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Whole Body Vibration After ACL Surgery: What Do Studies Say?

21st October 2016
whole body vibration reconstruction

ACL reconstruction is a surgical procedure used for reconstructing the ligament in the center of the knee, which keeps the tibia in place. When this ligament gets damaged as a result of wear and tear, or because of an injury, it can cause pain and prevent one from engaging in physical activities.

To reconstruct the ligament, tissue from the patient’s body (called “autograft”) or from a donor (called “allograft”) is taken and put in place of the damaged tissue. Without this surgical intervention, the knee may feel and become unstable, increasing the chances for a more serious injury such as a meniscus tear.

In general, ACL reconstruction is done for patients whose knees feel unstable during daily activities, who accuse pain and instability during sports activities, or who have injuries of the ligaments surrounding the knee. Also, this intervention is done when the meniscus is torn.

Although necessary, ACL reconstruction is not an enjoyable experience as recovery may take for up to 6 months, so one’s ability to perform normal, day to day and sports activity can be affected for a long time. For this reason, scientists wanted to see whether there is any form of physical activity that can be performed during the recovery phase without causing side effects, to speed up the recovery.

Given that whole body vibration was found to provide similar benefits to conventional strength training, researchers from Germany wanted to see whether using WBV can benefit patients with anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction just like regular recovery exercises.

Whole body vibration, less time-consuming and as effective as conventional rehabilitation exercises after ACL surgery

In this study, researchers used a specially designed whole body vibration protocol, their purpose being to test the hypothesis that vibration exercises can lead to superior short-term results in terms of neuromuscular performance, coordination and strength, when compared to conventional rehabilitation exercises. Researchers also wanted to see whether this method would be more time-efficient than regular recovery programs.

For this study, 40 participants who underwent ACL reconstruction were enrolled, and randomly assigned to either a whole body vibration or a standard rehabilitation exercise protocol. Each group consisted of 20 participants who started the exercises in the second week after surgery, but also underwent conventional physical therapy on the first day after surgery.

The whole body vibration respectively conventional muscle strengthening exercises were performed 5 times per week in both groups, and lasted up to the 11th week after surgery. For the control group, the sessions lasted for about 80 minutes, and included a short warm-up, then a round of stretching exercises and 20 minutes of balance exercises. After these, the strength-building exercises were performed, and the routine was ended with a cool-down.

The whole body vibration group also did a warm-up and a stretching exercise routine, then 20 minutes of WBV exercises for strengthening their muscles, and ended with 5 minutes of cool-down exercises similar to those performed by the control group.

Although the time spent by the participants who were assigned to the whole body vibration group was reduced to less than half, there weren’t statistically difference in results, and the WBV group performed better in the stability test. No side effects were registered and the exercises were safe for the vibration group.

In conclusion, the vibration training protocol was less time consuming and more efficient, so it could be a viable alternative to conventional rehabilitation exercises for patients who undergo ACL reconstruction surgery.

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