In my previous article, I discussed the first two of four phases of a Vibration Therapy treatment protocol.
The final stages of this protocol include the flexibility and strengthening phases; usually occurring simultaneously.
In an effort to avoid redundancy on subject matter covered so thoroughly in previous articles written for this site, I would rather move on and turn my attention to the central nervous system while pondering the question, what is all this vibration doing to our brains?
Vibration and Stress
Many studies over the years have suggested that vibration, imposed on the human body through an external device, is an example of a harmful mechanical stress on the body, and can therefore have a significantly negative impact. In this case, as many individuals might think, the word stress is used to describe, as defined by Merriam -Webster, a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.
However, this word has many definitions and for the vibration training and vibration therapy devotees out there, those who have experienced the euphoric feeling of 2400 involuntary muscle contractions in 60 seconds, stress is better defined as a force exerted when one body or body part presses on, pulls on, pushes against, or tends to compress or twist another body or body part. It is through the POSITIVE impact on the central nervous system that this type of mechanical stress keeps my training clients and physical therapy patients hungering for more.
The Effects of Vibration on the Central Nervous System
So How is this form of stress responsible for the happiness some people experience as they laugh their way out the door from a WBV session; the freedom of movement that they speak about so often; the sudden burst of energy described by my clients in e-mails the day after using the Hypergravity platform; the ability my stiff arthritic patients have to bounce up the spiral staircase leading out of my building? On more than one occasion, I have even heard of enhanced psychic abilities no lie!
If their brains and spinal cords had a voice, I believe they would answer these questions with three words: Neurogenesis, Serotonin, and Endorphins. These three things, time and time again, have all been positively linked to exercise. Even better, they have all been linked through legitimate scientific research (and to think, here in NY, everyone wants rats to be exterminated!).
Neurogenesis refers to the creation of new nerves, and occurs in an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, the same region where learning and memory occur. The process of neurogenesis, according to researchers, has to do with exercise stress-induced formation of a brain protein (known as BDNF) whose job it is to not only create new neurons, but to protect the existing neurons and enhance communication between them (otherwise referred to as synaptic plasticity). It is through synaptic plasticity that all learning and memory can occur in the brain. This includes muscle memory and motor learning, two important concepts that are clearly enhanced through WBV.
Now, as BDNF levels rise in the brain, so do the levels of another brain protein referred to as SERT. I can happily say that this protein is responsible for increasing serotonin levels in the brain. For those who are unfamiliar with serotonin, it is a type of chemical, called a neurotransmitter, that is responsible for mood elevation, feelings of ecstasy, increased sexual desire and function, and improved sleep. What more can you ask for in life, I ask?–How about a runners high?
Runners high is a term used to describe what is otherwise known as an endorphin rush. Endorphins are chemicals released by the pituitary gland in response to stress (theres that word again) or pain. In general, it takes up to 30 minutes to release endorphins through traditional exercise, but with more intense hyperstimulation of the central nervous system, such as that with vibration training, this release occurs much more quickly. Once released, endorphins do everything from blocking pain to creating a sense of euphoria or exhilaration. Interestingly enough, endorphins bind to the same receptors in the brain as heroin and morphine (anyone ever heard the term addicted from their clients?) and by blocking pain, it is theorized that this is what allows for the continued presence of serotonin in the brain. See the connections here everyone?
Although more research is still required, there is a clear potential connection between whole body vibration, increased central nervous system stress, relief from pain, mood elevation and exhilaration, and, most importantly, neurological brilliance. These are just a few more bullets on the growing list of benefits of vibration training and vibration therapy. They are also just a few more reasons that we need to keep fighting to establish its legitimacy, and hopefully open everyones eyes, and brains, to its incomparable value.
Written by Gabriel Ettenson, MS, PT. He is the owner of Equilibrium Physical Therapy in New York City. He can be reached through equilibriumpt.com.