Effects of vibration application

The recent years have seen a rising interest in the use of vibration platforms for achieving therapeutic or physical performance goals. Many devices are currently marketed for use in fitness or healthcare environments. Scientific data tend to be sparse on most of them, but many studies are under way.

There are large differences between the types of vibrations that these devices generate. Key descriptors of vibration devices include the frequency (measured in Hz; the number of Hz indicates the number of complete up-and-down movement cycles per second) and amplitude (measured in mm) of the vibration, as well as the direction of the vibration movement.4 The frequency of vibration devices typically ranges from a few Hz to 50Hz, with amplitudes ranging from a few micrometers to several millimeters. The force produced by the vibrating plate, and thus the ‘intensity’ of the treatment, increases with the frequency and the amplitude of the vibration.

The use of vibration stimulation for enhancing athletic performance and therapeutic use is considered an important matter of medical biology that has developed in the last three decades. Current evidence suggests that vibration is effective in enhancing musculoskeletal strength and power capacity and improving physical conditions in patients with related disorders such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, although the mechanisms mediating these effects are still not well known. The first use of vibration as an exercise was conducted by Russian scientists, who found that vibration was effective in enhancing strength in athletes. Subsequently, the effects of vibration application have been studied after acute and chronic exposure using different treatment protocols. Acute enhancement of mechanical power has been validated after vibration treatment applied with vibrating cables during bilateral biceps curl on a pulley machine.

Musculoskeletal structures respond to vibration because of the need to modulate muscle stiffness rapidly so as to accommodate the vibratory waves. This reaction is regulated by monosynapticand polysynaptic afferent pathways, which are capable of generating specific hormonal responses. These findings suggest that vibration could represent an effective exercise intervention for improving neuromuscular performance in sedentary and trained people.