Is whole body vibration therapy an effective osteoporosis treatment option? Does whole body vibration therapy build bone?
Whole body vibration (WBV) machines from companies such as Power Plate and WAVE can get quite pricey — they can range in price between $2,000 and $10,000. Are they worth the price?
A study review that was conducted in 2009 and several new research studies shed some light into the effectiveness of whole body vibration therapy for people with low bone mineral density and osteoporosis.
Is Whole Body Vibration Therapy an Effective Osteoporosis Treatment Option?
According to Totosy de Zepetnek and associates at the University of Waterloo, the studies examining whole body vibration therapy as potential intervention for people with low bone mineral density and osteoporosis indicate that the effectiveness of WBV is somewhat inconclusive.(1)
Since their review in 2009, several more recent studies that are not yet published and were presented at the 2010 American Society of Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) in Toronto, have failed to show much bone enhancement with standing passively on a whole body vibration platform.
Does Whole Body Vibration Therapy Affect Bone Density?
The first study (2) looked at the effect of bone density and bone structure in post-menopausal women. Whole body vibration therapy platforms were loaned out to participants, mean age of 67, who stood on the platforms for 20 minutes daily for an entire year. Two different frequencies were studied: 30 Hz and 90 Hz with peak vertical acceleration of 0.3g.
This study showed that neither frequency altered bone mineral density (BMD) or bone structure in postmenopausal women with osteopenia.
The second study (3) looked at vibration on bone health in healthy younger women, mean age 24 years. The peak vertical acceleration was 0.2g, and the frequency was 30 Hz. Participants stood on the platforms for two 10 minute sessions per day (separated by ≥ 3 hours), 5 days a week, for six months.
This study showed that the whole body vibration therapy did not increase the density or quality of bone.
But, Whole Body Vibration Therapy Can Have Other Positive Effects
However, when looking beyond bone, studies that supplement strength training with standing on a vibrating platform (4) or have people exercising on a vibration platform (5) have shown improvements in other fitness parameters such as walking speed, step length, and the maximum standing time on one leg (balance and strength).
Improvements in these areas improve your balance which, in turn, can reduce your fall risk.
Are Whole Body Vibration Therapy Platforms Worth the Expense?
You should not purchase a whole body vibration platform if you expect that it will improve your bone density.
If you have access to a whole body vibration platform as part of a gym membership, then you can use the machine to improve your balance and reduce your risk of a fall.
I encourage you to consider less costly and more effective options, and that you work with a health professional knowledgeable in the area of osteoporosis and exercise. If you have low bone density, osteopenia or osteoporosis, I recommend that you follow a well designed osteoporosis exercise program that incorporates weight bearing, strength, flexibility, balance and postural exercises.
If you have or are considering purchasing a whole body vibration therapy platform, I would be interested in your comments.
- Whole-body vibration as potential intervention for people with low bone mineral density and osteoporosis: A review JRRD Vol 46, No. 4 2009 pg 529-542, Totosy de Zepetnek JO et al.
- Effect of Whole-Body Vibration on Bone Density and Structure in Postmenopausal Women with Osteopenia: A Randomized Controlled Trial Lubomira Slatkovska, Shabbir Alibhai, Joseph Beyene, Angela M. Cheung. Toronto ON Canada; Toronto Ontario Canada
- A Six-Month Vibration Intervention Did Not Enhance Bone Adaptation in Healthy Young Females, Charles H. Negus, Rachel K. Evans, Mark E. Lester, Amanda Antczak, Kathleen Galloway. San Diego CA USA; Natick MA USA; Natick Massachusetts USA; Nashville Tennessee USA
- Controlled whole body vibration to decrease fall risk and improve health-related quality of life of nursing home residents, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Volume 86, Issue 2 , Pages 303-307, February 2005, Olivier Bruyere et al.
- Effect of whole-body vibration exercise and muscle strengthening, balance, and walking exercises on walking ability in the elderly. The Keio Journal of Medicine, Vol. 56, 28-33 (2007). Kazuhiro Kawanabe, Akira Kawashima, Issei Sashimoto, Tsuyoshi Takeda, Yoshihiro Sato and Jun Iwamoto.
For more information, check out my Osteoporosis Guidelines.