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Applications of vibration therapy in fibromyalgia

13th July 2016

Vibration machine therapy may help in a variety of conditions, the benefits of this form of exercise going well beyond stronger muscles and better circulation. In today’s article, we’ll focus on a specific condition which affects between 2% and 10% of the population, mostly women.

Fibromyalgia manifests through symptoms like widespread, chronic pain, muscle stiffness, tenderness of the soft tissues and fatigue, accompanied by emotional distress and sometimes cognitive difficulties as well. People affected by this condition may experience numbness and tingling in their limbs, muscle cramps and weakness, dizziness, headaches, increased sensitivity to various stimuli, memory and concentration problems.

Sleep problems like insomnia, muscle twitching during sleep, restless leg syndrome, as well as health problems like changing body temperature, vertigo, hypotension, irregular heart beats, breathing problems, irritable bowel, reduced tolerance for stress and mood swings may be present as well.

Although million of people worldwide suffer from this condition, fibromyalgia often goes undiagnosed for months or years, usually because the symptoms aren’t specific. The most noticeable sign is the generalized pain and musculoskeletal discomfort, many patients finding it difficult to perform even simple daily tasks. This can interfere with their activity and alter the quality of life and work performance, causing depression.

Is vibration therapy a suitable solution for fibromyalgia?

While stress management appears to be a key element of fibromyalgia therapy, diet and physical activity may be helpful as well. The problem is that a lot of fibro sufferers experience pain, cramps and increased tiredness during exercise and find it difficult to practice conventional exercises. For them, vibration therapy may be an effective alternative.

Whole body vibration isn’t an overnight remedy for fibro patients, so if you’re affected by this condition you may not experience big differences after the first WBV session, but if you practice vibration exercises continuously for 1-3, you may start seeing improvements in your symptoms.

Improved weight control and quality of life with WBV therapy

Scientists from the Indiana University have conducted a pilot study which showed that vibration therapy may help patients return to exercises and manage their weight more efficiently, breaking the vicious cycle of avoiding exercise and gaining weight as a result.

Many people affected by this condition avoid engaging in physical activities out of fear of increased pain, and this may lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, muscle loss, high blood pressure and a worsening of fibro symptoms. The risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes increases as well, complicating the situation even more.

„Although the results are largely equivocal and in need of further study, studies have reported improvements in strength, muscle spasticity and pain in select populations”, said the lead author of this study.

Reduced pain and fatigue following WBV exercises

Researchers from Spain investigated the effects of vibration machine exercises in women suffering from fibromyalgia and found that 6 weeks of conventional exercise plus whole body vibration can reduce pain and fatigue, whereas exercise alone fails to induce improvements.

Exercise therapy consisting of stretching, aerobic and relaxation sessions was performed two times per week for 90 minutes per session. The vibration and control groups performed the same routines, but the former group received vibration therapy while the latter did conventional exercises. At the end of the study, researchers measured the changes in pain, fatigue, stiffness and depression scores, and found significantly reduced scores in the vibration group.

WBV therapy leads to improved balance and functional performance

Another interesting study on the effects of whole body vibration therapy in fibromyalgia patients was published by scientists from the University of Seville, who showed that 8 weeks of conventional exercise – aerobic, flexibility and strength training – combined with whole body vibration can improve body balance and functional performance in women affected by this condition.

Participants were randomly assigned to an exercise-alone, an exercise plus whole body vibration or a control group, performing five sessions of exercise per week. The WBV group performed conventional exercises like aerobic, strength and flexibility movements, plus squats on a vibration machine, while the exercise-alone group underwent the same treatment but didn’t receive vibration therapy during the exercises.

Results showed significant improvements in balance parameters in the traditional exercise plus whole body vibration group. Similar results were obtained by researchers from the University of Extremadura, who investigated the effects of 12 weeks of WBV training on the static balance of fibromyalgia patients.

The participants were assigned to either a vibration or a control group, receiving standard care or WBV therapy for 12 weeks, at 12.5 Hz and 3 mm amplitude. The stability indices measured at the end of the study showed significant improvements in the vibration therapy group.

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