Low Intensity Vibration Therapy – How It Works
The mobility of the joints is restricted by the bones, flesh, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, along with the joint capsule that act to tie the various structures together and control movement. Abnormalities in any one of these tissues in the back can restrict movement, induce pain upon movement or when resting, and contribute to pathology in nearby tissues resulting in spinal stenosis. Low frequency cycloid vibration therapy is thought to act on muscle and joint receptors and produce a tonic vibration reflex, along with inducing relaxation in antagonist muscles and inhibition of other reflexes restricting mobility. Atha and Wheatley compared three different mobilising techniques to improve range of motion in the hip joint and, whilst they do stress the relative inability to generalise results across all joints, it may be that the joints in the spine would react similarly to the therapeutic interventions.
Does Low Frequency Vibration Therapy Improve Mobility?
Atha and Wheatley used a classical method of stretching exercise, a control (fifteen minutes of quiet seated rest), and a low frequency vibration therapy. The frequency was 44Hz and provided by Niagara Therapy (UK) Ltd., through vibration cushions that support the thighs and lumbar spine of a seated patient. The vibration level was considered comfortable and was applied for fifteen minutes for each subject in the trial. Interestingly the groups all improved in the first day and it was only on the second and third days of the trial that the treatment groups showed a significant difference to the control group. The study also concluded that the effects of a fifteen minute mobilising treatment with low intensity vibration therapy persisted for a full day after treatment. The authors demonstrated benefit of equal magnitude for joint mobility (in this case in the hips but with potential for spinal mobility) in those treated with classical stretching exercise and those receiving low frequency vibration therapy.