Pilates for Back Pain

The growth in yoga and Pilates in the past decade has sparked a series of research studies on the effects of the mind-body practices on the spine and joints. Although yoga has proven to be effective for back pain, the results on Pilates have been more mixed. Some studies point to definite, positive benefits of Pilates for back pain, while others have found that there's no clinically significant difference between Pilates and other exercise therapy.

A new meta-analysis sought to clarify those results by examining seven studies on the effects of Pilates on chronic lower back pain. The clinical trials included an analysis of Pilates versus minimal treatment and Pilates versus other types of exercise for back pain. Minimal interventions involved primary care visits as needed or educational booklets on back pain. Pilates exercises were modified to accommodate back pain and injuries.

Researchers found that Pilates was more effective than minimal interventions for reducing pain and disability in the short term. Although Pilates did decrease pain and disability, it was not considered to be clinically superior to other types of exercise.

The findings suggest that Pilates is an effective option for patients recovering from back pain, but that other targeted exercise interventions would be just as effective. (This confirms findings from a study we wrote about last year comparing pilates with cycling for back pain). Chiropractors can work with you to develop an appropriate exercise program specific to your interests and needs.


Miyamoto, et al. Efficacy of the Pilates method for pain and disability in patients with chronic nonspecific low back pain: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy 2013;17(6):517-32. doi: 10.1590/S1413-35552012005000127.