Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Wendell Liemohn

Committee Members

Songning Zhang, Jack Wasserman, Schuyler Huck


The purpose of this research was to investigate the efficacy of Pilates exercises as a therapeutic intervention in treatment of low back pain (LBP). Pilates exercises have been integrated into many rehabilitation programs for those with LBP; however, no clinical research was found that supports its efficacy.

Twelve subjects who presented for physical therapy with LBP, were randomly assigned to either the traditional lumbar stabilization exercise group (A, n=6) or the Pilates exercise group (B, n=6) and completed participation in the study. The mean age for group A was 30.33 (SD 12.40) for group B was 36.00 (SD 11.43) P=0.430, and the percent with LBP over 3 months (chronic) was 83.3% in group A and 66.7% in group B.

Outcome measures used were the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), the Revised Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), lumbar spine active range of motion (AROM), and measures of core stability on the Stability Platform (LaFayette Instrument Co), taken at pre-treatment, every fourth visit and at discharge from physical therapy.

Repeated measures ANOVAs were performed for measures of VAS, ODI and AROM for (pre, 4th and post treatments) and measures of core stability (pre and post treatments). All subjects progressed significantly in measures of pain (P=0.004), function (P=0.004), and stability measures of center balance time (P=0.013) and deviations to the right (P=0.004). The measures of AROM and left deviations on the Stability Platform did not change significantly over time. There were no significant differences in any of the outcome measures between the groups over time.

Subjects participating in Pilates exercises as provided as part of physical therapy treatment for LBP under the guidance of a physical therapist and Stott™ trained clinicians improved in measures of pain, function, and core stability equal to that of those performing traditional lumbar stabilization exercises as typically provided in rehabilitation for LBP. Given that there have been no clinical studies performed assessing the benefits suggested from performing Pilates exercises, this study provides a legitimate and safe basis for inclusion of Pilates exercises, taught and progressed by appropriately trained clinicians, as therapeutic exercise intervention with patients who have LBP.

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