Cognitive Functional Therapy Compared With Pilates in Elderly Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain


Centro Universitário Augusto Motta




Low Back Pain


Other: Pilates via tele rehabilitation
Behavioral: Cognitive functional therapy via tele rehabilitation

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


There is evidence of three randomized controlled trials that face-to-face CFT reduces disability compared with active interventions for adults with chronic low back pain. The pandemic enabled the popularization of tele rehabilitation around the globe, but there are still no clinical trial testing the effectiveness of Cognitive Functional Therapy (CFT) via tele rehabilitation for elderly people with chronic low back pain. The aim of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of CFT compared with Pilates, both via tele rehabilitation in elderly patients with chronic low back pain.

Full description

This will be a parallel-group randomized controlled trial with intention to treat analysis conducted via tele rehabilitation in Brazil. Two hundreds elderly people with chronic low back pain (except low risk on STartback screening tool) will be randomized to receive CFT (2 individualized sessions and 4-8 group sessions) or group Pilates (6-10 sessions) up to 12 weeks treatment. Participants will be assessed at baseline, post-intervention (12 weeks) 24 and 48 weeks after randomization. The trial will include cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analyses. Data of quality of life, healthcare costs, patient and family costs, and absenteism costs will be collected. The cost-effectiveness analysis will be performed using disability and pain intensity as outcomes. Costs and quality-adjusted life years will be used to calculate cost-utility.

Three qualitative studies will be conducted during the trial. The first will be performed by means of the interviews with a subsample of the participants before randomization. The aim will be to investigate how elderly people with chronic low back pain perceive their condition. The second will be performed by means of the analysis of a subsample of video recordings of CFT treatments. The aim will be to investigate the narratives of elderly people with chronic low back pain during CFT treatment sessions. The third will be performed after the last follow up by means of an interview with a subsample of participants that received CFT treatment. The aim will be to investigate the perceptions of elderly people with chronic low back pain about the impact of CFT via telerehabilitation.


200 estimated patients




65+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • A main complaint of pain in the area between the 12th rib and buttock crease with or without accompanying non-radicular leg pain;
  • Episode of ongoing low back pain for at least 12 weeks' duration;
  • Presenting to a primary care clinician at least 6 weeks ago for this episode of LBP;
  • Being able to walk independently (with or without aids);
  • Ability to understand Portuguese well enough to be able to fill in the questionnaires.
  • Medium or high risk score on STartback screening tool.

Exclusion criteria

  • Known or suspected red flag disorders like fracture, malignancy/cancer, cauda equina syndrome or progressive neurological disorder, inflammatory or infective diseases of the spine;
  • Suspected radicular pain (dominant leg pain, positive neural tissue provocation tests and/or any two of altered strength, reflexes or sensation for the same nerve root, assessed clinically);
  • Spinal surgery < 6 months previously;
  • Invasive procedures for pain relief (ex: epidural injection, rhizotomy) in the last three months;
  • Scoliosis (if considered the primary cause of pain);
  • Unstable heart conditions;
  • Chikungunya or Dengue virus disease transmitted by mosquitoes;
  • Relevant cognition deficit measured by 10 point cognitive screener, with a cut-off point of less than 8 points, 18 for participants with elementary education, and 26 for participants with secondary and/or higher education;
  • Post Covid-19 sequelae of pain.

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

200 participants in 2 patient groups

Cognitive functional therapy (CFT) via tele rehabilitation
Experimental group
Cognitive Functional Therapy (CFT) is a physiotherapy-led intervention which has evolved from an integration of foundational behavioral psychology and neuroscience within the physiotherapy practice directed at the multidimensional biopsychosocial nature of low back pain. The clinical journey is adapted to the individual's profile following three main components: (i) making sense of pain, (ii) exposure with control and (iii) lifestyle changes. The first 2 one-hour treatment sessions of CFT will be delivered individually and via videoconference in a weekly basis. The following one-hour treatment sessions (from 6 to 9 sessions) will be delivered in groups (up to 6 participants). One group booster session will be delivered 20 weeks after randomization
Behavioral: Cognitive functional therapy via tele rehabilitation
Active Comparator group
Participants in the comparison group will receive Pilates method using classic principles and exercises recommended by Joseph Pilates. No specific accessories or equipment will be used, allowing the exercises to be performed under any circumstances. Based on Pilates, 10 exercises were selected: Leg Pull Front, One Leg Circle, One Leg Kick, One leg stretch, Shoulder bridge, Side bend, Spine Stretch , Swimming, The hundred and The Saw. The main objective of the exercises is to improve physical capacities, including mobility, flexibility, muscle strength and activation of the "power house" center of force, with the therapeutic aim of a positive evolution of chronic non-specific low back pain. The one-hour sessions will be delivered once a week. Participants will be instructed to perform the set of exercises once a week without the supervision of the physiotherapist. The number of group sessions (up to 6 participants) will vary between 8 to 12.
Other: Pilates via tele rehabilitation

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Ney Meziat-Filho, PhD; Jessica Fernandez, PhD Student

Data sourced from

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