Effects of a Pilates protocol in individuals with non-specific low back pain compared with healthy individuals: Clinical and electromyographic analysis

Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2020 Feb:72:172-178. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2019.12.009. Epub 2019 Dec 19.


Background: Electromyography may be useful for assessing and understanding trunk muscle activation, and Pilates is commonly used as a treatment for low back pain. The objective of this study was to verify electromyography of trunk muscles after a Pilates protocol in individuals with non-specific low back pain and in healthy individuals.

Methods: Volunteers were divided into two groups: non-specific low back pain (n = 19) and clinically healthy (n = 16) groups. Clinical assessments, classification of patients into subgroups, electromyography evaluations of the right lumbar extensor and right transverse abdominal/internal oblique muscle of the abdomen were performed before and after an 8-week Pilates protocol.

Findings: Comparisons were made before and after the protocol and with the control group. There was significant improvement in pain, flexibility, resistance and strength of trunk muscles. In addition, after the Pilates, there was a decrease in the time elapsed between the onset and peak of lumbar muscle activation during the evaluation of trunk extension in the low back pain group, coming closer to the time of the abdominal muscle, as it also occurred in the control group.

Interpretation: Pilates caused clinical improvement and balanced trunk muscle activation in the low back group, becoming similar to that of the control group. Furthermore, the effects of the proposed protocol were the same between the groups. Thus, Pilates may be indicated for management of non-specific low back pain.

Keywords: Electromyography; Low back pain; Pilates.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electromyography*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Torso / physiology
  • Torso / physiopathology