Ultrasound Evaluation of the Abdominal Wall and Lumbar Multifidus Muscles in Participants Who Practice Pilates: A 1-year Follow-up Case Series

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2018 Jun;41(5):434-444. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2017.10.007. Epub 2018 Apr 19.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe ultrasound (US) changes in muscle thickness produced during automatic activation of the transversus abdominis (TrAb), internal oblique (IO), external oblique (EO), and rectus abdominis (RA), as well as the cross-sectional area (CSA) of the lumbar multifidus (LM), after 1 year of Pilates practice.

Methods: A 1-year follow-up case series study with a convenience sample of 17 participants was performed. Indeed, TrAb, IO, EO, and RA thickness, as well as LM CSA changes during automatic tests were measured by US scanning before and after 1 year of Pilates practice twice per week. Furthermore, quality of life changes using the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey and US measurement comparisons of participants who practiced exercises other than Pilates were described.

Results: Statistically significant changes were observed for the RA muscle thickness reduction during the active straight leg raise test (P = .007). Participants who practiced other exercises presented a larger LM CSA and IO thickness, which was statistically significant (P < .05). Statistically significant changes were not observed for the domains of the analyzed 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (P > .05). A direct moderate correlation was observed (r = 0.562, P = .019) between the TrAb thickness before and after a 1-year follow-up.

Conclusions: Long-term Pilates practice may reduce the RA thickness automatic activation during active straight leg raise. Furthermore, LM CSA and IO thickness increases were observed in participants who practice other exercise types in conjunction with Pilates. Despite a moderate positive correlation observed for TrAb thickness, the quality of life did not seem to be modified after long-term Pilates practice.

Keywords: Abdominal Muscles; Exercise Movement Techniques; Paraspinal Muscles; Ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abdominal Muscles / physiology
  • Abdominal Wall / diagnostic imaging*
  • Abdominal Wall / physiology
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise Movement Techniques*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lumbosacral Region / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Paraspinal Muscles / physiology*
  • Rectus Abdominis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Rectus Abdominis / physiology
  • Ultrasonography