Does Vibration Therapy/Exercise Really “Work”?
Simple answer is yes - vibration therapy/exercise 100% absolutely does “work”. In fact there is a growing body of research and user testimonies that support a wide range of applications revealing some surprising benefits. Even though vibration plates have been around since the 70’s their popularity as a therapy and exercise alternative have really begun to gain traction in the last decade. Hearing the terms “Vibration Therapy” or “Vibration Exercise” is becoming more common.
Science aside for now, there is a logical aspect and certain appeal to using these machines, in how they aid in maintaining, rebuilding, and improving aspects of our health. Those already using vibration plates really enjoy using them and know the rewards of embracing this amazing technology for both therapeutic and fitness use. In this trainer’s opinion - they may be the most versatile and effective piece of equipment of our time.
Instead of simply stating that vibration therapy/exercise “works” let’s break this into three main points to shed light on how the therapeutic & fitness benefits are realized and the advantages these machines can bring to your lifestyle and routine.
1) How Do Vibration Plates Work?
How these devices actually “work” is the first part of the equation. Have you ever tried a vibration machine at a tradeshow or a friend’s house? Perhaps at a clinic or therapist’s office? How you are first introduced to whole body vibration therapy/exercise often leaves a lasting impression with you based on how it felt and the information that was shared with you at the time. If you were fortunate enough to have had a proper introduction to a vibration plate, a positive first experience is not uncommon and may be why you are researching further right now.
If your first try lacked guidance or seemed like more of a sales pitch, not knowing some basics about the machine or how to stand on it properly may have left you less than impressed, possibly even shy you away from what could be the solution you’ve been seeking.
For those that have never experienced whole body vibration you should seek out a vibration machine or get one on a trial. The physical experience of using a vibration plate usually speaks for itself, giving insight and appreciation that no amount of reading can translate in the same way. New users often comment how great it makes them feel, helps relieve pain and stress, how it lifts their energy levels - even their mood!
There are varying types of vibration plate movement styles, designs, machine settings, exercise positions and many, many different types of users! There may never be enough research to explore every potential use, but these plates have exploded in popularity especially with older and more inactive populations seeking low impact alternatives over more traditional activities.
What do you physically do on the machine? You perform weight bearing exercise positions (IE standing/squats) or slightly modified positions (seated/assisted) on the surface of the moving platform. The plate surface moving creates in essence an environment, one that generates different low amplitude micromovements. These movements gently stimulate your muscles to respond while your body is ever counterbalancing the itself to remain stable in your position. Muscles are pumping and moving your blood and lymph while you stand or perform exercises, stretches, even some direct massage positions can be done! The low impact motions make traditional exercise positions for many “easier” in this less strenuous environment. Circulation and lymph even stability and energy levels can be boosted with a single passive minute of use.
In fitness poses like squats or push-ups, the associated muscle groups are fatigued quickly with the addition of these rapid movements radically reducing the amount of time it takes to perform a single exercise or overall routine. Less time coupled and low amplitude movement minimizes impact to the joints.
Your body and its many systems are stimulated in a variety of beneficial ways that cannot be gained as easily with other forms of activity. Vibration plates create an environment, a low impact one that offers similar benefits to most weight bearing exercises with the potential to boost gains, decrease durations and with less effort on your part.
Short and Longer Term Benefits
The type of health benefits using a plate can offer mirrors many other therapy or exercise modalities. Some you can feel almost immediately, while some build over time as you progress and are achieved more long term.
Short term gains like moving circulation and lymph, improving balance and stability, even a release of stress and tension can be felt almost immediately in a simple standing position. Swelling, pain and fatigue, can dissipate in minutes making it ideal for pre or post treatment in combination with other therapies, offering possibility for more optimal outcomes. Flexibility, improved mobility, and better range of motion can also improve quickly. It seems that a vibration plate almost better prepares the body for whatever you are going to do next, in addition to the accelerated recovery effects.
Mid to longer term gains like better bone health, increased strength and power, agility, stamina as well as weight loss and toning gains are realized over time. Proper nutritional choices and adequate rest/recovery are key compliments to supporting and improving your overall health.
There are also what we refer to as “soft” benefits. Things that passively happen just because you are getting moving - like relaxation, your body becoming more oxygenated, energized and you just know you feel better than before you used the machine.
Probably the biggest benefit to using a vibration plate is the feel good factor. If you can just start to move and feel better, gain some energy, maybe sticking with a routine is a possibility. Almost anyone can gain improvements quickly regardless of your current physical condition, a huge advantage over other activities that may be too painful or just too difficult.
2) Using a Vibration Plate Effectively (the Second Part of the Equation)
Improving one’s physical function or expediting recovery can be achieved by performing various positions or a more structured protocol aligned with the goals you are trying to accomplish. I want to stress that the plate itself is an environment that makes the positions themselves more effective, in less time and with less effort to the user.
With a little practice, incorporating a vibration plate into your existing protocol or routine becomes very natural, almost logical with regular use. Start basic, just practise one or two positions. You can start in a seated position or modify your position as needed if it's hard for you to bear weight, fatigue easily or lack stability. Even frail users find it to be quite comfortable, even soothing, making them feel more stable and more energized almost immediately after just a short 1-2 minute session.
Now that you have some understanding of how the machines themselves “work”, the next question is for you. Are you prepared to DO the “work”?
As is the case with many goals we set for therapeutic or fitness gains, performing the actual therapy or exercise consistently is where the positive results are realized. This means doing actual work, the exercises and stretches outlined in your programs REGULARLY. Life sometimes gets in the way leaving little time to focus on you. One of the best ways to use a machine is for short, feel good sessions. 2-3 minutes whenever you feel stiff or need an energy boost can add up to a lot of gains over time and help you progress to bigger and better things.
Keep these points in mind to get the most out of your vibration therapy/exercise:
- Start with short, more frequent sessions and progress at your own pace
- Select exercises or a program that are in line with your ability and goals
- Practice good technique, posture and breathing
Using a machine for short, more frequent sessions is ideal for those suffering with conditions like arthritis, hypermobility, instability, or fatigue where more traditional forms of activity may be too difficult, too painful, and just too hard to get into the habit of wanting to do them. These plates simply offer a passive, low impact activity that is easily tolerated by most users. What positions you do on a plate is more about you, what you’re physically capable of and your goals.
3) Vibration Plate Terms, Types and Settings
There is no such thing as a “best machine” for every person, program or application. Some are small, some massive, some are inexpensive and some cost more than a car. Spending more or getting the biggest machine does not guarantee more results. There are more than a few varieties of machines available online, you’ll see them in some retail stores, even gyms or clinics.
Manufacturers offer different movement styles and models along with other features like handle attachments, resistance bands, even calorie counters. This is where some of the marketing side can really kick in making it hard to know what may be best suited for your needs, the space you have to work with and our course budget. Understanding the terms below will help you navigate towards the best machine for your lifestyle and goals.
Machine Frequency, Speed or Level - frequency which is measured in hertz (hz) is how many times the surface of the plate is moving (up and down, side to side or a combo). Many studies reference this term. Most consumer brands display in speeds or levels instead of hertz and these are simply different increments of hertz IE each speed may increase ¼ or a ½ hertz per speed to offer more range and variety in your settings. Many also have pre-set variable speeds or programs to offer a convenient way to mix things up for the user.
Machine Amplitude - refers to the distance the plate surface is moving, how far it is moving you from side to side or up and down with each movement of the plate. It controls how intense or strong the vibration feels, and tolerance will vary for everyone. Amplitude is measured in millimeters(mm) and can be adjusted on some styles more than others, an important factor to consider when selecting a machine.
Machine Movement Style- Several types are available, some with more research and history than others. There are more definitions than necessary to describe the 2 main types of movements. Lots of variations even some combined movements now as well which can add to more confusion when trying to compare. Both main styles are well researched, and each have pros and cons. Movement type is often more of a preference, you just prefer how one feels and moves you over the other.
Oscillation/Pivotal - the primary and foundational movement, the most researched and the most preferred style by more users. This movement feels very natural as it mimics how you walk across the floor, gently pivoting you side to side. Majority of machines being sold offer oscillating in a variety of platform sizes. Amplitude on this style is adjustable and driven by where you place your feet or hands on the plate surface. Closer to the center decreases how much you are moving wider increases the amount of movement making it easy to change to suit your preference. Design is often simple and an entry level model can provide lots of benefits without breaking the bank, they fall in the $200-$500 range.
Vertical/Lineal – this style moves straight up and down. True verticals are becoming less common for at home use as machines are typically larger and louder - due to their faster speed ranges (pre-set in 5 or 6 levels). Amplitude is much less than with oscillating and is fixed - foot or hand placement is not relevant. They usually have one or two pre-set amplitudes. This style is felt more in the neck and head due to direction of movement, just the way they feel. This is not harmful but certainly takes some time to get used to, less users prefer this style for this reason. Design and servicing can be a little more complicated and costly with an entry level starting around $1000.
Combo/Varied – consumer demand for more variety sparked innovation and has led some manufacturers to bring new movements or combinations of movements to their designs. These include lateral - moving you side to side, pulsation – like vertical but less amplitude, and final the combos - 2D, 3D and 4D etc - blending 2 or more different vibration movement styles together. Research has yet to explore some of these new combos and with all the variables likely never could. User feedback is tremendous and the positive effect people are experiencing cannot be ignored.
If you already own a vibration plate or are comparing brands to make a purchase, it’s a good idea to see what training and support resources are provided to you through the manufacturer/brand. You now know to be careful if you are just comparing prices or
What tools are made available to you should offer some insight as to the type of company you might be dealing with. If there appears to be little in the way of help or resources, keep looking. You want to look for a supplier that will be there AFTER they get your credit card too and are not just trying to sell you a piece of equipment…
Used regularly in conjunction with a goal oriented program, vibration exercise or therapy can help to expedite recovery, accelerate performance gains and improve overall health. It’s a safe, low impact and time saving activity suitable for almost anyone. Working with a qualifier vibration therapist or trainer is recommended if you are looking for medical specific guidance.
Harmful vs Healing Vibes
If you are researching entirely online, please be wary and read this section fully to arm yourself with the facts, make informed decisions based on accurate information.
Due to similar terminology, there can be a misunderstanding between the health and exercise benefits gained using vibration platforms/plates and what is known as “whole body vibration” exposure in an occupational or workplace setting.
From time to time, companies selling competing equipment or therapies try to take advantage of a consumer’s lack of understanding and advice of “potential harms”, frankly they use fear as a sales tactic to promote what they are trying to sell you. This has led to much debate and in over 40 years of vibration plates being used by people like you, no ill effects have been associated with the use of these devices. Certainly, no more than over-exercising, or doing a little too much activity may affect you now.
Occupational Vibration is related to exposure during a task or in a workplace where vibration transmits to the arms, hands, or other areas of the body through the use of tools and equipment can have potentially harmful effects. As an example, tools like jackhammers and tampers can affect the hands and arms while drivers/operators that remain seated in heavy equipment or trucks for long periods may suffer effects in the back, neck, hips and legs. These industries and manufacturers are regulated and are to adhere to different safety and operational requirements outlined by ISO Guidelines.
Vibration Exercise or Therapy is short in duration and operated at much lower frequencies than the equipment being used in a workplace. General daily use is recommended to be no more than 30 mins total. Any references to ISO guidelines should be seen as a red flag if a company uses this term in relation to vibration plates.
Vibration Plates - Precautions, Recommendations and Contraindications
Speak with your doctor or care provider before beginning ANY new activity or wellness regime. This is ESPECIALLY important if you are dealing with a medical condition or are recovering from a recent injury or procedure.
Ensure you start at a pace appropriate for your current level of health and range of motion. Seek qualified guidance with medical use. Proper hydration, nutrition and adequate rest/recovery are also key in achieving your lifestyle goals.
With good technique and appropriate positions/durations, vibration therapy/exercise has been shown to be a safe, low impact activity that can be appropriate for anyone even in non weight bearing applications to expedite recovery and improve overall health.
Precautions to Consider
Poor Stability/Fatigue- If you are at a high risk of falling or easily fatigue please use a stool or chair and begin use in a seated position with feet on the plate until you feel confident in progressing to standing.
Pregnancy- It is not typically recommended you start any new or strenuous exercise if you are pregnant without first consulting with your doctor. If you are a seasoned vibration plate user, your body has to a degree become used to this activity and may be ok to continue use or vary your use depending on your current level of health. If you were an active jogger, you likely would not stop running but you may modify how you run and your routine as your condition progresses.
CONTRAINDICATIONS - Please Seek clarity prior to starting a vibration plate program and discuss suitability with your doctor or care provider if you are dealing with any of the following:
Seizures - if you are prone to seizures, experience them as triggered if you perform exercise/massage activities or take medication where this is a potential side effect we advise using as guided by an experienced WBV or medical professional.
Recent Implants or Fractures – if you have a recent implant or fracture of any kind ensure your doctor or care provider has given you the ok to resume weight bearing activities. Adhere to the recovery period and activities or specific positions or activities they may have advised you not perform.
Gall or kidney stones – if you currently have known stones and they are potentially passing, pain may result from any form of exercise. As such we do not recommend using standing positions or using your device at all if pain is severe until they have passed, and you are able to perform your daily activity without pain or limitations.
Severe/Chronic inflammation – Vibration plates can offer symptom relief and also offer a viable low impact form of exercise. As it can affect inflammation in different ways, we do not recommend using a vibration plate without seeking qualified guidance to assess the best approach for your condition.
Severe DVT or Blood Clots – we do not recommend using a vibration plate without consent or guidance from a qualified professional. Blot clots often represent a larger underlying issue, and all factors need to be considered if undergoing any new activity.
As use and experience grows with these devices, we look forward to a broader understanding of the advantages and potential applications vibration plates can offer so many seeking alternatives.
Vibration Plate Adviser/Coach
See some of our related blog articles and a small sample of research links below. Reach out to our Team if you are looking for something specific or have questions.
Vibration Plates for Better Bone Health
Dionello CF, Sá-Caputo D, Pereira HV, et al. Effects of whole body vibration exercises on bone mineral density of women with postmenopausal osteoporosis without medications: novel findings and literature review. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2016;16(3):193-203. Published 2016 Sep 7.
Turner S, Torode M, Climstein M, et al. A randomized controlled trial of whole body vibration exposure on markers of bone turnover in postmenopausal women. J Osteoporos. 2011;2011:710387. doi:10.4061/2011/710387
Gusi N, Raimundo A, Leal A. Low-frequency vibratory exercise reduces the risk of bone fracture more than walking: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2006;7:92. Published 2006 Nov 30. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-92
Celebrating Oct 6 - World Cerebral Palsy Day (Vibration for Cerebral Palsy) Katusic A, Alimovic S, Mejaski-Bosnjak V. The effect of vibration therapy on spasticity and motor function in children with cerebral palsy: a randomized controlled trial. NeuroRehabilitation. 2013;32(1):1-8. doi: 10.3233/NRE-130817. PMID: 23422453.
Autoimmune Disorders and How Vibration Plates Can Help Whole-Body Vibration Mimics the Metabolic Effects of Exercise in Male Leptin Receptor–Deficient Mice
Effects of Whole-Body Vibration Therapy in Patients with Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Literature Review
Long-Term Effects of Whole-Body Vibration on Human Gait: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Fischer, Matthieu et al. “Long-Term Effects of Whole-Body Vibration on Human Gait: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Frontiers in neurology vol. 10 627. 19 Jun. 2019, doi:10.3389/fneur.2019.00627
Low Back Pain
The effect of weight-bearing exercise with low frequency, whole body vibration on lumbosacral proprioception: a pilot study on normal subjects Fontana TL, Richardson CA, Stanton WR. The effect of weight-bearing exercise with low frequency, whole body vibration on lumbosacral proprioception: a pilot study on normal subjects. Aust J Physiother. 2005;51(4):259-63. doi: 10.1016/s0004-9514(05)70007-6. PMID: 16321133.
Relevance of Whole-Body Vibration Exercises on Muscle Strength/Power and Bone of Elderly Individuals Bemben, Debra et al. “Relevance of Whole-Body Vibration Exercises on Muscle Strength/Power and Bone of Elderly Individuals.” Dose-response : a publication of International Hormesis Society vol. 16,4 1559325818813066. 6 Dec. 2018, doi:10.1177/1559325818813066
Effectiveness of Whole-Body Vibration Training to Improve Muscle Strength and Physical Performance in Older Adults: Prospective, Single-Blinded, Randomized Controlled Trial Jo, Nam-Gyu et al. “Effectiveness of Whole-Body Vibration Training to Improve Muscle Strength and Physical Performance in Older Adults: Prospective, Single-Blinded, Randomized Controlled Trial.” Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 9,6 652. 31 May. 2021, doi:10.3390/healthcare9060652
The effects of whole body vibration therapy on reducing fat mass in the adult general population: A systematic review and meta-analyses Omidvar, Maryam et al. “The effects of whole body vibration therapy on reducing fat mass in the adult general population: A systematic review and meta-analyses.” Journal of musculoskeletal & neuronal interactions vol. 19,4 (2019): 455-464.
The effects of long-term whole-body vibration and aerobic exercise on body composition and bone mineral density in obese middle-aged women Nam, Sang-Seok et al. “The effects of long-term whole-body vibration and aerobic exercise on body composition and bone mineral density in obese middle-aged women.” Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry vol. 20,2 (2016): 19-27. doi:10.20463/jenb.2016.06.20.2.3