Whole Body Vibration for Lower Back Pain

Whole Body Vibration for Lower Back PainThere are many reasons people experience “low back pain” or “lumbago.” Among the more common sources are:

• Intense Physical Trauma: car accident, fall, lifting heavy weights.
• Emotional Trauma: anxiety and depression.
• Overuse: poor posture, excess exercising.
• Underuse: long hours sitting at work, inactive lifestyle ***

*** Underuse leads to weakness and results in overuse when being active.

Regardless of the cause, on the physical body level, the result of these different types of Trauma is localized or generalized pain and inflammation. These two processes, associated with efforts by the body to “heal” the injured tissue and restore balance to the body, have an inhibitory effect and can result in the following physical effects:

• Muscle Weakness and Insufficiency
• Scar Tissue Formation and Joint Fibrosis
• Metabolic Waste Buildup and Trigger Point Formation
• Muscle Spasm or Guarding (resulting in loss of motion)
• Compensatory Movement

To go one step further, these effects, if left unattended and untreated, can result in central sensitization (a major source of chronic pain and pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia), disuse atrophy, psychological stress causing or adding to anxiety and depression, and long term disability.

Research has already shown and continues to demonstrate in more recent studies WBV can be very useful in reducing low back pain while also improving strength. As the growing list of “remedies” continues to disappoint the masses, it is vital to embrace new approaches; WBV being at the top of this new list.

*Please note that it is a pivotal vibration that has been shown to be most effective in the research.

So let’s look at the problems listed above and discuss how WBV can help.

Whole Body Vibration for Lower Back Pain infographic

a) Muscle Weakness and Insufficiency – When exposed to medium to high acceleration levels, muscles will be forced to contract reflexively. They do this as a means to dampen the vibration throughout the muscle.
(Note – NO research supports these effects on low acceleration platforms)

As a result of these forced contractions, the brain makes use of more muscle fibers and thus produces a rapid muscle-building effect. Even further, the rapid speed by which the muscle contracts help to increase muscle power and therefore enhances efficiency. Lastly, the importance of the higher acceleration levels is to simulate the earth’s gravity and thus assist the individual in developing strength for their daily activities.

b) Scar Tissue Formation and Joint Fibrosis – Scar tissue formation is a normal response to inflammation. However, if left unchecked, it produces irreversible changes to the connective tissue. On the level of the joints, these changes result in “fibrosis.” Fibrosis prevents movement and can cause severe disability and physical limitations.

Through exposure to WBV during the healing process, scar tissue is prevented from forming; the low-grade oscillations provided to the tissue help prevent the scar tissue from forming in a way that offers the least interference to the normal movement of the tissue undergoes on a day to day basis.

c) Metabolic Waste Buildup and Trigger Point Formation – One of the byproducts of tissue trauma and injury is the production of pain chemicals, cytokines, and other “metabolic waste” products. Typically, these waste products are removed through healthy circulation and oxygen delivery as part of the healing process. When this process is not allowed to occur, it causes a buildup and the formation of painful trigger points.

To remove trigger points and the metabolic waste causing them, it is essential to restore healthy circulation and oxygen delivery to the tissue. A rapid circulatory effect is achieved through both the vibration effects on the muscle (shaking and releasing) and the muscle contractions caused by medium to high acceleration WBV (tensing and tightening). Therefore metabolic waste is flushed out of the system. That reduces trigger points and the pain associated with them.

d) Muscle Spasm or Guarding – To simplify things, we will say that muscle spasms and muscle guarding (or “splinting”), although quite different, are typical of concern because they result in pain with movement and, when untreated, the loss of movement. Although they are intermingled with the above issues, they are of utmost concern because they can have rapid deleterious effects on function during the activities of daily living.

Through the effects of WBV on the issues mentioned above, the restoration of muscle function, and the improved communication between the muscles and the brain, both muscle spasm and guarding can be eliminated. That reduces the muscle’s resistance to movement and the individual’s pain levels. The result is improved movement and function and a better quality of life.

Whole Body Vibration for Lower Back Pain infographic

e) Compensation – When any of the above issues exists, the body quickly learns to “lean on” other areas to compensate and carry out the movement. While this can be quite beneficial from a pain standpoint, it quickly becomes wired into the system and eventually leads to the overuse of other tissues. That leads to further Trauma and loss of function.

Using WBV to improve flexibility and improve strength can rapidly restore balance to the body and eliminate compensations that have developed as a result of pain. That prevents further overuse of the adjacent tissues and reduces the possibility that these movement strategies get wired into the brain. Once there, they can be tough to eliminate.

While there are many other ways in which WBV can help with low back pain, the above mechanisms represent the most effective means by which WBV can benefit the individual. With the right program and professional guidance, this unique modality will undoubtedly pave the way for the future treatment of low back pain.