Effectiveness of the Pilates Method in the Treatment of Chronic Mechanical Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial



      To assess the effectiveness of the Pilates method on pain, function, quality of life, and consumption of pain medication in patients with mechanical neck pain.


      The design was a randomized controlled trial, with a blinded assessor and intention-to-treat analysis.


      The study took place in the outpatient clinic of the rheumatology department, referral center.


      Patients (N=64) with chronic mechanical neck pain were randomly allocated to 2 groups: the Pilates group (PG) and a control group (CG).


      The PG attended 2 sessions of Pilates per week, for 12 weeks. The protocol included Pilates exercises performed on a mat and on equipment and was adapted depending on the physical fitness of each participant; the repetitions varied from 6 to 12, respecting patient reports of fatigue and pain, using a single series for each exercise. The CG received only the standard pharmacological treatment. Both groups were instructed to use acetaminophen 750 mg if necessary. Patients were evaluated at baseline after 45, 90, and 180 days.

      Main Outcome Measures

      We used the Numerical Pain Scale for pain, the Neck Disability Index for function, and the SF-36 questionnaire for quality of life.


      The groups were homogeneous at baseline, the only exception being body mass index (BMI), with the PG showing higher BMI. Regarding the assessment between groups over time, statistical differences were identified for pain (P<.001), function (P<.001) and the SF-36 (functional capacity, P=.019; pain, P<.001; general health, P=.022; vitality, P<.001; mental health, P=.012) with the PG consistently achieving better results. Drug consumption was lower in PG patients (P=.037).


      This trial demonstrated the effectiveness of the Pilates method for the treatment of chronic mechanical neck pain, resulting in improvement of pain, function, quality of life, and reduction of the use of analgesics.


      List of abbreviations:

      ANOVA (analysis of variance), BMI (body mass index), CG (control group), NDI (Neck Disability Index), NPS (Numerical Pain Scale), PG (Pilates group)
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