Hugo Wilcken

There is no conclusive evidence that Pilates is better than any other form of exercise for low back pain, according to an Australian-authored Cochrane review.

(Cochrane reviews are conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organisation aimed at helping people make well-informed decisions about healthcare by undertaking scientific reviews of evidence for certain treatments.)

The review looked at 10 studies of over 500 people, with 6 studies comparing Pilates to minimal intervention and 4 studies comparing it to other exercises.

The researchers from Sydney’s George Institute found “low to moderate evidence” that Pilates was more effective than minimal intervention for pain, disability and function.

However, they found no significant difference between Pilates and other exercises for pain and disability, either in the short or moderate term. For function, other exercises were actually more effective in the medium-term follow-up.

Study participants used Pilates for periods of 10 to 90 days, with follow-up of up to 6 months.

Co-author Professor Chris Maher, Director of the Institute’s Musculoskeletal Division, says everyone is looking for a solution to low back pain, but what the review shows is there is no quick and easy fix.

“Many people have turned to Pilates, but we have found that it is no more effective than other forms of exercise,” he says.

Prof Maher says the findings will come as a surprise to many people.

“Going to Pilates is a common recommendation, even from clinicians, and it’s easy to get caught up in the attention. Exercise is an important element in recovery from back pain, but it will be different for everyone and that’s the important message.

“Some exercises will actually be more effective, but each case can be different.”

Last Reviewed: 07/07/2015

Reproduced with kind permission from


Yamato TP et al. Pilates for low back pain: Cochrane Collaboration