Study examines effect of Pilates on back pain


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The majority of Australians will struggle with back pain in their lifetime, but research commencing at the University of Canberra may offer a new solution through Pilates exercise.

Master of Physiotherapy student Roopika Sodhi is hoping to discover the long-term effects of Pilates exercise in people with chronic back pain with a study that will see study participants undertaking stretching, strengthening and core stability exercise under guidance from accredited instructors.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, 70-90% of Australians will suffer lower back pain at some point of their lives, and Ms Sodhi said for many the pain can be debilitating.

“Chronic lower back pain is the largest cause of disability in Australia, accounting for a lot of lost productivity with people taking time off work to manage the pain,” Sodhi says.

“Rehabilitation for lower back pain can take many forms and exercise therapy is the first line of treatment.

“We know that with exercise treatment the best outcomes result from supervised, individualised, and sufficient dosages of exercise.

“Pilates may offer particular benefits to people with chronic lower back pain because of its focus on core stability as well as body awareness and posture.”

Sodhi says Pilates has been popularised in recent years as a fitness program, but it is also used in rehabilitating musculoskeletal injuries and conditions.

“We know there are short-term benefits from Pilates for people with chronic pain compared to massage and other forms of exercise, but there is little research on the longer term effects when compared to no treatment,” Sodhi says.

“The study will have people take a 12 week course of Pilates and we’ll record changes in pain  and disability.

“I’m comparing the results with people engaged in usual care and physical activity.

“My results will be helpful for doctors, physiotherapists and other health care practitioners by assisting them in selecting appropriate exercise treatments for people experiencing chronic lower back pain.”

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