Whole body vibration
Whole body vibration (WBV) is a generic term used where any vibration of any frequency is transferred to the human body. It is a potential form of occupational hazard, particularly in the presence of continuous exposure to vibration from machines, such as truck driving or hand tool operation. Farmers with long-term exposure to whole body vibration have a higher prevalence of back pain (compared to those not exposed to vibration). Whole body vibration training as a form of physical exercise can offer some fitness and health benefits, but it is not clear if it is as beneficial as regular physical exercise. A review in 2014 came to the conclusion that there is little and inconsistent evidence that acute and/or chronic whole body vibration could improve the performance of competitive and/or elite athletes.
Farmers with long-term exposure to whole body vibration have a higher prevalence of back pain (compared to those not exposed to vibration), and the prevalence increases with vibration dose. Long-term exposure affecting the whole body leads to spinal degeneration (spondylosis).
Vibration training is the deliberate exposure to the body of varying frequencies/amplitudes/forces using certain joint angles for any limited time (approximately 1 minute sets). It is also known as vibration therapy, biomechanical stimulation (BMS), mechanostimulation and biomechanical oscillation (BMO). It employs low amplitude, low frequency mechanical stimulation. It can be pivotal (vibrating from side to side) or lineal (vibrating up and down).
According to Mayo Clinic, whole body vibration can offer some fitness and health benefits, but it is not clear if it is as beneficial as regular physical exercise. A review in 2014 came to the conclusion that there is little and inconsistent evidence that acute and/or chronic whole body vibration could improve the performance of competitive and/or elite athletes.
Cochrane reviews have concluded that there is insufficient evidence of effect of whole body vibration training on functional performance of people with neurodegenerative disease, or in disease-related problems in people with fibromyalgia.
Vibrating platform types
Vibrating platforms fall into different, distinct categories. The type of platform used is a moderator of the effect and result of the training or therapy performed (Marin PJ, Rhea MR, 2010). Main categories of machine types are:
- High Energy Lineal, found mostly in commercial vibration training studios and gyms. The vibration direction is lineal/upward
- Premium Speed Pivotal, (teeter-totter movement) used for physiotherapy work at lower speeds and exercise workouts at “premium” speed, up to 30 Hz. Both commercial and home units are available.
- Medium Energy Lineal, the majority of lineal platforms produced. These are usually made of plastic; some have 3-D vibration which is low quality.
- Low Speed Pivotal units.
Other machine types are low Energy/Low amplitude lineal and Low energy/High amplitude lineal.
- Side alternating (pivotal) systems, operating like a see-saw and hence mimicking the human gait where one foot is always moving upwards and the other one downwards, and
- Linear systems where the whole platform is mainly doing the same motion, respectively: both feet are moved upwards or downwards at the same time.
Systems with side alternation usually have a larger amplitude of oscillation and a frequency range of about 5 Hz to 40 Hz. Linear/upright systems have lower amplitudes but higher frequencies in the range of 20 Hz to 50 Hz. Despite the larger amplitudes of side-alternating systems, the vibration (acceleration) transmitted to the head is significantly smaller than in non side-alternating systems (Abercromby et al. 2007) while at the same time muscle activation even at identical vibration parameters are increased in pivotal systems.
Mechanical stimulation generates acceleration forces acting on the body. These forces cause the muscles to lengthen, and this signal is received by the muscle spindle, a small organ in the muscle. This spindle transmits the signal through the central nervous system to the muscles involved (Abercromby et al. 2007, Burkhardt 2006).
Power Plate is a brand of vibrating platform consisting of a vibrating base, which may vibrate up and down approximately 1 to 2 millimetres (39 to 79 thou) (1/16") 25 to 50 times per second. The machine is large enough to accommodate a person in deep squat. Traditional exercises such as squats and push-ups can be done on the vibrating base.
Galileo (in the US up until 2014 also available as Vibraflex) is a brand of vibration training platforms used as exercise equipment as well as for therapeutic use. It consists of a vibration platform which vibrates sinusoidal side alternating like a see-saw. Depending on the device size it oscillates with an amplitude of up to 6 mm (equivalent to a peak to peak distance of 12 mm) and a frequency of 5 Hz to 40 Hz (5 to 40 repetitions per second). Galileo is manufactured in Germany by the German company Novotec Medical GmbH. Since 2004 Galileo is also available as a medical device.
The base plate of Galileo vibration training devices is moving like a see-saw. This side alternating motion is supposed to mimic human gait in order to utilize nearly physiological motion patterns close to the side alternating human gait. The side alternation causes the hip to tilt which requires the contra lateral muscles of the back to be activated – while one leg is lifted the other drops. Compared to vertically vibrating devices the side alternating motion results in very low acceleration acting on the centre of gravity of the upper body and the head.
The immediate predecessor of modern vibration training is Rhythmic Neuromuscular Stimulation (RNS). In former East Germany Biermann was experimenting with the use of cyclic massage and its effects on trunk flexion back in the sixties (Biermann, 1960).
The technique has been tested on turkeys in the hope of finding a benefit that could be used for astronauts. For the used technology an engineering issues came into play when they tried to upgrade the machine to take the weight of a human being. Once the vibration intensity grew strong enough to lift over 40 kg, fractures appeared in the steel. Using a different mechnanical stimulation approach the first bedrest study using a vibration training device for humans was done by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2003 in Berlin (Berlin Bedrest Study, BBR). The same technology was then used in several parabolic flight campaigns of the DLR (German Aerospace Agency) starting in 2006 where the feasibility of use of a lightweight vibration training device under microgravity conditions was demonstrated and ein 2009 and 2010 where basic research on influence of microgravity on vibration training effects was investigated.
NASA, since 1961, has been doing tests at adding light vibrations to pre-existing exercise equipment’s and systems to minimize vibration transmission of existing exercise devices to the space station like the Treadmill Vibration Isolation System (TVIS) and the Cycle Ergometer Vibration Isolation System (CEVIS). Any company referencing NASA directly in its marketing campaigns is highly misleading and has no relevance to the discipline of vibration training.
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Recommendations for reporting whole-body vibration intervention studies
- Rauch F, Sievanen H, Boonen S, Cardinale M, Degens H, Felsenberg D, Roth J, Schoenau E, Verschueren S, Rittweger J (September 2010). "Reporting whole-body vibration intervention studies: recommendations of the International Society of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions". J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 10 (3): 193–8. PMID 20811143.
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO). (1997). ISO 2631-1:1997. Mechanical shock and vibration: Evaluation of human exposure to whole-body vibration — Part 1: General requirements. Geneva: International Organization for Standardization.