Whole-Body Vibration: Potentially Beneficial for Pain Management and Physical Performance

A growing body of research supports using this therapeutic tool in conjunction with physical activity to increase flexibility, bone density, balance, strength, and lung rehabilitation.

A form of therapy known as whole body vibration (WBV) has been demonstrated to play a significant role in raising neuromuscular performance, enhancing muscular strength, balance, and gait mechanics as well as quality of life. The method entails standing on a platform that is vibrating at a preset frequency, amplitude, and magnitude of oscillation while holding positions or carrying out prescribed exercises. In the clinical setting, WBV was initially used to increase bone-mineral density in patients with osteoporosis. Since then, it has been used to help improve strength and neuromuscular activation in more sedentary populations, including older adults; to lessen pain and fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome; to improve postural control and functional mobility in patients with multiple sclerosis; and to improve gait mechanics in patients with Parkinson’s disease. In addition to lung health and body composition, which are discussed in this article, WBV may also have advantages for these variables. In fact, WBV therapy has gained attention in recent years as a potential treatment for pain management in a variety of illnesses.

The therapy has been identified throughout the literature as an effective, noninvasive, non-pharmacological, relatively simple to use, and relatively inexpensive therapy that could provide relief from chronic pain, as described here. However, the technique is still relatively new and needs more research to determine its full efficacy and sustainability.
WBV for Conditions With Chronic Pain

Osteoarthritis (OA), diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), and fibromyalgia all have pain as a prominent symptom. Whole body vibration has shown to have a high rate of adherence, which is unusual for many treatments intended to assist those with chronic pain.

According to research by Park and colleagues, people with knee OA who were experiencing persistent pain received alleviation by combining WBV therapy with a home exercise regimen. More specifically, when compared to people who simply engaged in home-based exercise, those who participated in both WBV therapy and exercise at home reported less intense pain.

A case study by Hong and colleagues looked at patients with DPN who regularly had little numbness, mild tingling, and severe pain. One of the patients was a guy who found it difficult to put pressure on his feet because of the pain and wanted to sit or lay down a lot. WBV therapy was used as an interventional technique for this patient’s pain relief. After each session, the therapy reduced his pain for an average of three hours. Additionally, the patient saw a decrease in pain over time. Kessler and Hong looked at this case’s effects on a bigger study. Similar to this, their research showed that WBV was successful in gradually lessening pain in people with DPN.

Alentorn-Geli and associates investigated how WBV therapy affected fibromyalgia patients. Not only did their findings support WBV therapy for chronic pain, but it’s also interesting to note that there was 0% participant dropout.

Gusi and colleagues investigated the effects of WBV on chronic pain that is not connected to a specific disease or ailment, such as low back pain (LBP).

There is evidence that WBV relieves back pain, but more research is needed, according to the research (detailed below).
WBV for Older Adults & Athletes: Flexibility

Kinesiologists have been researching the impact of flexibility on bodily performance, pain, strength, and quality of life for many years. According to research, muscle groups get longer the more flexibility a person exhibits, and this lengthening may reduce physical discomfort and stress. For instance, the “sit-n-reach test” was developed at a time when LBP prevalence was becoming increasingly well known. The test was used to assess trunk flexion capacity and hamstring flexibility. According to one theory, an athlete’s risk of suffering an injury while playing will be reduced if they have a wider range of motion.

When static stretching regimens are adopted and faithfully followed, older persons have increased function, which also improves their quality of life. Finding a tool that offers rapid, simple, and less strenuous forms of stretching, as well as equivalent to or greater increases in joint range of motion (ROM), may be helpful compared to using just traditional static stretching.

Whole-body vibration might provide the nervous system with a special exposure mechanism that prevents proprioceptors from becoming overly stimulated and, as a result, might leave the muscle in a lengthened, more relaxed state. This behaviour is frequently seen during flexibility training regimens that are both static and dynamic. The muscle spindles appear to become less sensitive as a result of the fast vibrations, allowing the muscle cells to extend without experiencing excessive static stretching. In order to improve ROM through neural mechanisms, dynamic stretching procedures are often performed through deep ROM, held for a brief period of time, and executed very quickly. ²² According to research, WBV platforms might give the body a stimulus akin to a dynamic stretching regimen.

Additional research has tested flexibility following a single exposure to WBV and examined the acute impact of the virus. In comparison to stretching on solid ground, results showed that brief exposure to whole-body vibration may significantly enhance flexibility. The effectiveness of whole-body vibration as a warm-up for athletes before competition has also been demonstrated. ²⁸ Overall, the method has shown to be a reliable tool for improving flexibility more than solid ground-based stretching, allowing for the suppression of muscle spindle activity to result in muscular relaxation.