What You Need to Know about Whole Body Vibration Therapy and Chronic Illness

Whole body vibration offers an array of health benefits for men and women of just about any fitness level. Although WBV is considered by many to be a relatively new innovation, vibration has been used as far back as the 1800s, when French neuroscientist Jean-Martin Charcot (dubbed “the father of modern neurology”) evaluated its effects in treating patients with Parkinson’s disease. Soon, other medical practitioners and scientists were exploring the potential benefits of whole body vibration therapy, with most of the research taking place in Europe.

Vibration therapy gained wider attention in the mid to late 20th century when it was used in Russia to enhance athletic performance. The Russian space program also began experimenting with vibration therapy as a way to help prevent muscle atrophy that can occur in space where the effects of gravity (and the muscle tension it induces) are significantly reduced. Most of these studies focused on the use of devices applied directly to the body rather than the state-of-the-art whole body vibration therapy machines available today. NASA also uses whole body vibration therapy in its astronaut training program, adding vibration to pre-existing exercise equipment for supplemental effects.

While the applications of vibration therapy have varied since its introduction in the 19th century, the results of most of these experiments have been similar: Time and time again, researchers found men and women who used vibration therapy improved flexibility and strength as well as bone mineral density. Today, men and women from all walks of life turn to whole body vibration using state-of-the-art vibration therapy machines to improve their fitness and their health. And researchers continue to uncover new evidence of WBV’s significant benefits.

How does WBV work?

WBV works by triggering tiny but widespread reactions throughout multiple muscle groups and tissues. When vibrations are applied, the body reacts automatically to rebalance itself in reaction to those movements. You can get a clearer idea of how WBV works by thinking about how the body responds on a balance beam: With each step, the body must readjust by tensing, flexing and relaxing to realign and rebalance itself and prevent falling from the beam. Whole body vibration uses much subtler movements and forces to stimulate similar reactions across a much broader spectrum.

Dozens of studies have been conducted to evaluate the beneficial effects of WBV in specific populations, zeroing in on some of the most common medical conditions and health problems confronting both genders throughout every stage of life and activity. WBV studies have uncovered potential benefits for just about every age group, including women from 40 to 80 years of age who stand to gain significantly from WBV therapy, primarily as a result of hormonal changes linked with menopause and the postmenopausal period. These changes usher in a profusion of health risks, including reduced bone density, loss of muscle mass, and related losses in strength and mobility. Numerous studies have focused specifically on WBV’s benefits in three of the most common musculoskeletal medical issues experienced by women in this age group – namely, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and bone density loss. Here’s what they’ve found:

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis occurs when the tough tissue lining joint surfaces begins to break down, typically as a result of wear and tear, but sometimes as a result of injury or even surgery. As a degenerative disease, osteoarthritis becomes worse with age, contributing to significant debility and disability among patients from middle-age and on. More than 54 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, according to the CDC, and it’s the leading cause of work absences and disability in the U.S. The Arthritis Foundation reports arthritis is more common among women, affecting about 26% of all women compared to about 18% of all men in the U.S., probably at least in part due to the dramatic changes in hormones that typically begin when a woman is in her 40s.

While medications, physical therapy and even surgery have been the typical routes to treatment for many people with arthritis, studies show therapy using a whole body vibration machine can be very effective in helping women reduce pain and stiffness, improve joint mobility and enjoy greater movement.

Most studies have focused on knee osteoarthritis, which the CDC says is the most common type of arthritis affecting both women and men. More than 20 million people in the U.S. have knee osteoarthritis, with symptoms ranging from mild aching during exertion to near-continual pain triggered by daily activities like walking, standing up or climbing stairs.

In studies of WBV, researchers have found patients with knee osteoarthritis experience multiple benefits from WBV therapy. Some of the highlights:

  • In a study from Belgium, researchers set out to assess the effects of WBV on women with knee arthritis, specifically with the therapy’s effect on knee extension strength and speed of movement (or responsive flexibility). During the 4-week study, the women were randomly assigned to one of three groups: one group that underwent WBV, one that had resistance training and another “control” group that had neither. At the completion of the study, the researchers determined women who used the whole body vibration machine realized significant improvements in knee extension strength and speed of movement in knee extension.
  • study from Denmark assessed knee function among a group of older women (mean age of 60.4 years), dividing the women into three groups: one group had WBV therapy, one group used a balance board for their therapy and one group used neither intervention. At the end of the study, the researchers found the women who had WBV had significant increases in muscle strength compared to the other two groups.
  • And a third study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida Biomechanics Laboratory found the benefits of WBV can be realized even without a long-term course of therapy. In that analysis, researchers looked at the impact of a single session of WBV (termed “acute” therapy) on men and women with knee osteoarthritis. Participants in that study were asked to complete a series of tests before and after WBV to assess its effects. The tests were designed to simulate daily living activities. Once the study was completed, the researchers found study participants had significant improvements in their test scores after undergoing just one session of WBV.

Fibromyalgia

About 10 million people in the U.S. suffer from the chronic aches and pains of fibromyalgia, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association, and as many as 90% of those people are women. Because fibromyalgia symptoms tend to be widespread, WBV can be especially effective in helping patients manage symptoms because it stimulates muscles and other tissues throughout the entire body. Here are a few of the highlights of studies evaluating the effects and benefits of WBV in women with fibromyalgia:

  • In one European study designed to evaluate the effects of whole body vibration on postmenopausal women with fibromyalgia, researchers found women who had WBV for six weeks experienced significant improvements in pain management and overall quality of life, as well muscle strength and function.
  • Exercise is commonly prescribed for women with fibromyalgia to help them reduce painful symptoms. In a study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers decided to determine if a therapy of exercise combined with WBV might be more effective in relieving pain than a therapy of exercise alone. What they found was that women who underwent a six-week program of whole body vibration combined with traditional exercises experienced reductions in pain and fatigue and improvements in overall quality of life, while those who had exercise alone had no such improvements.
  • And finally, a third study conducted by researchers in Spain evaluated the effects on quality of life in women undergoing WBV for 12 weeks, and found women experienced a significant improvement in quality of life measurements following the conclusion of their therapy.

Osteopenia and Bone Density

One of the biggest medical problems facing women as they get older is the loss of bone mineral density. Before menopause, old “worn” bone tissue is routinely replaced by healthy new bone tissue at a regular and equal rate. But once estrogen levels begin to decline, new bone may not form as quickly as old bone is being resorbed, or the bone tissue may become “demineralized,” losing the minerals bones need to stay healthy and strong. This is called osteopenia, and without treatment, it can eventually progress to the more serious disease, osteoporosis – or, literally, “porous bones.” Osteoporosis is a leading cause of major fractures among postmenopausal women, including spinal compression fractures and serious and slow-to-heal hip and thigh fractures.

Women diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis typically are prescribed medications to help slow bone loss, along with exercise and dietary modifications to promote bone replacement. But researchers agree, one of the biggest modifiable contributors to osteopenia and osteoporosis is a reduction in physical activity that tends to occur among women as they get older. Bone requires the forces and tensions that occur as a result of regular physical activity, and when women become more sedentary as they get older, their risks of osteopenia and osteoporosis dramatically increase. WBV has been explored as a possible therapy for women with bone loss, helping to replace the external loads normally provided by more rigorous activities, but without dramatically increasing potentially damaging impact on the bones. Here’s what several of those studies have found:

  • Obviously, increases in bone density provide a key metric in evaluating the benefits of WBV in osteoporotic women, and several studies have demonstrated that WBV therapy can, indeed, increase bone mass density in these patients. For instance, a group of researchers in Belgium found a 24-week program of WBV therapy significantly increased hip bone density as well as muscle strength and mass in women between the ages of 58 and 74. And increases in spinal bone density and decreases in fall incidence were observed in patients participating in a study from Denmark, which evaluated the effects of WBV in 150 postmenopausal women.
  • In addition to helping to reduce the risk of bone loss, WBV can also be helpful in reducing the risk of fractures by improving strength, flexibility and balance. A review and meta-analysis of eight leading studies found “all these factors combined to reduce the incidence of falls and therefore reduce the risk of bone fractures” among women with osteoporosis. Another study from researchers in Spain found WBV therapy increases both muscle mass and strength in older women, contributing to enhanced mobility and potentially a lower risk of falls and fractures.
  • For women already taking medication for bone loss, a study from Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo found WBV can be very effective in reducing chronic back pain among osteoporotic women treated with a common osteoporosis medicine (alendronate).
  • And finally, while WBV can be effective in helping older women already diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, it may also help younger women prevent the disease from developing in later life. A study conducted in Australia found WBV improved bone deposition – that is, new deposits of bone tissue – while also decreasing bone resorption in healthy younger women. The authors concluded WBV could “ provide an efficient stratagem for young women to achieve peak bone mass and help stave off osteoporosis later in life.”

Whole Body Vibration Machines: New Horizons in Women’s Health

Whole body vibration machines have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly due to the aging populations of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. But there’s another factor that’s driving their rise in popularity: More and more people are seeking ways to manage pain and improve health without relying on long-term use of medications and without undergoing painful surgeries and long-term recovery periods. Using a whole body vibration machine is a drug-free, noninvasive approach to pain management that can improve muscle mass, strength and overall health and wellness in several key ways. And the introduction of affordable whole body vibration machines has made the therapy far more accessible, eliminating the need to first find and then visit a medical or fitness center offering the therapy.

Bigghealth.com is a leading provider of state-of-the-art whole body vibration machines featuring the latest technology to help patients of all ages and all fitness levels tap into the benefits of WBV right in their own homes. WBV machines are available at a wide variety of price points, from the slim, easy-to-store Tone N Go platform vibrator to the top-of-the-line DKN-XG 05 Pro. The newest introduction to our line, the Pulser 2, is a midrange option that offers an array of features, including multiple modes of oscillation, a state-of-the-art LED panel and both preset and user-definable exercise options. The Pulser 2 builds on the success of its predecessor, the Pulser, but offers greater durability and performance in addition to enhanced user-friendly functionality. To learn more about the Pulser 2 or any of our other whole body vibration machines, visit our online store. Or to learn more about WBV and its benefits, explore our website or contact us online or by phone at 256-415-7506.

Jesse S.

Jesse Self is a passionate Entreprenuer and Health & Fitness Enthusiast who is based in Huntsville, Alabama. Born in Birmingham, his love of all things health began while he was in college. Jesse was overweight at the time and was driven to get his health back. He was able to turn it around and lost 60 pounds. Healthy living has been his primary passion in life ever since.

As the proud Owner of Bigghealth Management, he assists people in achieving their fitness and health goals by utilizing a leading-edge, evidence-backed system called Whole Body Vibration therapy. Through this innovative technology, he and his committed team help clients lose weight, relieve pain, increase energy levels, increase bone density, optimize strength, and more.

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