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WBV for Physical Therapy

Flexibility and Range of Motion

Nearly every activity we carry out throughout the day involves some sort range of motion or flexibility. Because flexibility is so crucial to our personal well being, vibration training is a perfect addition to a daily routine. Whole body vibration provides both improved flexibility and improved strength, giving you an increased range of motion.

Athletes ranging from track stars to world class gymnasts have been utilizing whole body vibration training for years in order to increase their flexibility. Their results have been tracked by a number of scientific studies, confirming the effectiveness of vibration therapy.

A study performed in 2006 explored the concept and tested the effects of whole body vibration training on the flexibility and strength of a group of female athletes. It was conducted over a period of 21 days, comparing strength profiles and flexibility of knee extensors, flexors, joints attached to the hamstrings and vertical jumping improvements between those who utilized whole body vibration and those who did not. After analyzing the results, the researchers found that those who underwent WBV training had clinically significant improvement in flexibility and increased strength in various muscle groups, as opposed to those who used only conventional training.

A 2010 study conducted further examined the acute and chronic effects of vibration training on lower back and hamstring flexibility. The research was administered to a group of thirty-four young athletes (of mixed genders), separated into groups of those who underwent vibration training, and those who did not. After testing for acute and chronic effects, the researchers found that vibration training proved effective in improving flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings. The study also showed WBV to be effective in increasing strength over time.

In 2011 researchers at Semnan University of Medical Sciences explored the effects of vibration plate machines on the extension strength and flexibility of the most important part of a track athlete’s body: their knees. After an 8-week examination, they found that those who underwent vibration training showed a significant increase in knee extension and flexibility in comparison to those who underwent conventional exercise and stretching methods.

In 2000, clinicians that specialize in sport and exercise science (including a representative of the U.S. Olympic Committee) examined the acute and long term effects of vibration machines on highly trained gymnasts. After 4 weeks of testing on various body part stretches for flexibility, the researchers found that the gymnasts that used vibration machines as their means of stretching showed greater range of motion than those who used conventional means of stretching.

With all of these studies supporting their effectiveness, there is sufficient evidence presented to convey that whole body vibration training is beneficial for those wanting to increase their flexibility and overall range of motion.

Reducing Back Pain

If you have progressive back problems brought on by working conditions, age, illness, or strain from injury, then whole body vibration machines may be the best option for you. Most back pain has occurs in the lumbar or lower region of your spine. This is because the lumbar region is the weight bearing portion of your spine. Pain and trauma in this area is usually due to insufficient circulation and inactive muscle fibers found in the lumbar area. Whole body vibration training has shown to stimulate muscles in the lower back, activating a series of events that promote circulation and initiate long lasting recruitment of muscle fibers.

There have been a number of studies evaluating vibrations platforms and their relation to back pain:

Researchers from Australia conducted a clinical trial to see if vibration machines combined with holding a semi-squat position could be used to treat lower back pain. After carrying out this series of studies, they found that vibration platform machines were indeed successful in reducing pain in the lumbar region and increased the test group’s ability to control their lower back repositioning over time by 39%.

In 2001, researchers from Germany compared WBV exercises with conventional isometric exercises to see which better eased chronic lower back pain. After conducting the three-month study and six months of follow-up, the researchers found that whole body vibration machines were successful in increasing lumbar strength and decreasing in lumbar pain and pain-related disability. They thus were able to state that vibration training was a proven viable option for those with chronic lower back pain.

Alleviating back pain is paramount for a healthy lifestyle. According to the Global Burden of Disease, a comprehensive global and regional analysis done by the World Health Organization (WHO) detailing the varying ailments, injuries, illnesses and diseases around the world, lower back pain is the number one cause of disability worldwide. In the United States alone, one half of all working Americans have admitted to having symptoms of back pain; with research studies showing evidence that approximately 80% of the entire population will encounter symptoms of back pain in their lives at one point or another. The GBD has also shown that at least $50 billion dollars is spent in the United States each year in clinics and hospitals to treat and heal back pain. When it comes to lower back pain, the numbers don’t lie—and neither does the evidence showing the benefits of using whole body vibration to alleviate back pain.

Improving Balance

Within our ears is a balance center known as the vestibular system, which is what gives us spatial orientation – what allows us to control our balance. For example, if you have ever tripped and caught yourself, it was this system that signaled the brain that you were falling and adjusted your body to correct its position. As we age, the cells in this system gradually degenerate and die, causing us to lose our balance more easily. Balance is a vital aspect of our everyday lives. To ensure that older adults can conquer balance issues and maintain their independence, vibration machines have been introduced in retirement and nursing homes all over the world.

A number of research studies have shown that whole body vibration is effective in improving balance in older adults:

In 2007 a study was conducted to test whether vibration machines were able to improve fall risk and body stability in older women. After three months of examining subjects by pairing them into groups of either using vibration machines or using standard exercise methods, the results showed that those who utilized whole body vibration showed a significant improvement in body balance, stability, and directional control.

A 2005 research study examined whether vibration training caused changes in muscular body or balance performance. After running a number of intervals of WBV training and trials, the results showed that muscular strength in the legs were improved, but more importantly, they showed that body balance showed a nearly 20% improvement, a significant increase in regards to body stability.

Why is whole body vibration so beneficial for body balance? The answer lies in the effect of the vibrating plate on your muscles and spatial orientation. At any setting the vibration plate works your body’s muscles to remain stable, challenging your vestibular system to remain balanced and strengthening your core and leg muscles. These are the primary muscle groups used to stabilize your body, making whole body vibration one of the most effective ways to improve balance.

Easing Rehabilitation Recovery

Recovering after a surgery, injury, or neurological trauma such as a stroke, can be exceptionally difficult. The skeletal, cardiac and muscle tissue are severely strained and weakened from the damage. Average rehabilitation time for a serious condition is three to six months, and there is always the possibility that you will not regain full strength or body functionality. Vibration training can help ease rehabilitation and improve therapeutic outcomes. Vibration therapy has been proven to stimulate muscles to the highest degree, improve circulation for healing, and incorporate more fibers and innervations than conventional exercise.

A 2008 study analyzed the differences between vibration and standard training in regards to knee stability and proprioception (the body’s sense of stability and balance) after ACL reconstructive surgery. The study was designed to track a group of twenty athletes, ten who would undergo vibration training and ten who utilized conventional therapy, over their entire rehabilitation period. After comparing the results among the two groups, the researchers found that the whole body vibration group showed greater increases in knee extension, improved stability in each of the muscles surrounding and innervating the knee, and a vast progression in proprioception.

For stroke victims, some of the biggest challenges in carrying out everyday tasks come from their lack of posture control. Postural control refers to how the body achieves movement, incorporating both the motor and sensory systems, in order to provide it with proper balance and movement. Acts like walking, balancing while standing, balancing while sitting and standing back up may seem like simple tasks, but for stroke victims, they becomes more difficult. Whole body vibration can assist those recovering from a stroke by increasing circulation and improving their ability to control their posture and movement velocity.

Scientists from the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine from Saint John Hospital in Hungary examined the acute changes in lower extremity muscles through the use of WBV machines. The study tested sixteen subjects, ten days after they had undergone a stroke at varying vibration plate frequencies and time intervals. After analyzing the results, these researchers found that their lower extremity showed a significant change in isometric and eccentric contraction. Isometric contractions are those that generate force when the lengths of your muscles are changed, and eccentric contractions cause the muscles to elongate when out under force. It is these two contractions that build and maintain efficient muscle mass, so in terms of rehabilitation following a stroke, vibration machines offer an immensely beneficial option for recovery.

Researchers who specialize in neurological studies at a major research lab in the Netherlands examined the acute effects of vibration training on postural control of chronic stroke victims. After investigating this concept on 23 subjects, while testing them at different speeds and times, the results showed that the patients showed a statistically significant increase in their weight shifting velocity, as well as overall improvement in the components in their postural control.

Whole body vibration machines have several characteristic components can be applied to individuals that have undergone any sort of trauma or injury, providing them with numerous ways to improve their lives, both during and after rehabilitation.