Whole body vibration is an exercise technology that takes place on a platform that vibrates in two or three directions at very high frequencies. Vibration training may be of value for the athlete seeking improvements in strength, power and flexibility. It could improve circulation and recovery speed, and increase bone mineral density. The machine might even augment the hormones of the body. However, these potential benefits do not come free of risk, but this risk can be mitigated with proper use and equipment selection.
Cardiovascular Dysfunctions and Diseases
Whole body vibration may be unsafe for those with a number of cardiovascular diseases like previous stroke, heart disease, blood clotting disorders, deep vein thrombosis and severe diabetic conditions where blood flow to the feet is diminished. PowerPlate, Inc., a manufacturer of whole body vibration machines suggests that all cardiac patients receive clearance from their physicians prior to engaging in vibration training.
Injuries, especially recent sprains, strains, surgeries, and tears, generally make the use of whole body vibration training temporarily unsafe. Due to the speed of vibrations that lead to reflexive muscle contraction, injuries, scarring, and stitching can become damaged further, delaying the healing process. Used with discretion and under the care of a medical professional, however, whole body vibration may help expedite recovery and prevent loss of strength, power and coordination, according to 2010 research by Dr. Clarance Thompson of the CRIR Research Center in Quebec, Canada. Thompson's research demonstrated that whole body vibration may help improve outcomes following ankle injury when used as a piece of the recovery puzzle.
Vibration training should be avoided prior to physician's consent if you have a pacemaker, have recently been fitted with any plating, fasteners, pins, or bolts as the vibrations may dislodge or alter the position of the appliances and be potentially dangerous. Training on the vibration machine may be possible after clearance, but care should be taken to avoid total weight-bearing activities where vibrations can transfer though your entire body, says physical therapist Alfia Albasini, author of "Using Whole Body Vibration in Physical Therapy and Sport."
Some vibration machines produce up and down vibrations that can oscillate the brain within the skull. While not lethal, says physical therapist Dr. Charlie Weingroff, too much time spent with whole body vibration may lead to concussion-like syndromes. Weingroff also cautions against the use of any vibration following head and neck injuries to avoid potential complications and further damage.
Some conditions of the eye as determined by your ophthalmologist may contraindicate use of whole body vibration. Dislocation of the lens of the eye has been reported following the introduction of vibration training by Dr. Juan Vela, an ophthalmologist and researcher in Barcelona, Spain. Dr. Vela's manuscript discussed two separate instances of dislocations of the ocular lens in two women over the age of 65 with pre-existing eye conditions. Whole body vibration is generally safe, however, clearance should be attained if you have had any recent eye surgeries or known ocular degeneration before beginning an intensive training program.
- "Human Movement Science"; Effects of Plantar Cutaneo-muscular and Tendon Vibration on Posture and Balance During Quiet and Perturbed Stance; Clarance Thompson, PhD; June 2010
- Charlie Weingroff, DPT; Personal Communication, October 19, 2010
- "Using Whole Body Vibration in Physical Therapy and Sport"; Alfia Albasini, PT; 2010
- "Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery"; Intraocular Lens Dislocation after Whole-body Vibration; Juan Vela, MD, PhD; October 2010