Background: Chronic low back pain is potentially disabling for older adults, and exercise is considered the best treatment. The Pilates method and aerobic exercises have been proven to be effective in pain and function improvement in patients with low back pain, but evidence in the treatment of older adults with low back pain is scarce. Therefore, the objective of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of the Pilates method compared to aerobic exercises in the treatment of older adults with chronic nonspecific low back pain.
Methods: This is a randomized controlled trial with blinded assessor, to be held in a physical therapy clinic in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Seventy four patients aged 65 to 85 years with chronic nonspecific pain will be randomized into Pilates Group (n = 37) with exercises based on the Pilates method and Aerobic Group (n = 37) with treadmill aerobic exercise. The primary outcomes will be pain intensity and general disability, assessed eight weeks after randomization. The secondary outcomes will be: pain intensity and general disability, assessed six months after randomization; and global perceived improvement, specific disability, dynamic balance, muscle strength (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and lateral hip rotators), and pressure pain threshold, assessed eight weeks and six months after randomization. Therapists and patients will not be blinded.
Discussion: This study has the potential to reduce pain and, consequently, improve balance and function of older adults with chronic low back pain with both therapies. However, Pilates may be more effective because the exercises are more targeted to the trunk stabilization muscles. The results of this study may provide valuable information on the effects of Pilates and aerobic exercise in older adults with chronic low back pain and contribute to a better selection of the treatment program according to the patient preference.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02729779 , April 6, 2016.
Keywords: Aerobic exercise; Elderly; Low back pain; Pilates method.