Vibration exercise machines are designed to be low-impact and accessible for people of all ages and physical conditions. They may help the elderly and those with injuries exercise and work up strength without causing pain. Opinions vary about whether using a vibration exercise machine can help or hurt your back and body, and too little scientific evidence exists to support either claim.
The vibration exercise machines that you can buy or may be able to find at your local gym are based on vibration exercise machines that Russian astronauts developed and used in space in the 1960s and 1970s. The Russian astronauts used these vibration exercise machines to delay muscle atrophy and the lowering of bone density that can be suffered in space due to the lack of gravity. By using vibration exercise machines while in space, Russian astronauts were able to set a world record for length of time in space, staying up there 432 days, as opposed to the Americans, who were able to stay in space for only 300 days. The vibration exercise machines were able to help the Russian astronauts keep their bones and muscles stronger longer, and exercise manufacturing companies took note, developing vibration exercise machines for use by regular people on Earth.
Lessened Workout Time
The intensity of the muscle vibrations provided by vibration machines could harm back muscles unaccustomed to exercise. Vibration exercise machines, ranging in price from about $2,500 to $15,000 as of March 2011, provide workouts intended to last 10 or 15 minutes but provide the benefits of a workout three times as long. You should not use vibration machines for longer than 15 minutes at a time. Overuse could damage your back and other muscles due to extreme muscle fatigue.
Rapid Muscle Contractions
Vibration exercise machines work by creating rapid, involuntary muscle contractions, enabling your muscles to contract and retract much more quickly than would be possible from regular exercise. At a low setting of 30 vibrations per second, a 30-second squat would equal the equivalent of performing 900 squats manually. Vibration machines engage 90 to 100 percent of your engaged muscles. In a regular workout, you would use about 30 percent of your engaged muscles. The potential for back pain also increases — if you move incorrectly and pull a back muscle, you could repeat the action a multiple of times.
Benefits and Harm
Vibration exercises may help various medical conditions, including arthritis, because they are designed to put less stress on the body than other exercise machines. They may also decrease the production of cortisol, a stress hormone which can make you gain weight and make it difficult for you to lose weight. Vibration exercise machines may also increase your circulation, help you improve your coordination and reverse the affects of osteoporosis. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are many different kinds of machines with varying vibration speeds, and certain machines and certain speeds may be better than others for your conditions. While some recommend vibration exercise machines for chronic pain, such as back pain, the machines can cause back pain, along with headaches and perhaps even brain damage from too much vibration of the brain. It is important to consult your doctor before beginning to use a vibration exercise machine.