Gaining popularity in the rehab and fitness realms, whole body vibration might not work the way it's sold online. In this blog post, we dig into the evidence so you don't have to.
There are (and always will be) a ton of fitness and healthcare trends on the market. One that recently caught my eye is whole body vibration (WBV). It's used by mainstream gyms and celebrities with loose claims such as rapid weight loss and calorie burning, but it's also being studied in research labs for spasticity management and treatment for osteoporosis. So what's real and what's BS?
How does WBV work?
WBV requires special equipment in the form of a vibration plate that, well, produces vibrations throughout the entire body at various speeds, frequencies, and oscillations. Vibration is thought to stimulate and/or modulate muscle spindles and spinal reflexes within the neuromuscular system. 1
The science of how and why it works is still being researched, however it has been shown to improve strength, postural control, and balance in a variety of conditions, including the healthy population.
So, what are the benefits of WBV?
Laura is using the WBV plate in a semi-squat position at 40Hz to manage her quadriceps spasticity to improve her gait after experiencing a lower-cervical spinal cord injury. Muscles that are placed in a stretch position (like the quads are here) are more sensitive to the effects of WBV due to increased energy demands placed on the muscles!
WBV has been shown to affect brain and spinal cord mechanisms in a way that results in brain reorganization and pain modulation. 1
When combined with core stabilization exercises (hello planks!) low-frequency WBV may improve extensor muscle strength and work performance in people with low back pain better than core exercises alone. 2
Both low and high frequency WBV significantly decreased pain and improved self-reported function in people with knee osteoarthritis. 1
Especially in the elderly population, WBV is being heavily studied for its effects on bone mineral density. Current theories include:
WBV produces microtraumas to bones that results in laying down of new bone, via osteoblast activation, thus increasing bone density.
WBV promotes contraction of fast-twitch muscle fibers, increasing blood flow to muscles and bone, increases lymph and venous drainage, and inhibits bone loss. 3,4
But what does the research say?
High-amplitude WBV significantly increased lumbar and hip bone mineral density in elderly women, more so than medium WBV. Low-amplitudes were not sufficient to stimulate bone growth or prevent osteoporosis. 3
WBV increases bone density in healthy post-menopausal women. 5
PSA: A lot of affordable, commercially-sold WBV plates only go up to a certain frequency and amplitude. Often these are lower levels, while the more expensive, "clinical-grade" devices actually go up to higher levels. For bone density gains, this might matter. So don't go buying a device that might not do what you want it to!
Despite the many claims that you will burn X%! more calories on a vibration plate, the research in this area is weak. However, studies have shown that WBV may assist with weight loss WHEN COMBINED with diet and exercise in overweight and obese individuals. 6
WBV inhibits the H-reflex that causes in spasticity and unwanted muscle activation and impairs the ability to walk in persons with incomplete spinal cord injuries. WBV can be used in conjunction with exercise and gait training to decrease calf spasticity, improve postural stability, and improve walking ability in these patients. 7
Research not strong to support WBV for spasticity management in the stroke population.
WBV may also improve:
postural stability and symptoms of dizziness in people with unilateral vestibular dysfunction 8
quadriceps strength in people with knee osteoarthritis 1
handgrip strength in women with stable rheumatoid arthritis 9
walking speed and standing ability in children with cerebral palsy 10
oxygen consumption (VO2 max) during moderate-load resistance training 11
leg muscle strength, aerobic capacity, symptoms, and quality of life in women with fibromyalgia 12
In conclusion, WBV is an exciting new adjunct to physical therapy that seems to have promising benefits. However, like any shiny new toy, there needs to be more research done to figure out exactly what it does and for what types of conditions.
Moral of the story- don't believe everything you read online. Believe the research!
Neuro Base Camp is proud to offer WBV with our LifePro Rumblex Pro Series 4D Vibration Plate, with frequencies up to 40Hz.
If you're interested in learning how WBV might benefit your recovery, schedule a phone consult with us at 503-451-3278.
1. Qiu C, Chui ECS, Chow SKH, Cheung WH, Wong RMY. The Effects of Whole-body Vibration Therapy on Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. Published online February 17, 2022. doi:https://doi.org/10.2340/jrm.v54.2032 2. Cigdem Karacay B, Sahbaz T, Gurtekin B, Yildiz S, Ozcan E. Effectiveness of whole-body vibration exercise and core stabilization exercise in chronic non-specific low back pain: A randomized-controlled study. Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2022;68(2):184-194. doi:https://doi.org/10.5606/tftrd.2022.7060 3. Song W, Yang Y. The effect of whole-body vibration training with different amplitudes on bone mineral density in elderly women. Isokinetics and Exercise Science. 2021;29(4):413-418. doi:https://doi.org/10.3233/ies-200271 4. DadeMatthews OO, Agostinelli PJ, Neal FK, et al. Systematic review and meta-analyses on the effects of whole-body vibration on bone health. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2022;65:102811. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://doaj.org/article/68f0969e537f4081adafa5c6d2776d94 5. Marín-Cascales E, Alcaraz PE, Ramos-Campo DJ, Martinez-Rodriguez A, Chung LH, Rubio-Arias JÁ. Whole-body vibration training and bone health in postmenopausal women. Medicine. 2018;97(34):e11918. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/md.0000000000011918 6. Alavinia SM, Omidvar M, Craven BC. Does whole body vibration therapy assist in reducing fat mass or treating obesity in healthy overweight and obese adults? A systematic review and meta-analyses. Disability and Rehabilitation. Published online November 21, 2019:1-13. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/09638288.2019.1688871 7. In T, Jung K, Lee MG, Cho H. Whole-body vibration improves ankle spasticity, balance, and walking ability in individuals with incomplete cervical spinal cord injury. NeuroRehabilitation. 2018;42(4):491-497. doi:https://doi.org/10.3233/nre-172333 8. Necdet Ardıç F, Alkan H, Tümkaya F, Ardıç F. Effectiveness of whole-body vibration or biofeedback postural training as an add-on to vestibular exercises rehabilitation therapy in chronic unilateral vestibular weakness: A randomized controlled study. Journal of Vestibular Research. Published online January 11, 2021:1-10. doi:https://doi.org/10.3233/ves-190753 9. Coelho-Oliveira AC, Lacerda ACR, de Souza ALC, et al. Acute Whole-Body Vibration Exercise Promotes Favorable Handgrip Neuromuscular Modifications in Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Cross-Over Randomized Clinical. Song C, ed. BioMed Research International. 2021;2021:1-10. doi:https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/9774980 10. Micheli Bernardone Saquetto, Maria V, Silva CA, Cristiano Sena Conceição, Mansueto Gomes Neto. The effects of whole body vibration on mobility and balance in children with cerebral palsy: a systematic review with meta-analysis. 2015;15(2):137-144. 11. Serravite DH, Edwards D, Edwards EA, Gallo SE, Signorile JF. Loading and concurrent synchronous whole-body vibration interaction increases oxygen consumption during resistance exercise. Disability and Rehabilitation. Published online September 1, 2013. 12. dos Santos JM, Taiar R, Ribeiro VGC, et al. Whole-Body Vibration Training on Oxidative Stress Markers, Irisin Levels, and Body Composition in Women with Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Bioengineering. 2023;10(2):260. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/bioengineering10020260