After approximately 18 months of reading, contemplating and theorizing, over 6 months of tests and trials on over 100 willing participants in the form of physical therapy patients, and one inspirational debate on this site, I determined that it was time for me to sit down and organize my thoughts and experiences thus far with vibration therapy.
I am presenting these thoughts and experiences to you, fellow vibration enthusiasts; thoughts and experiences brought about through careful analysis and cautious experimentation. My intention here is to do nothing more than provoke thought and encourage further discussion on the present and future applications of vibration THERAPY.
For the research obsessed readers, before the smoke billows out of your ears, note that I do fully realize that most of what I am presenting here is not indisputably backed by research nor am I suggesting that anyone else utilize my methods without carefully considering whether these methods are appropriate for their individual clinical situations. In the words of fellow forum visitor Larry Leigh,
In the end result, even though health professionals preach evidence-based practice, they all use methods and techniques which WORK FOR THEM. They cannot always produce 10 research studies which back up that particular technique.
I am aware that my usage of a whole body vibration platform for therapy may be considered too experimental by some, but it is not without thought, experience, and consideration of well established scientific principles. In the words of the Seneca Indian tribe, It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult. The only way to continue to evolve the science and legitimacy of these amazing devices is to continuously ask yourself, what if?.
As a Physical Therapist, I spend a great deal of time manipulating my patients bodies. Through successful manipulation of their musculoskeletal system, lymphatic system, circulatory system, and nervous system, I am able to reduce pain, encourage tissue healing, restore efficient movement, strengthen their bodies, and promote long term health and wellness.
Throughout my 10 years working with patients it has been the nervous system that has proven to be the most challenging of all to manipulate and it is because of this difficulty that I became interested in whole body vibration (WBV) and the concept of vibration therapy.
Initially, I only viewed WBV as a select means to utilize the nervous system, via the stretch reflex, to rapidly strengthen my patients weak muscles and in doing so, improve their motor function. Having done little research at the time, I did not realize how many other potential benefits it could potentially provide to my patients; benefits that I will discuss in more detail later. Finally, after reading through as much of the research and information as possible, spending hours browsing through posts on this site, trying out several platforms, and speaking with several WBV manufacturer representatives, I chose a Hypergravity platform (not a plug I swear!), typed up my WBV waiver, and prepared to revolutionize my practice.
Well, it didnt quite go as planned! When it came time to use it with my patients initially, I found myself questioning whether a majority of my patients were appropriate candidates for vibration therapy. What was the reason behind this hesitation you ask? They all shared a common feature .they were in PAIN! I had become so consumed with the idea of strengthening that I failed to realize that most people at the strengthening phase of their therapy program were already used to other forms of exercise and were therefore less pliable to newer, unfamiliar forms of strengthening.
It was the patients in the early phase of treatment that needed to be introduced to vibration therapy and I couldnt quite figure out how to do that without potentially flaring them up and forcing them to run for the hills. My inexperience, fears of malpractice suits, and the difficulty finding reliable information on vibration therapy began to quickly overpower my drive to provide a new, unique, and potentially beneficial form of treatment to my patients. Fortunately, one of my patients, a pain management researcher at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York, reintroduced me to the Gate Control Theory.
By applying this theory, I realized that the vibratory feedback of the machine itself could be the key to not only introducing my patients to vibration therapy gently, but to creating immediate reductions in their pain levels therefore allowing them to further progress and eventually experience the many other benefits of vibration therapy. The benefits presented so clearly in the previous articles on this site. After success with several patients, I developed a vibration therapy progression that has, thus far, proven quite helpful in efficiently and thoroughly rehabilitating my patients; no matter what their needs be.
Next week I’ll define Gate Control Theory and explain how this theory is used in relation with WBV to help my patients.
Written By Gabriel Ettenson, MS, PT