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While some frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum can be problematic, others can be healing, including visible light and infrared.

Sound, infrasound, and ultrasound technically reside on the same electromagnetic spectrum as well, though these are lower frequencies than visible light by orders of magnitude—and also, sound waves require a medium for transmission, while light can travel in a vacuum. But both light and sound are forms of energetic frequencies which can translate to therapeutic benefits.

Whole body vibration therapy is the translation of sound and infrasound (below the frequencies that you can hear with your ears) into vibration, at frequencies usually ranging from 1-100 Hz. There are some surprising health benefits conferred by such an approach.

How Whole Body Vibration Can Heal

There are quite a few mechanisms identified by which vibration can help the body to heal, but most of them boil down to helping the body do what it’s already designed to do, better—from vasodilation, increasing blood flow, to stimulating various parts of the brain that have become disconnected to talk to one another again, to helping tense tissues relax and stimulating weakened muscles and bones to grow. Ultimately, vibration at very low frequencies such as those in the infrasound and sound ranges seem to have an hormetic effect.

Vibration leads to increased cellular metabolism, circulation, and lymphatic flow, bringing the cells what they need for repair while helping with elimination of metabolic waste.

Specifically, vibration stimulates the endothelial cells of the blood vessels to release nitric oxide, leading to improved blood flow—and the healing is in the blood. In this study, nitric oxide release increased by 374% with vibration at 50 Hz in healthy controls, and 236% in diabetics (where we’d expect diminished blood flow). Not only that, but vibration has also been known to stimulate angiogenesis, or production of new blood vessels for increased circulation.

Pulsed vibrational frequencies also dramatically increase production of endogenous antioxidants as well.

Vibration even appears to stimulate the body to produce new mitochondria—particularly at 50 Hz in this study.

Whole Body Vibration Therapy for Neurological Conditions

In addition to the generalized body-wide benefits mentioned above, nitric oxide is known to trigger the production of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), which together can help protect the brain, and also help it to heal.

Vibration therapy also helps the body to make new neurological connections, and increases the flow of cerebrospinal fluid as well as elimination of metabolic waste within the brain. This is of course especially helpful for neurological conditions, since most detoxification agents can’t get past the blood brain barrier.

In many cases of neurological conditions, there is a disconnect between the thalamus (the main “manager” of the brain, connecting one part to another) and the cerebral cortex. Optimal oscillation between these regions is around 40 Hz in the cortex, and 10 Hz in the thalamus; however, dysrhythmia tends to shift all of these frequencies downward, a characteristic of Parkinson’s Disease, major depressive disorder and neurogenic central pain.

In general, whole body vibrational therapy (WBV) is associated with improved strength, proprioception, gait, and balance. Proprioception in particular seems to be sensitive to vibration, and it seems to enhance connectivity between the cortex and spinal motor neurons.

Parkinson’s Disease

This study shows improvement in tremor, rigidity, posture, and gait at 40 Hz.

This study used a whole body physioacoustic chair, and showed improvements in motor control, rigidity, tremor, step length, and speed.

A couple of studies showed that both 30 and 40 Hz were equally effective for neuromodulation in Parkinson’s.

Alzheimer’s Disease

This study shows that frequencies between 10-100 Hz improved new neuritis growth, with a peak at 40 Hz. This mouse study also suggests that the reason for this optimal frequency may be that it helps to clear out amyloid-β levels, and also increases activity of the microglia (the “trash collectors” of the brain).

This study also shows optimal benefit for those with Alzheimer’s Disease at 40 Hz, and this study also agrees.

Multiple Sclerosis

This study shows that WBV can improve walking endurance in MS patients. More studies for MS are needed.

Cerebral Palsy

This study showed that spasticity and motor function improved over a 3-month period in children with CP, lying on a vibration mat at 40 Hz.

Whole Body Vibration Therapy for Osteopenia and Osteoporosis

WBV is perhaps best known as an alternative therapy for osteopenia and osteoporosis, where the stress applied to the bones stimulates new bone growth. The vibration appears to stimulate bone-related stem cells, while inhibiting bone breakdown.

In this case too, 40 Hz seems to be the sweet spot, though animal models from 10-100 Hz have shown efficacy. Of course effects are better when combined with exercise.

There are some studies that suggest the effects of vibration upon bone depend upon estrogen levels, though—if estrogen is very low, these effects are potentially negligible.

Whole Body Vibration Therapy for Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia

In the case of some forms of chronic pain, the effects of vibration may go back to re-establishing appropriate oscillatory coherence (connections) in the brain, while modulating pain perception.

This study shows that Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) may be due to a mismatch in input and output to the cortex, and that vibratory stimulation would help to correct this. The study used 86 Hz, in this case only applied to the hand and wrist for 20 min per day for 10 weeks, and showed that pain decreased by 50% and range of motion improved by 30%.

This study shows that, again, 40 Hz seems to be beneficial specifically for patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

For those suffering from Degenerative Disc Disease, it appears that vibration increases production of the various building blocks the body needs in order to repair the discs themselves.

For those suffering back pain not related to the intervertebral discs, vibration delivered directly to the area in question decreases pain, and improves range of motion. This study used vibration in the 80-120 Hz range for the cervical spine, while this one found that 40 Hz and 80 Hz were best for the thoracic spine.

Whole Body Vibration Therapy for COPD

Vibration can also mechanically break up mucus, which can be beneficial for those with chronic bronchitis, and for increasing lung capacity in those with COPD who cannot exercise due to fatigue and breathing limitations.

Whole Body Vibration Therapy for Muscle Hypertrophy

Most WBV plates are marketed for those who are healthy and just looking to build more muscle mass, and it does work for this too.

This study shows that the vibration triggers the muscles to contract, and produces mechanical tension that can increase muscle mass, while helping to prevent muscle atrophy.

The Upshot

Whole Body Vibration can be more than just an addition to a gym routine. It’s especially promising for neurological conditions where few things can have much of a direct biochemical effect, due to the blood brain barrier—but it’s a great way to overall promote coherent connections in the brain, muscle and bone growth, lymphatic and circulatory flow, and even endogenous antioxidants and mitochondrial production. It’s another great tool in the hormetic toolbox.