Vibration therapy is a type of neuro-muscular re-education, a treatment technique or exercise performed by an individual with the purpose of improving, via the nervous system, the level of communication between the body and the brain.
Because of the fact that side-alternating vibration training and vibration therapy exercises rely on the involuntary stretch reflex, there is a significant amount of communication occurring between the brain and the contracting muscles with each individual exercise. The goal is to “jump start” the muscle contraction through the intense high-repetition rate called frequency, thereby enhancing the patient’s ability to efficiently recruit the muscle fibers, coordinate movement being performed by the joint and muscle tissue. Vibration therapy has been shown to increase muscle power, postural control and balance.
History of Whole Body Vibration:
Whole body vibration has been around since the late 1800’s. An article published in 1898 by the French neurologist Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot deduced that the improvement in his Parkinson’s patient’s symptoms was the result of their horse and buggy ride to his office. As a response, he devised a motor driven chair to stimulate the “vibration” they experienced.
Today, neuro rehab facilities are using it to help increase bone density, reduce spasms and build muscle tone in people who have suffered spinal cord injuries, as well as individuals who have had strokes. Side-alternating vibration treatment optimizes “motor relearning” under the principle of repetition; it’s easy to use, promotes early rehabilitation and provides efficient therapy in a short period of time. While there are many studies at this point, more research is needed on the long-term effects of whole body vibration.
And while whole body vibration might be useful as a part of a rehabilitation program, it’s not enough on its own. It’s not meant to be a total training method, but as an adjunct it can be extremely beneficial.
Helen Hayes Hospital recently purchased a vibration therapy system called Galileo-Training. The principle of Galileo is based on the natural movement of human gait. Galileo’s side-alternating motion is similar to a seesaw movement with variable amplitude and frequency, and therefore stimulates a movement pattern similar to human gait. The rapid movement of the training platform causes a tilting movement of the pelvis, just like when walking, but much more frequently. To compensate, the body responds with rhythmic muscle contractions, alternating between the left and right side of the body. From a frequency of about 12 hertz onward, these muscle contractions are not a conscious process but, rather, are a reflex. This stretch reflex activates the muscles in the legs, the stomach and the back right up into the trunk.
A training session of three minutes at 25 hertz therefore causes the same number of muscle contractions as walking a distance of 4,500 steps.
Galileo-Training puts minimum stress on the cardiovascular system, helps to increase blood circulation and metabolism. It also offers:
• Increase of muscle power and muscle force
• Muscle hypertrophy after immobilization
• Osteoporosis prevention and therapy
• Pelvic floor training – therapy for stress urinary incontinence
• Improvement of muscle function
• Improvement of flexibility and range of motion
• Relief of muscle tension
• Therapy for back pain
• Improvement of balance and coordination
• Fall prevention
We are very excited to be able to offer side-alternating vibration therapy in order to provide our patients with every tool and opportunity to make strides towards an optimal recovery.
Elaine DeFancesco, PT
Program Director, Spinal Cord Ijury Rehabilitation Service