Is Vibration Safe?

There is mounting scientific evidence, through both animal and clinical studies, that low-level, mechanical signals, delivered using vibration, can restore motion to joints, redevelop muscles, assist as an adjunct treatment for obesity and relieve aches and pains throughout the body.

However, just because some vibration may be beneficial, not all vibration is the same and more vibration is not necessarily better.

Before beginning any form of vibration usage, it is important to consider what type of vibration is being delivered.

The low-intensity vibration signal delivered by LivMD is considered safe for up to 4 hours of exposure per day according to the International Safety Organization threshold for human tolerance of vibration, ISO 2631.

It is important to emphasize that although this low-level intervention is considered safe*, other frequencies and amplitudes may cause damage to bone and connective tissues, and many amplitudes of vibration are considered pathogenic to the musculoskeletal (e.g., vertebral disc, cartilage, ligament, tendon), neurovestibular, and cardiovascular systems 8. One should always be concerned that “too much of a good thing” may be true in mechanical stimulation, as well. Just because one aspirin is good for you, doesn’t mean that you should take 50 aspirin per day.

There are a multitude of products on market that advertise the benefits of Whole Body Vibration (WBV) – most of which are delivering a very high magnitude signal.

Please note that our research has no relationship whatsoever with the technology or claims made by whole body vibration plates used for exercise and physical training such as Galileo and Power-Plate etc. The magnitudes used in those devices, well in excess of 8.0g, are well beyond the limits recommended for human tolerance by ISO and OSHA, are 35 times greater in amplitude than those mechanical signals that we study, are inherently dangerous.

Low-Intensity Vibrations are Safe, High-Intensity Vibrations are Hazardous

The great majority of research has focused on attenuating the transmissibility of whole body vibration to the skeleton, with the widely held presumption that high frequency vibrations are pathogenic to the musculoskeletal system 16-18. In cases where vibration is inevitable 7, exposure limits have been recommended by agencies focused on occupational hazards, such as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17.

Levels of vibration are typically considered as a function of magnitude (g-force), frequency (Hz) and duration of exposure (time). One “g” is equal to earth’s gravitational field, or an acceleration of 9.8 meters per second per second. Frequency corresponds to the number of cycles delivered per second.

High-intensity devices are those that deliver a g-force of greater than 1-g, regardless of the frequency.

Most systems are engineered such that the higher frequency signals correspond to high magnitude signals as well.

With g-forces that exceed this level, acute discomfort arises not only from focal pain in muscle and joints, but from induced alterations in visual perception and tracking.

Conditioned athletes, should they knowingly understand these dangers and still wish to put their body at risk is one thing, but to use such interventions on the elderly, osteoporotic, or functionally impaired individuals is dubious, at best.

In contrast to concerns for the use of vibration that exceeds 1g, it should also be pointed out that no adverse effects were observed in any of the preliminary trial with humans which kept vibration below 0.4g 13-15. Certainly, considering the demonstrated risk to so many physiologic systems, if functional disorders compromise an individual’s ability to protect themselves, it is clear that vibration that approaches 1g should be studiously avoided.

References

  1. Anderson JA, Otun EO, Sweetman BJ 1987 Occupational hazards and low back pain. Rev Environ Health 7:121-160.
  2. Seidel H, Harazin B, Pavlas K, Sroka C, Richter J, Bluthner R, Erdmann U, Grzesik J, Hinz B, Rothe R 1988 Isolated and combined effects of prolonged exposures to noise and whole-body vibration on hearing, vision and strain. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 61:95-106.
  3. Dandanell R, Engstrom K 1986 Vibration from riveting tools in the frequency range 6 Hz-10 MHz and Raynaud’s phenomenon. Scand J Work Environ Health 12:338-342.
  4. Bongers PM, Boshuizen HC, Hulshof CT, Koemeester AP 1988 Back disorders in crane operators exposed to whole-body vibration. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 60:129-137.
  5. de Oliveira CG, Simpson DM, Nadal J 2001 Lumbar back muscle activity of helicopter pilots and whole-body vibration. J Biomech 34:1309-1315.
  6. Griffin JJ 2001 Handbook of human vibration.
  7. Bongers PM, Boshuizen HC, Hulshof CT, Koemeester AP 1988 Long-term sickness absence due to back disorders in crane operators exposed to whole-body vibration. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 61:59-64.
  8. International Standards Organization 1985 Evaluation of Human Exposure to Whole-Body Vibration. ISO 2631/1:
  9. Coermann R 1938 Untersuchung ueber die Einwirkung von Schwingungen auf den menschlichen Organismus. 73-117.
  10. Goldman DE 1948 The effect of mechanical vibration on the patella reflex of the cat. Am J Physiol 155:79.
  11. Roll JP, Martin B, Gauthier GM, Mussa IF 1980 Effects of whole-body vibration on spinal reflexes in man. Aviat Space Environ Med 51:1227-1233.
  12. Dupuis H, Hartung E 1980 Einfluss von Vibrationen auf die optische Wahrnehmung. Research Report Wehrmedizin BMVg-FBWM 80-10 1- 141.
  13. Ward K, Alsop C, Brown S, Caulton J, Adams J, Mughal M 2001 A randomized, placebo controlled, pilot trial of low magnitude, high frequency loading treatment of children with disabling conditions who also have low bone mineral density. J Bone Miner Res 16S:1148.
  14. Pitukcheewanont P, Safani D, Gilsanz V, Rubin CT 2002 Short Term Low Level Mechanical Stimulation Increases Cancellous and Cortical Bone Density and Muscles of Females with Osteoporosis: A Pilot Study. Endocrine Society Transactions in press:
  15. Recker R, Rubin C, Cullen D, Belongia D, Ryaby J, McLeod K 1997 Non- invasive biomechanical intervention for the prevention of post- menopausal osteopenia. J Bone Miner Res 12:S242.
  16. Bernard B, Nelson N, Estill CF, Fine L 1998 The NIOSH review of hand-arm vibration syndrome: vigilance is crucial. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. J Occup Environ Med 40:780-785.
  17. Griffin MJ 1998 Predicting the hazards of whole-body vibration—considerations of a standard. Ind Health 36:83-91.
  18. Wilder DG, Pope MH 1996 Epidemiological and aetiological aspects of low back pain in vibration environments – an update. Clin Biomech (Bristol , Avon ) 11:61-73.