Injury type: Chronic

Category: Allied Health Options

Rating: No research

What is it?

Pilates exercise teaches awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and strengthens the deep torso muscles. These muscles help to keep the body balanced and are essential for providing support to the spine. The overall aim of the exercises is to create a stable pelvis and trunk, and the ability to monitor one’s self kinaesthetically so that movement becomes effortless. A balance of eccentric and concentric muscle contractions promotes strengthening with minimal increase in bulk. The individual is taught to breath in relation to the movement to promote greater efficiency. Initially, exercises are taught to increase awareness that the body works as a whole and that an injured area is part of that whole. As the patient develops strong pelvic and thoracic core, increased resistance and dynamic activities are added. Pilates is used in relation to athletic training, rehabilitation and conditioning.

How does it work?

Pilates aims to selectively increase the strength and endurance of the deep, core muscles of the torso. Initially, the participant must learn which muscles to use, how to use them correctly, and then use them whilst performing movements. By targeting the deep postural muscles of the torso, this may increase the stability and balance of the body, improve posture and reduce the amount of work required by the superficial muscles. This in turn reduces the pressure placed on the spine. By reducing the amount of work required by the superficial muscles, this may also help release tight muscles and reduce pain.

Is it effective?

Pilates may be used in rehabilitation programmes to assist with musculoskeletal problems and conditions. There are no studies assessing the effectiveness of Pilates for whiplash in the short or long term. Recent guidelines do not recommend Pilates as a management option in the first 12 weeks following an injury as there is no evidence of effect.

Are there any disadvantages?

Pilates instruction should be given by a fully trained instructor. Physiotherapists can also provide Pilates therapy. There are some studios/gyms set up exclusively for Pilates. A listing of instructors can be found in the Yellow Pages.

Where do you get it?

The Natural Therapy Pages has an extensive list of practitioners with their contact details. Alternatively, consulting the Yellow Pages should provide details of a practitioner in your local area.


Pilates cannot be recommended as an effective treatment for whiplash, either in the short or long term, because of the lack of scientific evidence. More research is required.