Multiple Sclerosis and Whole Body Vibration Treatment
Numerous studies, including a new meta-analysis, have explored the use of whole body vibration treatment for people with multiple sclerosis. Does this nondrug, noninvasive approach have a place in an MS treatment plan?
Whole body vibration is a therapeutic approach that has been used for a variety of medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, chronic low back pain, and osteoporosis. It involves using a vibrating platform on which participants can sit, stand, or lie down. NASA has been known to use vibration therapy to help prevent muscle loss in astronauts.
For people with multiple sclerosis, typically participants are asked to stand and maintain a static pose or engage in exercises. As the platform vibrates, it forces the muscles to contract and relax many times per second. Up and down vibrations are believed to be the most effective for causing muscle contractions.
Studies of whole body vibration and MS
In a study published by the Multiple Sclerosis Trust, the investigators found that use of this approach over a three-month period, along with traditional exercises, was more beneficial than exercise alone in reducing pain and muscle spasms. Generally, the participants reported they had fewer spasms at night, better quality of sleep, improved sensation in their feet, and were better able to climb stairs.
In a review published in 2012, an investigative team reviewed five studies (total patients, 71) to determine the effects of whole-body vibration on individuals with MS. Two of the studies had no control group, which limited the validity of the results.
Overall, the experts found that some research has shown patients to experience a significant improvement in muscle strength, functional mobility, and in the get-up-and-go test. Although the authors suggested further, larger studies be conducted, they also noted that whole-body vibration could help some patients with MS.
A Cochrane Review published in 2012 was less positive. In this review, the authors looked at ten trials, six that involved Parkinson’s disease patients and four including MS patients. The reviewers reported there was “insufficient evidence of the effect of WBV [whole-body vibration] training on functional performance of neurodegenerative disease patients,” although they did recommend more studies be done before “a definitive recommendation” is made.
In a randomized controlled trial, 60 individuals with MS were assigned to an intervention group (whole body vibration three times a week for three weeks) or a control group. During vibration sessions, individuals performed a series of three 60-second exercise sets that increased in amplitude.
At the end of the three week period, those who participated in the vibration therapy showed a significant improvement in the 6-minute walk compared with baseline than did the control group. They also improved on the sit-to-stand test, get-up-and-go test, and the 10-meter walk test.
Vibration therapy along with progressive resistance training were evaluated during an eight-week study to determine their effect on strength and ambulatory function. The 24 female patients with MS were randomly assigned to participate in either an exercise group or to a control group (no intervention).
The women in the exercise group completed one set of 5 to 12 reps, rested for 5 to 10 minutes, and then did six postures on a vibration platform. All the study participants were tested for balance, walking speed, and various strength indicators.
After eight weeks, those in the vibration group demonstrated a significant increase in several muscle groups (knee extensors, abduction of the scapula, downward rotation scapular) as well as left and right leg balance, but a small decrease (9.3%) in the 10-meter walk test. Overall, the authors concluded that “this type of training can cause improvements in muscle strength and functional capacity in patients with multiple sclerosis.”
Whole-body vibration is a noninvasive treatment option available for individuals who have multiple sclerosis. Studies have revealed some conflicting results, so anyone who is considering this approach is encouraged to do their own investigating and talk with people who have experienced this therapy.
Eftekhari E et al. Resistance training and vibration improve muscle strength and functional capacity in female patients with multiple sclerosis. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine 2012 Dec; 3(4): 279-84
Hilgers C et al. Effect of whole-body vibration training on physical function in patients with multiple sclerosis. NeuroRehabilitation 2013; 32(3): 655-63
Rabert MS et al. Whole-body vibration training for patients with neurodegenerative disease. Cochrane Review 2012 Feb 15 online
Santos-Filho SD et al. Benefits of whole-body vibration with an oscillating platform for people with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review. Multiple Sclerosis International 2012(2012); 274728
Schyns F et al. Vibration therapy in multiple sclerosis: a pilot study exploring its effects on tone, muscle force, sensation and functional performance. Clinical Rehabilitation 2009 Sep; 23(9): 771-81