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14 Articles in Volume 19, Issue #1
Analgesics of the Future: NKTR-181
Antidote to CDC Guideline; Plantar Fasciitis; Patient Input
Assessing and Treating Migraine in Women and Men
Demystifying Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia
Editorial: Have We Gone Too Far? Can We Get Back?
How to Compel Patients to Complete Home Exercises
Inflammation Targeted Nanomedicine
Intravenous Stem Cell Administration for Ileitis
Invasive Surgery: Effective in Relieving Chronic Pain?
Pain Catastrophizing: What Practitioners Need to Know
Pain Therapy Options for the Home
Regenerative Medicine
The Future of Pain Management: An Experts' Roundtable
Whole Body Vibration: Potential Benefits in the Management of Pain and Physical Function

Whole Body Vibration: Potential Benefits in the Management of Pain and Physical Function

Growing evidence supports the use of this treatment tool, in combination with exercise, for improving flexibility, bone density, balance, strength, and pulmonary rehabilitation.
Pages 48-55
Page 1 of 3

Whole body vibration (WBV) is a form of treatment that has been shown to have an important role in increasing  neuromuscular performance, improving muscular strength, balance, gait mechanics, and quality of life.1-5 The technique involves standing and holding positions, or performing prescribed exercises, on a platform that is vibrating at a programmed frequency, amplitude, and magnitude of oscillation.6 WBV was first introduced in the clinical setting to enhance bone-mineral density in patients with osteoporosis,7 and has since expanded to help improve strength and neuromuscular activation in more sedentary populations, such as older adults;8 to decrease pain and fatigue levels in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome;9 to improve postural control and functional mobility in patients with multiple sclerosis;10 and to improve gait mechanics in patients with Parkinson’s disease.11,12 The benefits of WBV may also apply to pulmonary strength and body composition, which are reviewed in this article. In fact, within recent years, WBV therapy has emerged in the field of research as a possible method for pain relief across multiple conditions.

While the technique is still relatively new and requires further research to determine full efficacy and sustainability, the therapy has been indicated across the literature as an effective, noninvasive, non-pharmacological, relatively easy-to-use, and comparatively inexpensive therapy that could provide relief from chronic pain, as described herein.

WBV for Chronic Pain Conditions

Pain is a primary symptom of osteoarthritis (OA), diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), and fibromyalgia. Whole body vibration has demonstrated a high adherence rate, which is not often the case for many interventions used to help treat individuals with chronic pain.9

Research by Park and colleagues13 concluded that individuals suffering from chronic pain produced by knee OA found relief after practicing WBV therapy in conjunction with a home-based exercise program. More specifically, the individuals that participated in WBV therapy and home-based exercise had reduced pain intensity when compared to those who practiced only home-based exercise.

A case study by Hong and colleagues14 examined patients with DPN who experienced slight numbness, mild tingling sensations, and severe pain on a daily basis – including one male patient who struggled to put pressure on his feet due to pain and needed to frequently sit or lay down. In this particular patient, WBV therapy was used as an interventional method to relieve his pain. The therapy decreased his pain after each session for an average of three hours. The patient also reported less pain over time. Kessler and Hong15 examined the effects of this case on a larger scale study. Similarly, their research indicated WBV was effective at lowering pain over time in individuals suffering from DPN.

Alentorn-Geli and colleagues9 examined the effects of WBV therapy on fibromyalgia patients. Not only did their results support WBV therapy for chronic pain, but interestingly, there was a 0% dropout rate among participants.

In regard to chronic pain that is not associated with a particular disease or disorder, such as low back pain (LBP), Gusi and colleagues examined the effects of WBV on this type of pain.16 Research indicated evidence for WBV relieving back pain, but also suggested that additional investigations be conducted (detailed below).

Flexibility: WBV for Older Adults & Athletes

For decades, kinesiologists have studied the effects of flexibility on body performance, pain, strength, and quality of life. It has been observed that the more flexibility an individual displays, the more lengthened the muscle group becomes, and this lengthening may lead to fewer feelings of body stress and pain. The "sit-n-reach test," for example, came to fruition during a time when the prevalence of LBP was emerging frequently.17,18 The test was used to measure hamstring flexibility and trunk flexion ability. It has been theorized that if an athlete possesses a greater range of motion, then the possibility of injuries on the field will be lower.19,20

Older adults have improved function when static stretching programs are adopted and consistently followed, also leading to an increase in quality of life.21 Therefore, it may be advantageous to find a tool that provides easy, quick, and less intense forms of stretching, while also providing equal to or greater increases in joint range of motion (ROM) than traditional static stretching alone.

Whole body vibration may offer a unique exposure mechanism to the nervous system that inhibits the proprioceptors from being overactivated and, in turn, may leave the muscle in a lengthened, more relaxed position. This phenomenon is often observed during static and dynamic flexibility training programs. The rapid vibrations appear to desensitize the muscle spindles which allows the muscle cells to lengthen without excessive static stretching.22 Dynamic stretching techniques are typically performed through deep ROM, held for a short period of time, and performed rather quickly to provide increased ROM through neural mechanisms.22  Research has demonstrated that WBV platforms may provide the body with a stimulus similar to that of a dynamic stretching routine.23,24

Additional studies have examined the acute effects of WBV and measured flexibility after a single exposure. Results have indicated that brief exposure to whole body vibration may acutely improve flexibility when compared to stable ground stretching.25-27 Whole body vibration has also been shown to be an adequate warm-up for athletes prior to competition.28 Overall, the technique has proven to be an adequate training tool to produce greater improvements in flexibility than traditional stable ground-based stretching, allowing the inhibition of the muscle spindle activity to cause muscle relaxation.23, 25-27

Images provided by authors

Last updated on: April 12, 2019
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