Table of Contents > Alternative Modalities > Vibration healing Print

Vibration healing

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Related terms
Background
Theory/evidence
Safety
Author information
Bibliography
Technique

Related Terms
  • Energy medicine, massage therapy, mechanical vibration, myotatic stretch reflex, occupational therapy, physical therapy, Power Plate, vibration, vibration medicine, vibration therapy.

Background
  • Vibration healing (vibration therapy) is the use of mechanical vibration to supposedly prevent, treat, and promote recovery from a variety of physical ailments, including pain, sports injuries, and bone density loss.
  • Vibration therapy involves the application of vibration to part or all of the body. This vibration is delivered through a variety of massage tools and/or specialized equipment.
  • Ancient Greeks promoted vibration therapy to heal the local stagnation of blood (bruising) and increase joint mobility (arthritis). Practitioners created vibration by placing a long piece of wood, which an assistant held, over the affected area. The practitioner would then use the patient's body as a stabilizer and saw the wood; vibrations of this motion would be transferred to the affected area. In 16th Century Japan, a popular book advocated for the use of percussion and vibration massage to ameliorate rheumatic complaints and encourage the healing of broken bones. Over 40 years ago, the Russian space program noticed that astronauts returning from space experienced bone fractures and bone mass loss much earlier than their earth-bound counterparts. The Russians used whole body vibration devices to help build up the bone mass of astronauts. Today, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) also uses vibration therapy to prevent the loss of bone mass in astronauts, particularly females, who are more prone to osteoporosis.
  • Advocates have promoted vibration therapy to treat a variety of other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, phantom limb syndrome, cerebral palsy, arthritis, tinnitus, ulcers, and fibromyalgia. They also claim that this modality reduces cellulite, regulates reproductive function, boosts the lymphatic system, improves wound healing, and increases glucose and body metabolism.
  • The most promising uses for vibration medicine include the treatment of fibromyalgia and arthritis. Currently, there are multiple clinical trials in process that investigate the validity of this therapy for pain, sports injuries, and bone density loss; however, high-quality human clinical trials are necessary before any firm recommendation can be made.

Theory / Evidence
  • The mechanism of action behind vibration therapy is unclear; however, several theories have been put forth. In the treatment of bone density, advocates claim that mechanical vibration applies significant but safe stress on the patient's bones. The stress created by the vibration sends an unknown chemical signal to the bones. This signal may cause bones to increase their internal mass. Similarly, advocates claim that vibration therapy induces a tiny stretch in the muscles of the area where it is applied. Because of a principle known as the myotatic stretch reflex, the muscles respond to this tiny stretch by contracting. The continuous stretch and contraction of a muscle may help build muscle mass. The strengthening of muscles prevents injuries from occurring and promotes the restoration of muscle mass after an injury. Lastly, mechanical vibration offers a constant stimulus that may override, and thus block, the pain signal being sent to the nervous system.
  • Vibration therapy is the topic of significantly more investigation in clinical trials than most other integrative modalities. The most researched uses of vibration medicine are for alleviation of pain, increasing bone density, and as an adjunct therapy for sports-related injuries.
  • Repeated clinical trials have not shown if vibration therapy is actually beneficial to patients. It is unknown if the unproven benefits of vibration medicine are due to the placebo effect.
  • The Centers for Disease Control partially sponsored the First American Conference on Human Vibration in June of 2006. No major medical organization has released a position statement on the use of vibration medicine. The American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, and the American Massage Therapy Association have not released position statements on vibration therapy.

Safety




Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Centers for Disease Control. 7 June 2006.
  2. Delecluse C, Roelants M, Diels R, et al. Effects of whole body vibration training on muscle strength and sprint performance in sprint-trained athletes. Int J Sports Med. 2005 Oct;26(8):662-8.
  3. Dolhem R. Vibration therapy, past and present. Rev Prat. 1995 Nov 1;45(17):2127-31.
  4. Goldstein BA, Lenhardt ML, Shulman A. Tinnitus improvement with ultra-high-frequency vibration therapy. Int Tinnitus J. 2005;11(1):14-22.
  5. Johannsen L, Ackermann H, Karnath HO. Lasting amelioration of spatial neglect by treatment with neck muscle vibration even without concurrent training. J Rehabil Med. 2003 Nov;35(6):249-53.
  6. Meridian Institute. 7 June 2006.
  7. Roelants M, Verschueren SM, Delecluse C, et al. Whole-body-vibration-induced increase in leg muscle activity during different squat exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Feb;20(1):124-9.
  8. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 7 June 2006.

Technique
  • Practitioners vary the rate and intensity the vibration applied to the patient in order to tailor the curative effects of therapy to the diagnosis. Practitioners also vary the pressure of the device upon the affected area for the same reason. Patients are advised to relax and not hold their breath during the application of vibration. Vibration therapy should not be painful.
  • Localized vibration therapy: In a clinic, the patient lies on a massage table with the affected area of the body face up. The therapist applies the vibration using a plug in massager or specialized piece of equipment. Visits may last from 20 minutes to an hour. The duration of treatment in patients with an injury lasts until recovery. For patients seeking the therapy as a preventative measure, sessions may be ongoing. Some individuals choose to administer vibration therapy to an area of complaint without the consultation of a doctor or physical therapist. There is no protocol for such application, and the duration and type of therapy varies.
  • Whole body vibration: This form of therapy is applied for more systemic complaints. The patient stands on a machine or sits in a chair that vibrates. Many physical therapists for professional athletes use vibration therapy to decrease the recovery time after an injury. One example of a product in this category is called the Power Plate. Clinical trials have not reached a consensus on the effects of this product in providing the purported benefits.
  • Massage therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other body workers integrate vibration therapy into their practices. There is no licensure program for vibration therapy, and states do not regulate the use of this modality. Some manufactures of vibration therapy products offer training seminars.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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