultrasound measurement; Transversus abdominis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology*
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain / psychology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Equipment and Supplies
  • Exercise Movement Techniques / methods*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / psychology
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Pain
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult