Vibration Exercise is an approach to physical fitness that originated within the Russian space program. One of the many challenges of space travel is the effect that zero gravity has on the human body. Prolonged exposure can cause muscle and bone deterioration limiting the amount of time an astronaut could spend on each mission. Working out in zero gravity with free weights was impossible due to the fact that the weights were, well, weightless. Therefore, the Russians developed a vibrating platform that one could stand, sit or even lie down on.
The vibration would activate the musculature enabling oxygenated blood circulation, tendon manipulation and muscle contraction without any effort by the user whatsoever. This became known as vibration exercise. Using this exercise at home or in the gym brings with it some benefits as well as some possible risks.
1. Benefit: Pumps Oxygen throughout Your Body
By stepping onto a vibrating platform, the user feels energy immediately begin to stir up in the body. By applying vibration, the muscles contract and release, pumping the blood faster throughout the system. Nutrient rich, oxygenated blood circulates replacing oxygen depleted, waste carrying blood.
2. Risk: Development of Blood Clots
Although circulation is optimal for healthy individuals, there are risks for those prone to thrombosis or blood clots. By using a vibration platform under these conditions there may be a risk of dislodging a potential clot that in some cases can be fatal. If you are on blood thinning medication or have had thrombosis in the past, check with your doctor before using this exercise.
3. Benefit: Tone and Elasticity
The muscles will not advance in size or strength, however, vibration exercise is excellent in maintaining tone and elasticity. As mentioned, the muscles contract and release during a session, mimicking an otherwise light workout such as walking. It is especially beneficial for those that have been paralyzed and cannot afford manual physical therapy.
4. Risk: Micro-Tears
There is a risk of exacerbating micro-tears or pulls in the musculature that one is not aware of before using vibration. Be sure and stretch before a session and to try and recognize and minor strains or pulls, and avoid those areas so as not to make them worse.
5. Benefit: Nerve Stimulation
Vibration activates nerve firing that can aid in certain neurological disorders such as sciatica. If the condition is occasional, by stimulating the muscles the nerves are ‘tricked’ into releasing their acute firing. At the end of a session, it is possible for prior nerve pain to be alleviated.
6. Risk: Nerve Pain
If one is prone to a continuing chronic neuralgia (nerve pain), vibration therapy can possibly exacerbate the condition making the pain worse. Using this treatment moderately at first should give indication to whether or not the neuralgia will be alleviated or worsened.
7. Benefit: Bone Strength
Several studies done on post-menopausal women prone to possible osteoporosis show that by using a whole vibrating plate that oscillates up and down, resulted in increased bone density. Compared to a walking group, the vibration therapy surpassed it considerably.
8. Risk: Bone Fragility
Any fraility or micro fractures can easily be negatively affected with vibration. Be sure and consider the age, bone health and any prior trauma before using vibration.