Should You Try Pilates for Lower Back Pain?

Pilates ClassBecause it can help you both strengthen and stretch your body’s muscles, Pilates is commonly thought to be an effective technique to help reduce pain in patients with chronic lower back pain. Researchers in Brazil set out to test the usefulness of this treatment method in a recent study.

The study, “Efficacy of the addition of modified Pilates exercises to a minimal intervention in patients with chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial,” was published online ahead of print in October 2012. It appears in the journal Physical Therapy.

As with any new treatment, you should discuss the potential benefits of Pilates with your doctor and ask for information about how to safely incorporate it into your exercise or physical therapy regimen.

How the Study Was Conducted
To understand the effectiveness of Pilates in treating chronic lower back pain, the researchers recruited 86 patients from an outpatient physical therapy center in Brazil. All of the patients suffered from chronic lower back pain.

The participants were randomly split into 2 groups; 1 group received an educational booklet with information about their condition, while members of the other group received the booklet and were provided access to 12 sessions of Pilates-based exercise classes over the course of 6 weeks.
The researchers measured the extent of patients’ pain, their disability level, and other indicators at 6 weeks and 6 months.

What the Researchers Found
The study results showed improvements in patients’ levels of pain and disability levels following participation in the Pilates classes. However, the benefits did not hold up over time—the effectiveness of the addition of Pilates was not seen at the 6-month assessment. The study authors argue that this may signal that Pilates can be beneficial in treating chronic lower back pain in the short-term.

What This Pilates Study Means for You
Pilates and other alternative therapies often affect patients in different ways—what works for one person will not necessarily work for someone else. Talk to your doctor to determine whether you should try to incorporate Pilates-based exercises into your treatment regimen for chronic lower back pain.

Updated on: 08/24/15
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