Do Vibration Machines Build Healthy Bones?
Your bones are living tissue that require movement and exercise to remain healthy.¹
But besides from traditional exercise, what else is out there? Many believe that there are machines which we can use to make our bones stronger. But where did this idea come from?
The Daily Stress Stimulus Theory
This theory proposes that daily stress stimulus on your bones can help to achieve bone gain. It proposes that a high cycle number and low magnitude stimulation may be sufficient for maintaining bone mass. And strain frequency may be an additional factor critical to the process of bone adaptation.²⁻³
The Daily Stress Stimulus Theory, and similar ways of thinking, have lead to the popularisation of whole body vibration (WBV) machines. These devices work like this: you stand on something that looks like a weight scale. The machine delivers vibrations in a combination of intensity and speed. These vibrations make your muscles work, and improves your bone strength.
But studies looking at the effects of WBV on bone health among older adults and postmenopausal women form an inconclusive opinion.
Let’s look at both sides…
Studies reported findings suggesting that WBV may represent an effective non-pharmacological intervention for preventing a decline in bone mass density (BMD) or for increasing or maintaining BMD in populations with below-normal BMD or osteoporosis.
Here are two of those studies:
One was, “Effect of 6-Month Whole Body Vibration Training on Hip Density, Muscle Strength, and Postural Control in Postmenopausal Women,” conducted in 2004.⁴
The results showed no vibration-related side effects. But more interestingly, they found that the vibrations improved isometric and dynamic muscle strength, and also significantly increased BMD of the hip
Their findings suggest that WBV training may be a feasible and effective way to modify risk factors for falls and fractures in older women.
The second study was “Low-Frequency Vibratory Exercise Reduces The Risk of Bone Fracture More Than Walking: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” conducted in 2006.⁵
The results of the study showed that after 8 months, BMD at the femoral neck in the WBV group increased by 4.3% compared to a group that exercised by walking alone. Balance was improved in the WBV group by 29% compared to the walking group.
These results suggest that the 8-month course of vibratory exercise was feasible and more effective than only walking to improve two major determinants of bone fractures: hip BMD and balance.
But other studies disagreed:
One study looking at the effect of WBV exercise on lumbar bone mineral density, bone turnover, and chronic back pain in postmenopausal osteoporotic women found that there were no significant differences in lumbar BMD after use of WBV.⁶
While subjects did report that WBV exercise did reduce back pain, they found that any increases in lumbar BMD were similar to those in the control groups.
A second study from 2004 looked at whether low-magnitude, high-frequency mechanical stimuli from WBV helped prevent postmenopausal bone loss.⁷
They reported the WBV machine failed to support any changes in bone density.
So, what are the safety concerns?
Given that older adults and individuals with physical impairments are at a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects from WBV stimuli, it’s important to speak to your doctor if you’re thinking about trying WBV machines.
WBV machine manufacturers are subject to FDA guidelines stating that individuals who have one of the following conditions should not partake in WBV training:⁸⁻¹¹
- kidney or bladder stones
- epilepsy or seizures
- a pacemaker
- untreated orthostatic hypotension
- recent implants (joint/corneal/cochlear, etc.)
- recent surgery
- recently placed intrauterine devices or pins
- acute thrombosis or hernia
- acute rheumatoid arthritis
- serious cardiovascular disease
- severe diabetes
“I have osteoporosis. Will vibration therapy help my bones?”
There is evidence for both sides of the argument. So if you’re keen to try a vibration machine, you need consider the pros and cons:
WBV therapy may be beneficial as part of a falls prevention program, and studies we discussed above did find that WBV provided some benefit for bone density.
However, vibrations may be detrimental to the spinal bones if they are very fragile. If you have very severe osteoporosis, you’d need to be careful when using the machine, and also when getting on and off. And based on the varied results reported in the literature, we’re reluctant to conclude that WBV would be beneficial for everyone.
That’s why it’s really important to discuss consult your doctor or physiotherapist prior to using a vibration machine.
Increasing bone density – what works?
Researchers have different opinions and there isn’t a clear answer about the effectiveness of WBV. But I’m excited to see what new research uncovers.
But right now, we’re better off sticking to what we know works.
And that includes doing weight bearing exercise suitable for your fitness level. It can be as simple as a nice walk or some yoga, or a little harder, like a bike ride or tennis. Doing light weights using a 2 kg dumbbell might not seem like much, but small things go a long way.
It also means eating a diet that is highly nutritious, taking care of your gut health to aid proper absorption, and continuing with your AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost to ensure your bones get the essential minerals they need.
AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost have been clinically proven to increase your bone density. It’s an indispensable part of a bone-building lifestyle.
Let us know if you’ve vibration machines before in the comments below. It’s a polarizing topic, but we’d love to hear your thoughts.
- Frost HM. Wolff’s Law and bone’s structural adaptations to mechanical usage: An overview for clinicians. Angle Orthod. 1994;64(3):175-88. [PMID: 8060014]
- Qin YX, Rubin CT, McLeod KJ. Nonlinear dependence of loading intensity and cycle number in the maintenance of bone mass and morphology. J Orthop Res. 1998;16(4): 482-89. [PMID: 9747791] DOI:10.1002/jor.1100160414
- McLeod KJ, Rubin CT. Sensitivity of the bone remodeling response to the frequency of applied strain. Trans Orthop Res Soc. 1992;17:533.
- Verschueren SM, Roelants M, Delecluse C, Swinnen S, Vanderschueren D, Boonen S. Effect of 6-month whole body vibration training on hip density, muscle strength, and postural control in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled pilot study. J Bone Miner Res. 2004; 19(3):352-59. [PMID: 15040822] DOI:10.1359/JBMR.0301245
- Gusi N, Raimundo A, Leal A. Low-frequency vibratory exercise reduces the risk of bone fracture more than walking: A randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2006;7:92. [PMID: 17137514] DOI:10.1186/1471-2474-7-92
- Iwamoto J, Takeda T, Sato Y, Uzawa M. Effect of whole-body vibration exercise on lumbar bone mineral density, bone turnover, and chronic back pain in post-menopausal osteoporotic women treated with alendronate. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2005;17(2):157-63. [PMID: 15977465]
- Rubin C, Recker R, Cullen D, Ryaby J, McCabe J, McLeod K. Prevention of postmenopausal bone loss by a low-magnitude, high-frequency mechanical stimuli: A clinical trial assessing compliance, efficacy, and safety. J Bone Miner Res. 2004;19(3):343-51. [PMID: 15040821] DOI:10.1359/JBMR.0301251
- Robling AG , Hinant FM, Burr DB, Turner CH. Shorter, more frequent mechanical loading sessions enhance bone mass. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002;34(2):196-202. [PMID: 11828225] DOI:10.1097/00005768-200202000-00003
- Whole Body Advanced Vibration Exercise [Internet]. Windsor (Canada): WAVE Manufacturing Inc; c2009 [updated 2009; cited 2008 Apr 1]. Available from:http://www.wavexercise.com/
- VibraFlex [Internet]. Naples (FL): Orthometrix, Inc; c2006-9 [updated 2009 Jun 1; cited 2009 Jan 15]. Available from: http://www.vibraflex.com/
- TurboSonic [Internet]. Hood River (OR): TurboSonic USA; c2007-8 [updated 2008; cited 2009 Jan 15]. Available from: http://www.turbosonicusa.com/