Originally developed for Russian cosmonauts in the 1970’s to preserve muscle and bone mass in zero gravity conditions, whole-body-vibration is gaining confidence among health practitioners—particularly those who treat athletic populations and people compromised by disease, age or disability.
Many physical therapists and strength & conditioning coaches have started incorporating whole-body-vibration (WBV), in which patients stand on a platform that provides gentle to challenging, constant vibration that reverberates through the body up to 1000 micro vibrations per minute is typical.
Whole Body Vibration Therapy is already employed extensively in Europe and Asia. Practitioners in the United States are becoming aware of its systemic effects and therapeutic applications.
Motor-oriented units move in both horizontal and vertical planes reproducing the effects of gravity. This can benefit an elite athletes who would like a new challenge and on the other end of the spectrum – any one who has an injury or medical condition that prevents regular exercise.
Whole-body vibration increases physical strength, dexterity and endurance. Heightened circulation increases oxygen uptake, while mechanical oscillations create tendon stretch reflexes to stimulate involuntary muscle contractions throughout the body.
Comparable to weight repetitions at the gym, some studies report Whole Body Vibration Therapy can increase muscle strength and work tolerance with less effort and time for the same movement. In some cases, studies have shown Whole Body Vibration Therapy can boost muscle strength more than ordinary weight training in a shorter time period.
It has been used as a therapeutic modality for people with paraplegia, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. By stimulating muscles that the brain can’t control, Whole Body Vibration Therapy helps minimize lower-body atrophy and, in some cases, reconnect the signal from the brain with previously atrophied muscles. Patients with postural problems often report new awareness and control over lower abdominal muscles after vibration sessions.
In addition to whole body strengthening and improved endurance, Whole Body Vibration Therapy is being studied for its possible therapeutic role in helping with boosting bone density, relieving joint pain, lymph drainage and improving circulation in postoperative recovery.
Advocates say that as little as 10 minutes a day of whole-body vibration three times a week may aid weight loss, burn fat, improve flexibility, enhance blood flow, reduce muscle soreness after exercise, build strength and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.