Local Vibration Therapy Benefits - Muscle

Local Vibration Therapy Benefits - Muscle

Muscular Effects & Benefits

One of the primary uses for vibration therapy is the augmentation of athletic and fitness regimens or recovery. The reason for this is the significant benefits that the muscles receive from this technology. Some of these include increased muscle strength, reducing soreness, and increasing flexibility.

It is important to note that the majority of studies review the effects of localized vibrational therapy in conjunction with standard training programs. However, this is not always the case, as some research has shown immediate benefits of this type of vibration therapy when compared with controls.

The effect that vibrational therapy has on the muscles is known as tonic vibration reflex, or TVR. This is the reaction of the muscles to the vibration with reflexive contractions [1]. This has been confirmed with electromyographic activity, or the measure of electrical activity in muscle, which has been seen to increase during the application of vibration [2][32].

The reaction of the muscles occurs because the vibrations are able to selectively stimulate muscle spindles (sensory neurons) which then trigger other neurons which are involved in generating contractions to fire [1][2][6].

The activation of alpha-motoneurons by the muscle spindles is assumed to have an increased signal range, meaning it allows for greater activation than would normally be produced [1]. This would account for the increase in muscle strength and flexibility as a result of vibration therapy.

Muscle spindles are mechanosensory neurons located directly within muscle fibers and are responsible for detecting muscle length changes during contractions or stretching, and then sending this signal along to the spinal cord and brain [33].

Alpha motor neurons are responsible for initiating muscle contractions, and more of these are required for finer motor control (for example the fingers have a larger density of these neurons) [34].

Muscle strength

One of the incredible benefits of local vibration therapy is that of increasing muscle strength through the TVR effect. The most effective application of local vibration is likely in tandem with standard muscle strength training, working synergistically [35].

One study reviewed the effects of local vibratory stimulation on target muscle groups in 28 healthy male athletes. This study occurred over 3 weeks and found that vibration therapy was able to increase maximum strength by nearly 50%, vs conventional strength training with 16% gain, and the control group experiencing no gain [36]. Another study in non-athlete women ages 66-88 with training performed over 6 months, muscle strength was seen to increase 13.8% over the control group [37].

Another study reviewed the more immediate effects of vibration therapy on elite athletes and non-athletes, and each group saw around a 10% increase in maximum power in bicep curls [38].

Flexibility

Local vibration has also been shown to significantly increase muscle flexibility [39][40].

One study lasting 3 weeks resulted in participants receiving vibration therapy seeing a gain in flexibility more than 3 times conventional training (gain of 14.5cm vs 4.1cm), and more than 7 times the control group (gain of 14.5cm vs 2cm) [36].

Another study of 43 college students tested the immediate effect of local vibration on spinal flexibility, sit-and-reach ability, and lower extremity range of motion. A total of three sessions were observed. The researchers found a significant advantage for local vibration therapy at each session in all measurements except the sit-and-reach test [41].

Muscle Soreness & Recovery Post-Exercise

Research indicates that local vibration therapy is able to reduce muscle damage from exercise and improve recovery, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and reduce stiffness post exercise.

One group of researchers tested the effects of local vibration on blood flow and oxygenation on wrist exercises. They found that vibration was able to increase the speed of muscle oxygenation after depletion and help to maintain muscle strength after repeated exercise. The researchers believe that the improved oxygenation from the vibration is what contributed to the effects on muscle strength, providing the muscles with a steady supply of oxygen rich blood containing essential energy. They concluded that this also indirectly indicated increased blood flow, as blood flow was not directly measured [42].

In another study, researchers reviewed the effects of both massage and vibration therapy on DOMS and muscle recovery. They found that 5 minutes of vibration therapy and 15 minutes of massage were equal in their ability to prevent DOMS, and vibration was able to significantly reduce the levels of both lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and creatine kinase 48 hours after exercise [43].

LDH generally correlates with lactic acid levels [44] which is a byproduct of muscle use and accumulates during exercise, while creatine kinase is a biomarker of muscle damage seen post exercise.

A study of 30 healthy males saw a significant improvement in time to fatigue of the quadriceps after a 2-minute session of local vibration therapy [45].

Another study in downhill running found that locally applied vibration therapy to the upper and lower legs had a significant effect on perceived pain due to DOMS and on the immune inflammatory response. Calf and gluteal pain were reduced by 50% at 96 hours post run, and by 30% at 120 hours post run. Pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 (-46%) and histamine (-40%) were reduced at 24 hours and 120 hours post run, while neutrophils were found to increase [46].

IL-6 and histamine both play a key role in the inflammatory response and particularly after exercise [47].  Neutrophils are also a primary player in the immune response and are released in response to muscle damage from exercise and are tasked with cleaning up bacteria or damaged tissue [48].

 

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