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Whole Body Vibration (WBV)

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Whole body vibration (WBV) refers to a machine with a flat plate on which a person stands, that stimulates the whole body by tilting slightly around an axle. The person who stands on the machine tries to keep the head and body steady and upright. All the muscles that keep the body in this position are forced to react to the oscillatory movements provided by the machine, thus exercising them. Training sessions of only 2-3 minutes twice a week are claimed to produce measurable effects.

Bandolier readers asked what the evidence was that WBV was a useful exercise, what it was good for (if anything), and who it was good for. A brief Bandolier review follows.

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We searched PubMed for randomised trials of WBV using a series of searches, and bibliographies. Studies were of any duration or intensity, and in any population.

Results


We found seven citations. One [1] could not be obtained. Details of reports obtained are in Table 1. Four reports appeared to be dual or duplicate reports of two trials. All the trials were small in number, and were conducted over six weeks to eight months, with a variety of results.


Table 1: Details of randomised trials



Reference
Study design
Patients
Outcomes
Efficacy
Adverse events
Rittweger et al. Spine 2002 27: 1829-1834 Randomly assigned to WBV (n=30) or lumbar extension exercise (n=30) over 12 weeks, 1-2 sessions per week Patients with lower back pain without specific underlying disease, aged 40-60 years
Primary outcomes pain sensation and pain relief, using VAS 0-100 mm Significant decrease in pain from 40-50 mm to 10-20 mm in both groups
No aggravation of pain or limitations with WBV
Torvinen et al. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2002 34: 1523-1528 Subjects randomised to vibration 4 minutes for 3-5 times a week for 12 weeks. Control appeared to be not having WBV 56 healthy nonathletic volunteers aged 19-38 years Vertical jump, limb extension strength, grip strength, shuttle runs, postural sway Significant improvement of 2.5 cm
No difference for other measures
None mentioned
Torvinen et al. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 2003 18: 876-884 Subjects randomised to vibration 4 minutes for 3-5 times a week for 8 months. Control appeared to be not having WBV 56 healthy nonathletic volunteers aged 19-38 years Bone mineral density, serum markers
Vertical jump, limb extension strength, grip strength, shuttle runs, postural sway
Significant benefit in vertical jump height
No effect on bone or serum markers
None mentioned
Verschueren et al. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 2004 19: 352-359 Subjects randomised to WBV (n=25), resistance training (n=22) or control (n=23). Training was three times a week for 24 weeks. Control had no training 70 volunteer postmenopausal women aged 58-74 years Bone density at hip, plus isometric and dynamic strength Vibration training improved isometric and dynamic strength (15%) and bone density (1%)
Serum bone markers did not change
None seen
Roelants et al. Journal of the American Geriatric Society 2004 52: 901-908 Subjects randomised to WBV (n=30), resistance training (n=30), or control without training (n=29). Training was three times a week for 24 weeks. Control had no training 69 volunteer postmenopausal women, average age 64 years Bone density at hip, plus isometric and dynamic strength Vibration training improved isometric and dynamic strength (15%) and other markers of muscle function None seen
Bruyere et al. Archives of Physical medicine and Rehabilitation 2005 86: 303-307 Subjects randomised to six weeks of WBV plus physical therapy (n=22) or physical therapy alone (n-20). Training was three times a week 42 older female volunteers in nursing homes
Age 63 to 98 years, average age 82 years
Balance, timed tests of mobility, SF-36 In the WBV group:
Balance scores improved significantly, and a test associated with falls improved above a threshold associated with increased risk of falling
Timed tests improved significantly
SF-36 improved in 8 of 9 domains
No serious adverse events
Minor tingling of lower limbs caused two dropouts



One trial appeared to show benefits in pain relief for lower back pain. A second appeared to show benefits in balance, functioning, and quality of life in older women. Another trial showed improved muscle strength and bone density in postmenopausal women. The fourth trial had no important effects in young nonathletic volunteers.

Comment


None of these trials could be blinded, all were small, and they examined different regimens in different groups of people. No conclusive results could be drawn from the studies. It appears that WBV may improve balance and muscle functioning, and this may have importance in older people. Conclusive evidence of benefit for what outcome, the extent of any benefit, and in what population, remains to be proved.

Reference:


  1. S Torvinen et al. Effect of a vibration exposure on muscular performance and body balance. Randomised crossover study. Clinical Physiology Functioning and Imaging 2002 22: 145-152.

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