Pilates Effective for Neck Pain

Suffering from neck pain? Try striking some Pilates poses. A new pilot study suggests that Pilates could be beneficial for patients with chronic neck pain.

In the study, researchers enrolled 13 patients with neck pain into a Pilates program with guided poses aimed at addressing neck symptoms. They asked patients to rate their pain using a numeric scale and measured their disability levels using the National Disability Index and the Patient Specific Functional Scale.

After six weeks, the patients showed significant improvements in disability but not in pain scores. But by week 12, the patients did experience clinically meaningful improvements in both pain and disability.

Since this is a small, uncontrolled study, more research is needed to confirm the results and to compare Pilates to other treatments and exercise therapies.

While any increase in physical activity is beneficial, scientists are still trying to ascertain whether certain exercise therapies are more effective than others for reducing musculoskeletal pain. In one recent study, patients with neck pain who did yoga had more significant reductions in pain and disability than those doing at-home exercises. Recent studies on back pain showed that Pilates and cycling produce equally beneficial results, but that core-stabilizing techniques are superior to general exercise. Determining which exercise therapies are the most effective could enhance conservative treatment for musculoskeletal conditions.

Combining exercise with chiropractic may be the best conservative course for neck pain. A recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine found that chiropractic and exercise treatments were more effective than drugs for relieving neck pain.


Mallin G and Murphy S. The effectiveness of a 6-week Pilates programme on outcome measures in a population of chronic neck pain patients: A pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2013; doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.03.003.