Vibration Therapy Mechanism
How Does Vibration Therapy Work
Millions of vibration plates have been sold around the world in the past few years. More and more people are willing to give vibration therapy a try as the equipment becomes more and more affordable. The positive results are overwhelming.
Scientific studies on vibration therapy have been gaining momentum. Medical professionals are more and more intrigued by this unique modality.
Hundreds of clinical trials have been registered with ClinicalTrials.gov on vibration therapy. Countless research papers have been published on National Library of Medicine. Scientists have observed and approved a wide range of health benefits of using vibration therapy.
However, current scientific studies on vibration therapy are still in their preliminary stage. The understanding of the treatment applications is very limited, not sufficient to conclude a specific treatment modality in terms of procedure, dosage and efficacy. The mechanism and theory of vibration therapy are yet to be discovered.
Explorers did not wait until scientific guidelines are available to take the try. Vibration therapy and its effectiveness have been widely discussed through word of mouth spread on the internet. Vibration therapy has demonstrated its unique effectiveness in treating some hard-to-diagnose or hard-to-treat medical conditions. There are many life-changing stories.
Vibration therapy is not a mystery or magic. However, some people may explain vibration therapy in a pseudoscientific way, like energy field...
In fact, vibration therapy can be explained using our knowledge of modern medicine.
Vibration therapy can be simply considered as a modality that utilize vibration stimulation as a medical intervention for therapeutic purposes.
Studies about vibration therapy are about what influence the vibration stimulation can apply to the human body, positively and negatively.
Vibration therapy research involves the disciplines of physics, medicine and other sciences.but a science
So, what influence the vibration stimulation can apply to the human body, specially.
Pulse of Intensive Mechanical Stimulation.
Vibration stimulation is unique because it can create rapid repeated mechanical stimulation on human body. We can make a vibration machine with designed frequency and amplitude to achieve our desired pace and magnitude of stimulation.
The stimulation comes from the vibration acceleration - G-force. It changes between the max positive value and the max negative value in each vibration cycle. G-force multiplies the mass of your body, but in a short pulse pattern.
Fast Pace Muscle Contraction
Vibration induces our skeletal muscle's stretch reflex response. it causes fast pace muscle contraction. This kind of contraction pattern can not be achieved through regular physical activity.
Skeletal muscle contraction influences the connecting tissues including tendons, ligaments, nerves and bones. In fact, vibration stimulation activates the functionality of our musculoskeletal system and neuromuscular system. This is the starting point of our theory.
Through fast pace muscle contraction, vibration stimulation effectively activates and exercises our musculoskeletal system and neuromuscular system. The muscle contraction and relaxation activities also promote the circulation of blood, lymph and tissue fluid in the adjacent tissues.
At multiple levels, vibration stimulation can achieve three major effects for health improvement.
- System functionally activation
- Peripheral circulation promotion
- Cell Regeneration
Our body systems need to keep activated for their health. Regular physical exercise is essential for the activation. Adding vibration exercise to regular physical exercise can better satisfy this requirement.
Vibration's pulsed intensive mechanical stimulation engages our musculoskeletal system and neuromuscular system to exercise more effectively, maintaining the performance and functionality of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and peripheral nerves.
Vibration therapy enhances the functionality of body systems, exercises tissues, boosts metabolism, and promotes tissue self-healing processes. All these effects work together in an intricate and complementary manner, and achieve a comprehensive health condition improvement.
The unique vibration stimulation may initiate profound cellular processes for tissue regeneration. This is very promising potential of vibration intervention that intriguing scientists.
Peripheral Circulation Enhancement
Vibration therapy promotes peripheral body fluid flow. Body fluids are mainly blood, lymph and tissue fluid. They transport and exchange gases and other substances involved in the metabolism processes. Maintaining a healthy body fluid circulation is essential for the supply of oxygen and nutrient to cells and the removal of metabolic wastes.
With the influence of vibration, skeletal muscle's contraction and relaxation creates repeated pulses of pressure on the adjacent vessels for both blood and lymph, accelerating fluid flow in the vessels.
The involuntary skeletal muscle contraction cooperates with the instinct vascular smooth muscle contraction. The two contraction forces work together to boost the liquid transmission and distribution in the peripheral circulation system. Vascular smooth muscles work inside the vessels in a slow pace, while skeletal muscles work from outside of vessels in a much faster pace.
Muscle contraction involves cellular activities that also promote tissue fluid flow. The physical and chemical cellular processes that perform skeletal muscle contraction involve and lead to intracellular fluid and extracellular fluid transmission and exchange, creating an internal drive for tissue fluid flow.
Compared to cardio exercise, which enhances circulation by engaging heart-work to pump the blood farther, vibration exercise enhances circulation by promoting peripheral body fluid flow and exchange, supplementing the functionality of the cardiovascular system.
Vibration therapy is particularly effective for achieving microcirculation improvement. It deserves a separate topic.
Inside tissues, blood circulation and exchange relies on the microcirculation system, which is composed of smaller vessels including arterioles, venules, and capillaries.
The blood pressure generated by heart and arteries is weakened when reaching into smaller vessels. Muscle contraction can put additional pressure outside the smaller vessels to boost blood flow and distribution.
Capillary vessels play the ultimate task of the cardiovascular system: delivering oxygen and nutrients, and taking away carbon dioxide and wastes.
Tissue damage can impair capillary vessel's functionality, compromising microcirculation. While the power of cardiovascular system become weak when reaching capillary, vibration therapy can be use to improve microcirculation, accelerating tissue repair in the recovery process.
For elderly or physically weak people that cannot endure extensive physical exercise, vibration therapy can be a practical, and perhaps essential solution for microcirculation enhancement.
Vibration therapy is an optimal solution for lymphatic drainage.
Unlike cardiovascular system employing a heart to pump the blood, lymphatic system mainly relies on lymphatic vessel contraction to move the lymph. Like blood vessels, lymphatic vessels contract with the instinct smooth movement.
Tissue fluids flow into lymphatic capillaries and become lymph. The flow is driven by osmotic pressure. Subsequently lymph is drawn into lymphatic vessels, then passes through lymph nodes and then returns to the blood system. The smooth muscles in the walls of lymph vessels rhythmically contract and produce continuous pressure to keep lymph moving on its direction. This is how lymphatic circulation naturally works.
In fact, lymphatic vessel contraction and osmotic pressure are not enough for a health lymphatic circulation. Body and muscle movements are essential. This is where vibration therapy's fast pace muscle contraction can effectively help.
With vibration stimulation, the fast pace skeletal muscle contraction creates pulses of pressure outside of the lymph vessel, while the contraction of smooth muscle creates pressure inside the vessel. The combined pressure effectively move lymph in the vessels.
The mechanism that vibration increases peripheral body fluid flow collaborates well with the natural mechanism of lymphatic circulation, making vibration therapy an optimal solution for lymph circulation enhancement.
Medical conditions can impair lymph circulation. So-called lymphatic drainage problem is the accumulation of excessive tissue fluids in the tissues. Such accumulation can cause swelling, infection or cancer because toxins and wastes trapped in the tissues. Muscle contraction and cellular activities can enhance lymphatic drainage by driving tissue fluids into lymph system and drawing the lymph out to blood circulation system.
A healthy lymph circulation needs certain physical activity to keep muscles move. When the physical activity is not enough, or medical condition causing lymph flow problem, vibration therapy can effectively and efficiently fulfill this role.
Studies show that in vibration exercise, skeletal muscles reach fatigue and achieve hypertrophy much faster than in regular physical exercise. Muscle fatigue promotes muscle growth.
Vibration exercise is more efficient for muscle building. If we do squat on a 30Hz vertical movement vibration plate, besides doing voluntary up and down repetitions, we are also doing 30 tiny involuntary up and down repetitions in every second, in respond to the vibration stimulation. Our leg muscles contract 30 times in a second. The contraction pulls or presses the connecting tissues 30 times in a second. Each tiny repetition involves its metabolic processes and ATP consumption.
Athletes use vibration exercise to achieve muscle building result faster, less exercise time and less repetitions.
Tissue Degeneration Prevention
Lack of physical activity, aging and medical conditions can cause tissue degeneration, like muscle atrophy, tendon and ligament deterioration, and bone resorption.
Tissue degeneration often happens to senior and physically weak people that are not able to keep a sufficient physical exercise routine.
Vibration therapy does not have to be physically stressful to achieve better results. It fits well for senior and physically weak people to fight tissue degeneration.
Utilizing external force, vibration exercise requires less physical strength and workload to achieve a better result, making it a practical solution for elderly or physically weak people to use on regular basis, to fight tissue degeneration.
Nerve Disorder Treatment
Neuromuscular functionality plays the commending role in muscle's stretch reflex response. In respond to stretch stimulation of vibration, nervous system command and coordinate certain muscles to contract, and other muscles to relax in a rapid pace. The process exercises the nervous system and improve its communication functions, enhancing balance, motor skills and gait.
Clinical studies have been conducted to explore using whole body vibration therapy to treat neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease and cerebral palsy, and have achieved positive results.
Vibration therapy improving circulation also contributes to nerve health by supplying sufficient nutrients to nerve cells.
Vibration stimulates cell regeneration through influencing cellular processes and hormone production. This may explain how vibration therapy helps soft tissue repair and increases bone density.
Scientists have been studying human tissue's cellular and molecular mechanism in respond to mechanical stimulation. It is suggested that mechanical stimulation, when reaching a certain magnitude, can influence cellular processes, such as boosting protein performance, altering gene expression, and regulating stem cell differentiation. These are the essential processes for cell regeneration.
The mechanical stimulation produced by vibration acceleration may satisfy the required magnitude to influence cellular processes.
Vibration acceleration can produce pulses of intensive force on the vibration object. This acceleration rate is usually expressed as G-force, which uses gravitational acceleration rate g (9.8m/s2) as the unit. This way the force applied to accelerated objected can be simply calculated by multiplying the object weight and the G-force value, F=ma.
The vibration stimulation also promotes the body system to secrete hormones, enzymes and other cell building materials. The improved circulation enhances the process of supplying sufficient oxygen and nutrients. Vibration therapy provides an overall constructional condition to mobilize cell regeneration.
Muscle, Tendon & Ligament Repair
Naturally, our muscles are capable of repair and regeneration after minor tears and bruising. However, severe physical injury can lead to extensive fibrous tissue formation in the repair process. Fibrous tissues, in place of the original muscle tissues, impair the functionality of the muscles, and are very difficult to restore.
The intensive pulses of mechanical stimulation induced by vibration, through its impact on the tissue structure and the cellular processes, may lead to the resorption of fibrous tissues and regeneration of real muscle tissues. With the resumed living cells in the original place, the muscles can resume their strength and functionality.
Tendons and ligaments are also consist of living cells and has the ability of self-repair. Vibration therapy can promote the repair of tendons and ligaments, the same way like repair of muscle.
Tendons and ligaments have a poor blood supply and therefore take longer time to repair after injury. Vibration therapy can enhance the microcirculation and speed up the healing process.
Vibration therapy has been proved effective to speed up the rehabilitation process for muscles, tendons and ligaments. It probably help preventing the formation of fibrous tissue in the recover process. It is especially effective to treat chronic injuries, and restore “dead” tissues.
Bone Density Increase
Vibration therapy has been known for effectively treating bone loss. Studies suggest that vibration induced skeletal muscle contraction creates pulling force on bones with enough magnitude to initiate bone formation process.
The unique pulsed intense stimulation activates and signals body system to produce hormone and other building blocks needed for osteoblasts to grow. Osteoblasts are cells that secrete structural substance needed for bone formation.
Randomized controlled clinical trials have provided quantitative evidences that vibration therapy is effective in improving bone density and treat age related bone resorption.
The mechanism of vibration therapy is to activate and promote our body systems to function in their instinct ways. The pulsed intense mechanical stimulation is the key medical intervention to initiate the processes. Through fast pace skeletal muscle contraction, vibration therapy enhances the functionality of our body systems in blood circulation improvement, tissue activation and cell regeneration.
Vibration therapy is easy and safe to practice. It is non-drug non-invasive and does not produce side effect. The short-time pulses of intensive mechanical stimulation initiates positive body system response without injuring tissues.
Although considered as an alternative medicine, the significance of vibration therapy is its unique potential to solve health issues that are challenging for traditional medicines. In fact such a potential has been proved as effective in countless practicing cases.
Aging, medical condition or lack of physical exercise can hinder our body systems' functionality in material supply, coordination and communication. Vibration therapy is an practical and effective solution to activate and enhance these functionality in a natural way.
The approach of vibration therapy is not just to pinpoint an isolated medical condition and depress or relieve the symptom. Rather, it take our body in its entirety, activates and facilitate our natural biological processes, mobilizes our instinctive functionality, and achieves fundamental health condition improvement.
In essence, mechanism of vibration therapy is to facilitate and stimulate our body system's own mechanism to perform. The intervention and the processes are natural, and the effects are fundamental.
The current knowledge about cellular processes and their molecular mechanism is still very limited. Vibration's pulsed intensive mechanical stimulation is a great opportunity for scientific study now and in the future.
- Jay Tang
Interpreting life science from a mechanical engineering perspective.