The Pilates method has been widely employed to treat chronic low back pain. Pilates exercises can be performed in two ways: by using specific equipment or without it (also known as mat Pilates), however there are not any studies that compared the effectiveness of mat Pilates to equipment-based Pilates. The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness of mat Pilates to equipment-based Pilates in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain. At a private physical therapy clinic in Brazil, eighty-six patients with chronic non-specific low back pain participated in a two-arm randomized controlled trial with a blinded assessor. The patients were placed at random into two groups: mat Pilates group (n=43) and equipment-based group (n=43). The patients of both groups attended 12 Pilates sessions over a period of 6 weeks. The primary outcomes were pain intensity and disability. The secondary outcomes were global perceived effect, patient’s specific disability, and kinesiophobia. A blinded assessor evaluated the outcomes at baseline and 6 weeks and 6 months after randomization. After 6 months, there was a statistically significant difference for disability (mean difference = 3.0 points, 95% CI = 0.6 to 5.4), specific disability (mean difference = -1.1 points, 95% CI = -2.0 to -0.1) and kinesiophobia (mean difference = 4.9 points, 95% CI = 1.6 to 8.2) in favor of equipment-based Pilates. No differences were found for the remaining outcomes.
This study found equipment-based Pilates to be superior to mat Pilates in the 6 months follow-up for the outcomes disability and kinesiophobia. These benefits weren’t observed for pain intensity and global perceived effect in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.