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Clinical Pilates versus General Exercise for Chronic Low Back Pain: Randomized Trial


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: July 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 7 - p 1197–1205
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318248f665
Clinical Sciences

Purpose This single-assessor-blinded randomized controlled trial aimed to compare the efficacy of physiotherapy-delivered clinical Pilates and general exercise for chronic low back pain.

Methods Eighty-seven community volunteers with low back pain for ≥3 months and age 18–70 were randomized to either the Pilates (n = 44) or general exercise (n = 43) group. The primary outcome was pain/disability measured with the Quebec scale. Secondary outcomes included pain on a numeric rating scale, Patient-Specific Functional Scale, Pain Self-efficacy Questionnaire, quality of life, and global perceived effect of treatment. All participants attended 60-min exercise sessions twice weekly for 6 wk supervised by a physiotherapist and performed daily home exercises that were continued during the follow-up. Participants from the clinical Pilates group received an individualized direction-specific exercise program prescribed by the physiotherapist after a clinical examination. The general exercise group received a generic set of exercises that were multidirectional and nonspecific. Outcomes were assessed after 6 wk (primary time point) and at 12 and 24 wk. Differences in mean change were compared between groups using ANCOVA adjusted for baseline values of the outcome.

Results Eighty-three participants (96%) completed the 6-wk intervention and 60 (69%) completed the 24-wk follow-up. At 6 wk, no difference was found between groups for change in the Quebec scale (3.5, 95% confidence interval = −7.3 to 0.3, P = 0.07); both groups showed significant improvements. Similar results were found at the 12- and 24-wk follow-up and for the secondary outcome measures.

Conclusions An individualized clinical Pilates program produced similar beneficial effects on self-reported disability, pain, function and health-related quality of life as a general exercise program in community volunteers with chronic low back pain.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

1DMA Physiotherapy and Clinical Pilates, South Yarra, Victoria, AUSTRALIA; 2Back in Motion Health Group, Mulgrave, Victoria, AUSTRALIA; and 3Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Dr Henry Wajswelner, DMA Clinical Pilates Physiotherapy, 1 Yarra St South Yarra, Victoria 3141 Australia; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2011.

Accepted for publication December 2011.

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©2012The American College of Sports Medicine