Pilates as effective as physical therapy for back pain

There's more to Pilates than getting in shape. Those stretching and ab-toning exercises could go a long way in soothing symptoms of chronic low back pain according to a new study.

Australian researchers compared the efficacy of Pilates and general exercise for treating back pain. Eighty-seven patients were assigned to perform either Pilates exercises or general exercises typical of physical-therapy rehabilitation. After four weeks, both groups experienced significant improvements in pain, disability, function, and quality of life. Researchers did not observe any major differences between the two treatments. These benefits persisted at the 12 and 24-week follow-up appointments.

Pilates is yet another way to use exercise for natural back pain treatment. Recent research has demonstrated that yoga and tai chi can also alleviate chronic pain and fibromyalgia. Although all these exercises can be performed at home, consulting with a chiropractor or physical therapist could strengthen your results. In this latest study, the Pilates patients practiced an exercise program tailored to their individual needs as determined by physiotherapist. A health-care provider can counsel you on which exercises make sense for treating your back pain.


Wajswelner H, Metcalf B, Bennell K. Clinical pilates versus general exercise for chronic low back pain: randomized trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2012;44(7):1197-205.