Bone Density and Whole Body Vibration – PART 1

Bone density and whole body vibration therapy, does it work?

Bone density and whole body vibration. Fitness facilities have been promoting this vibration technology as a solution to osteoporosis. Users of whole body vibration platforms stand on a platform/surface that shakes/vibrates. Some platforms move in as up/down motion, and others vibrate in a side-to-side motion, and even still some a mixture of both. There is a multitude health claims associated with these devices, with increased bone density being one. The claims suggest that the vibration of the platform forces the individual standing on the platform to absorb many times their own body weight. As stated in other articles on the Osteoporosis Institute site, high forces placed on the body, especially those of forces beyond, or multiples of bodyweight can greatly increase bone mass density.

The level of force seems to be relative to the condition of the individual in question. For example, a healthy female in her 40’s, who engages in athletic activity and has low bone mass, may need three to four times her bodyweight to effect bone mass density, whereas a female in her 80’s may need far less force/loading to create a positive change as her bone mass is far lower in density. Whole body vibration was first used with Russian Cosmonauts returning from extended time in space. Their bone mass was severely compromised, and may have had some similarity to that of the older female example described above.

Photo credit: Creative Commons – happy_serendipity

Recent studies and reports have shown that the evidence is weak in support of claims that bone density and whole body vibration can have a positive relationship. A November 2011 study was published showing 202 postmenopausal females separated into use and control groups. The whole body vibration group showed no change in bone density after one year compared with the control group.

The vibrations cause increased muscular activity in balancing the body on an unstable surface and can be applicable to a fall prevention plan (to lower fracture risk), as balance is increased over time. This can make these platforms excellent for fall prevention.

Reference:

Slatkoyska L, Alibhai SMH, Beyene J, et al. Effect of 12 months of whole-body vibration therapy on bone density and structure in postmenopausal women. Ann Intern Med. 2011; 155(10);668-679.

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