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New Study Confirms Benefits of Vibration Machines in Kids With CP

09th June 2015
whole body vibration cerebral palsy kids

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder caused by brain injuries or malformations that occur in kids while the brain is under development. The condition causes the loss or impairment of motor function, affecting one’s ability to control one muscle and to coordinate the body movements, as well as the muscle tone and reflexes. People with cerebral palsy have poor balance and posture and may have problems with the fine motor skills as well.

Around 1 in 400 kids in the UK are affected by cerebral palsy, this condition being incurable, although it doesn’t progress over the years. A child that is born with CP will not suffer further brain damage as he grows up, as this disorder is not defined by the progressive degeneration of the brain. However, cerebral palsy is permanent, and the available treatments can only reduce the symptoms, but won’t cure one for good.

Although it’s not entirely clear what causes cerebral palsy, supports the theory that this disorder may be triggered by poor oxygen supply before, during, or immediately after childbirth, by injuries at birth, infections, severe dehydration, physical trauma or meningitis during the first years of life.

In most sufferers, the symptoms develop by age 2 or 3, so kids with cerebral palsy have chronic disabilities and show signs of physical impairment. Still, there may be variations in the type of movement dysfunction, the affected limb, and the severity of impairment. In some kids, CP affects only one limb and is milder, while in others it affects both arms and legs, and is associated with seizures, mental retardation, speech and language problems, or vision and hearing problems.

For some patients simple tasks like talking or sitting may be difficult, and for others, it may be a challenge to grasp objects or to perform movements that require precision. In cerebral palsy sufferers, muscles often contract at the same time, these involuntary contractions leading to pain, trembling, shaking or stiffness, and unnatural positions.

CP is not life-threatening, but does affect one’s quality of life. The good news is that with adequate therapy, assistive technology, medication, or surgery, one may improve one symptom and reduce the impact this condition has on their well-being.

Whole body vibration has positive effects in kids with cerebral palsy

Several studies have demonstrated the positive effects of whole body vibration therapy in CP sufferers. Researchers at the College of Medicine, Chang Gung University, Taiwan, have investigated the effects of 8 weeks of WBV in kids with cerebral palsy, their study is published in the journal of Research in Developmental Disabilities.

According to this paper, 3 sessions of whole body vibration per week (10 minutes per session) can improve the muscle tone, ambulatory performance and active joint range in children affected by this disorder. The improvements were maintained after a 4-week break, so the scientists concluded that vibration workouts can be an effective, safe and conventional alternative to current physical therapies in kids with CP.

A very recent meta-analysis performed by Italian researchers on 6 studies including 176 patients showed that whole body vibration therapy may improve gait speed and standing function in kids suffering from cerebral palsy, and could be included in rehabilitation programs. No adverse effect was reported in these studies, and there was a non-significant improvement in muscle strength for participants in the WBV group.

The same conclusion has been reached by Egyptian researchers, a study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation by El-Shamy S.M., Ph.D. at the University of Cairo, showing that WBV is a useful tool in improving the muscle strength and balance in kids with diplegic CP.

This study was conducted on 30 patients, each of them receiving either 9 minutes of WBV/day, 5 days a week, for 3 months, or traditional physical therapy exercises, also for 3 months. At the end of the study, significant improvements were seen in the whole body vibration group, so researchers concluded that WBV may be a convenient and effective replacement for conventional therapy in kids with this condition.

Exercises done on a vibration machine can improve muscle strength and tone, as well as body composition, all these benefits being extremely important for people suffering from CP, who can’t practice other forms of physical activity.

Unlike conventional physical therapy, where the help of a physiotherapist is needed constantly, vibration machines have the advantage that they’re easy to use and intuitive, so once one learns how to do the exercises correctly, they can perform the movements without being supervised by a licensed PT 24/7.

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