Adding to the growing body of research documenting the benefits of Pilates exercise, an individualized clinical Pilates program has been found to provide the same benefits as a general exercise program for people with chronic low-back pain. Findings from the randomized controlled study appeared in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2012; doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e318248f665).
Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Parkville, Victoria, Australia, divided 87 participants, aged 18–70, into two groups. All Pilates subjects received an individualized, direction-specific exercise program designed for them by a physical therapist after an examination. Members of the general exercise group followed a nonspecific, multidirectional, generic curriculum. For 6 weeks, everyone attended 1-hour exercise sessions twice a week, supervised by a physical therapist; all subjects also did daily home exercises, which they continued until the final follow-up at 24 weeks. Investigators collected data at 6, 12 and 24 weeks, using measurements of pain, disability, function and health-related quality of life.
Data analysis revealed that participants in both groups experienced significant improvements at 6, 12 and 24 weeks. No difference, however, was apparent between the groups.
“This study showed that specific clinical Pilates exercise programs are as effective in reducing pain, disability and improving function in adults with chronic low-back pain as traditional general exercises when both programs are used by physiotherapists,” said study author Dr. Henry Wajswelner, FACP, specialist physiotherapist at DMA Clinical Pilates & Physiotherapy in South Yarra, Victoria. “Further research is needed to define whether there are subgroups of patients who may respond better to individualized programs, or whether the fact that physiotherapists prescribing and delivering the exercise programs is the main beneficial factor, rather than anything to do with the exercises themselves.”
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