Vibration Therapy Offers Significant Chronic Pain Relief
If you suffer from chronic pain, you may find significant relief from a relatively new type of therapy: vibration. University of Florida researchers report that vibration therapy may provide a drug-free, low-cost approach to pain relief for people who live with chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia.
Chronic pain may respond to good vibrations
Touch, in its many forms such as rubbing, massage, therapeutic touch, acupressure, among others, has long been known to provide comfort and relief from pain. Vibration is a different kind of touch that is currently being used in some rehabilitation facilities to treat a variety of conditions, including arthritis, back pain, multiple sclerosis, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, and more.
In the current study, the University of Florida researchers applied pain-inducing heat to the forearms of three groups of volunteers: those with fibromyalgia, those with neck and head pain, and those without pain. These three groups were chosen because people who suffer with fibromyalgia and migraine are less efficient at inhibiting pain than are some other individuals.
After applying the heat, the researchers then administered high-frequency vibration to the skin and deep tissues of the arms of all the participants. The volunteers in all three groups experienced a 40 percent reduction in pain when vibration therapy was applied.
According to Roland Staud, MD, professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University’s College of Medicine, this finding is important for several reasons, including the ability of vibration to provide a significant pain relief effect, and “that it is not associated with great cost.” Staud also pointed out that “this is the first time a nonpainful stimulus has been found to have such an effect in fibromyalgia patients.”
Experts are uncertain why vibration therapy provides this level of relief. Distraction does not seem to be a factor; although about half the participants said the vibration was distracting, people who were not distracted reported the same level of relief as did those who were distracted.
Proximity seems to have a role, however. In another set of tests, the researchers applied heat to one arm and vibration to the opposite arm. In these cases, pain relief was not as significant compared to when vibration was administered to the heat-treated arm.
Results from previous animal studies suggest vibration may inhibit transmission of pain signals from the body to the central nervous system. Further research in humans will hopefully uncover how and why vibration therapy relieves pain and help more individuals who live with chronic pain.