There is ongoing interest in the Australian MS
Social Media about vibration therapy.
Originating from the aerospace industry to combat muscle degeneration
arising from 'weightless' environments vibration therapy is now
increasingly used by fitness and rehabilitation practitioners in a
variety of settings. Watch
a ''must view" video on this topic.
VIBRATION ENHANCED EXERCISE
- YOU HAVE TO "Feel it to Believe it"
Shortly stated, the physiological basis behind the therapy is simple:
vibration platforms vibrate up and down over a distance of a few
millimeters, up to 50 times per second, thereby naturally stimulating
the stretch reflex to, in turn, create an involuntary muscle
contraction. Originally commercialised for use in a sport and fitness
environment it is gaining recognition as a rehabilitation aid for people
with a range of disabilities. The vibration 'energy' is transferred from
the platform via a range techniques. The most common of these is by
standing or lying on the platform, via arm straps (upper body work) or
combinations thereof. Within one minute, a patient can undergo up to
3,000 muscle contractions. This involuntary stretch reflex leads to the
many benefits that vibration exercise therapy can provide.
Vibration exercise therapy is well suited as an
engaging in a
due to physical
from 20 minutes
compared to an
simply not able
Strength and flexibility training can initially be done in
static, pain free range of motions. Patient populations reported to have
benefited from this include those with multiple sclerosis, fibro myalgia,
spinal cord injury, osteoporosis, and Parkinson’s Disease, to name a few
visit the Canadian Chiropractor
for more background information.
While many people with MS are not able to effectively engage in ‘conventional'
it is reported that appropriately supervised vibration therapy
can be a
great help. Examples include maintaining/restoring muscle
recovering from exacerbations, wheelchair applicability and general well
being. This document brings together some examples, including
references, whereby people with MS identify benefits from this
innovative and adaptable technology.
SIDE STEPPING THE BRAIN
In July 2009 Rachael Mason,
from the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at Massey
University, New Zealand, provided a presentation to the Australasian
Rehabilitation Conference in relation to a study at Massey that
addressed the issue of diminished neural input to facilitate muscle
In discussing the
study Rachael said, “We wanted to apply
to a group who could benefit the most,
People with MS, because they can't use
their muscles in a fully co-ordinated
way, often don't get any physical
activity. Some of the health problems
they end up with are, in fact, related
to the fact they are not exercising so
there is real potential for these
people.” Rachael conducted the study as
her Masters of Science Exercise
Physiology project. -
purpose of this study was firstly to investigate whether
8 weeks of whole body vibration (WBV) training was an
acceptable form of exercise for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
patients and secondly what effect may it have on
measures of functional capacity. This is believed to be
one of the first studies to investigate WBV as an
exercise training modality for MS patients.
The study was supported through
funding from the Palmerston North Medical Research
The study supervisor Dr Steve Stannard said ''the trial
was devised to see whether side-to-side alternating
vibration therapy was able to assist MS sufferers, who
often became unable to move their muscles normally due
to damage caused in the central nervous system''. Dr Stannard went on to say that
''the vibration stimulus is thought to cause a reflex
contraction of muscle so in MS patients this might be
therapeutic - it's a way of
side-stepping the brain
and making the muscles contract'
Fifteen MS participants volunteered for WBV training
three times a week on a commercialised Galileo Sport™
vibration machine with an oscillating platform.
Training consisted of two four week blocks based on an
increasing stimulus training programme (overload
The first fours weeks involving five sets of 1-min WBV
with 1-min rest in between with increasing vibration
frequency (15-25Hz, 2.6mm-4.1mm amplitude); the second
four weeks training increased to eight sets of 1-min WBV
(15-20Hz, 6.1mm amplitude).
Functional performance measures (Timed up and Go, Standing
Balance, Functional Reach and Timed walk) and quality of
life questionnaire (SF-36)
were conducted prior to training, at 4 weeks, 8 weeks
and 2 weeks (10wk) following the completion of the
Results and Conclusions:
The 10m walk test showed significant improvements at the
2m, 8m and 10m measure between pre vs. 8wk (P<0.05) and
pre vs.10wk (P<0.05).
Timed up and Go demonstrated a significant time effect (P<0.05).
Standing balance showed significant improvements at pre
and 4 week (p<0.05) and pre and 10 week (p<0.05). This
is one of the first studies to investigate WBV as an
exercise training modality for MS patients.
It was shown that not only is WBV training safe,
well tolerated by MS patients but it also improved
standing balance and walking speed in MS patients.
about this study.
While some earlier research on this topic at the Department of Physical
Medicine and Rehabilitation, Medical University of Vienna, Austria was
published in 2005 the Massey study appears to be more comprehensive in
its scope and the ways it sets out to translate the outcomes into 'real
word' environments -
click here to read the Austrian study
and some related references.
BUILDING UPON THE SUCCESS OF THE MASSEY STUDY
Dr Lucas Dreyer says the study involving whole body vibration was a
success and the therapy will be added to the programmes of clients with
a more advanced form of the disease.
LEARNING FROM THE MASSEY MODEL
meaningful exercise regime in one's
lifestyle is a long term commitment for
pwMS. Professional guidance in
formulating and revising plans
appropriate to individual needs is
important. Programs that include options
to participate in group activity
(involving other pwMS) are an important
aspect of the NZ experience. The
involvement of the MS Society as a
partner in the process helps to engender
'unity of purpose'. Institutional
assistance strengthens professional
cultures relating to the importance of
exercise for pwMS and may also address
some cost issues.
Performance standards (based upon reasonable
expectations) need to be both quantitative and qualitative - the
importance of enhancing quality of life perceptions was recognised in
the NZ trial. Incorporating an element of 'try before you buy' helps to
minimise possible apprehension by potential participants - it also helps
to create awareness - the NZ vibration trial ran over an 8 week period
followed by an ongoing exercise program that also incorporated vibration
therapy. Private sector participation helps to establish broader based
long term service delivery. Vibration therapy can, as a starting point,
play an important role in strengthening and maintaining muscles at a
risk of atrophying through lack of regular and relevant use. You have to
feel it to believe it.
AUSTRALIAN FEEDBACK -
EMULATING NEW ZEALAND'S APPROACH?
As best understood, neither study examined ways in which vibration
benefits could best be translated to people with MS in wheelchairs and
who may not be able to stand on vibration platforms. There also did not
appear to be any significant attention placed upon ways in which the
vibration process can be used to enhance upper body strength for those
in wheelchairs. Both of these aspects were subsequently
(2009 to 2012), to
good effect, by members of the Northern Rivers (Australia) MS Support
Group, in association with two regional gyms who incorporated vibration
therapy into their programs.
PEOPLE IN WHEELCHAIRS - MODIFIED VIBRATION APPROACHES MAY BE NEEDED
experimentation and innovation took place in transferring vibration
energy to people in appropriately
supported wheelchairs. Common practices included placing the
feet on the vibration platform and applying downward knee pressure and
the use of straps to transfer vibrations via the arms.
Also highly effective was
for wheelchairs to be 'backed' against the
vibration platform and pressure applied to the knees - forcing the chair
wheels against the platform (solid tyres only and not electric
wheelchairs or scooters) -.this allows the vibrations to travel via the
tyres of the wheelchair through all parts of the body in direct contact
with the chair, i.e the lower back and upper leg area. Gripping the
rubber tyres while this is happening provides a great hand and arm
workout. In addition to stimulating blood flow and muscle tone this is
reported by many to be a great body massage. Good back support and
seating is essential for both comfort and the maintenance of vibration
The specialist vibrogym trainers included
relocated to Melbourne (Caulfield South)
All wheelchair work should be on a 'one to one' basis with an
experienced vibration practitioner who can tailor your program to your
circumstances. For those considering the use of this therapy it is
recommended that you share this document with your practitioner. If in
doubt consider asking your GP to provide a referral to a
physiotherapist/exercise physiologist for the purpose of developing
programs specific to your needs.
More broadly, it would be great if Australia could
emulate the NZ model whereby MS Australia partnered with educational
institutions and service providers to provide access to exercise
environments for pwMS that incorporate vibration therapy.
It is understood that until quite recently it was available through the South Australian
let us know If are aware of other
practitioners or organisations whose first hand experience in this
aspect of MS might similarly assist others.
ELECTRONIC STIMULATION ENHANCES BLOOD
In March 2015
reported on a "revolutionary new exercise system to help people
with multiple sclerosis (MS) build muscle mass and improve their
physical health". This involves a specially adapted bicycle which uses electronic
stimulation to involuntarily activate the leg muscles to drive the
pedals, similar to methods used for spinal cord injuries. Lead researcher Dr Che Fornusek said
early trials had been positive for those who still have sensation in
their legs. Their leg muscles grew and the participants
reported better blood flow, better skin and their legs felt better", Larger muscle mass in itself is
important because it has an effect on the central metabolism - a decent muscle mass can give protection from
metabolic diseases like diabetes. Through a continuation of the study,
it is hoped to determine whether increased activity
might even slow the MS disease process.
SIGNIFICANCE OF MAINTAINING PROPER BLOOD FLOW
examples highlight the
importance of maintaining a healthy vascular system
whereby blood flows
throughout the body - a situation that can be
progressively and significantly diminished in many people with multiple
The examples identify two (of
several) differing forms of "external"
approaches to enhancing muscle
integrity by stimulating blood flow.
The duration and extent of the benefits described likely depends upon the nature of these
irregularities (as related to blood flow) and possible associated
neurodegeneration. In all probability enduring relief may also depend upon
addressing these underlying issues - the most
common of which is Chronic Cerebro Spinal Vascular Insufficiency (CCSVI)
In the frontiers
of Brian Science there are a growing
number of reports about how neural
pathways can be side-stepped by
alternate stimuli with the aim of
improving functionality. Many of these
reports also observe a capability of the
brain (termed brain plasticity), over
time, to develop new pathways that
recognise this improved functionality.
The publication The Brain
that Changes Itself - Norman Doidge MD
provides details of many case histories.
is about the discovery that the human brain
can change itself, as told through the stories of the scientists,
doctors, and patients who have together brought about the
transformations documented in the book. This overview of the relevance
of vibration based of exercise for PwMs would be lacking if readers were
not also encouraged to
about developments in this field of research.