May 23, 2018

Whole Body Vibration Therapy and the Central Nervous System

brain therapyIn 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 “runner’s high?”

“Runner’s 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 (there’s that word again) or pain. In general, it takes up to 30 minutes to release endorphins through traditional exercise, but with more intense “hyper”stimulation 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 everyone’s 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


  1. I completely agree. I have never felt more organized than the following hours after running through the program. Even though I added some humor to the stories of enhanced psychic abilities, I would have to imagine that it is probably the same mechanism. Definately a reflection of central nervous system activity, but the neurophysiological process, I would imagine, is quite complex. More fuel for future research.

  2. John Weatherly says:

    Again, excellent article Gabriel. One thing I do believe is the term whole body vibration (wbv) is used erroneously in association with vibration training. For example, a squat pose held on a vibration platform is frequently called wbv – yet the waves are dampened as they move up the body. Perhaps a small insignificant terminology problem, but it seems to confuse people to me.

  3. i have a zhendong master for the use on cns for the hormones benifit form wbv and it seems to help clients thinking olso.and a genaral feeling of wellbeing any one else seen this with clients.

  4. John Weatherly says:

    I just read the abstract of a pilot study from the U of Miami Med School and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis that showed improved walking ability for patients with spinal cord injury. They used vibration 3 x week for a month. So, if people have the ability to move it appears vibration treatments augment their ability to walk and function.

  5. A great study and further emphasis on the unique ability of this type of treatment to influence higher levels of motor control. These results, even though seemingly applicable to a specific poulation, are the most impressive results yet. I would imagine that they will create quite abit of momentum on the need to research this further. I still want to know what type of platform was used for this study though.

  6. John Weatherly says:

    I am betting it was Galileo because that’s what they were using with the Miami Project when they first started looking at vibration in 03-04. Dr. Pat Jacobs (now dept head at FAU) et al. were the first to look at vibration with the Miami Project as far as I know. I spoke with Jacobs at a conference in 03. He was interested in vibration but still skeptical. Shortly after that, they did a pilot study. I saw him and a colleague of his at the time at a conference in 03 and they both acted excited about vibration. Jacobs, in 03, mentioned to me Galileo had the most good research done on it – and that’s what Jacobs et al. ended up using in their first pilot study shortly after that.

  7. Dear Gabriel,

    Your website is Fabulous. I am 52, Asian woman, 48KG, 5ft 5, small bone. I have CFS for 17 yrs, and now after relapse 3 yrs ago(during which, I have been able to do much exercise at all). Walking around is fine, I am not bed ridden. Now I have improved somewhat. I am starting to do some walking etc. But I have osteopenia and losing muscle mass.

    Vibration machine is good as I cannot stand Wind much and endurance is not much. WBV can do indoor and does not take long time to do and can increase gragually.

    I read all your forum, and took me 2 days. I think I should get a Pivot and Not linear. I want to gain muscle mass, build strength, bone density improvement, and Central nervous system(sleep sometimes broken), for just general health and well being, so I can build up my strength, so later I can add on fast walking and eventually even some jogging. My husband 56, 6ft, 67kg, fit and health, do 22 chin up and 50 push ups daily, swim 3x/week.

    I start looking at WBV a week ago and my goodness, it is so much information and so hard to choose and so confusing. So if you can can help me please, Gabriel, I will be very grateful.

    First we are from Sydney Australia. So a lot of machine you can get in US/Canada, we cannot get here.
    1/.Do you think Pivot is good for both of us?
    2/. Which machine you recommand sells in Australia? Any good contact here I can start? I find Power Plate and Vibrogym here but their evolution is about US$15-20K here. The exchange rate of A$-US$ is 1:1, but somehow they sell it double the price than in US!
    3/. Which brand do you think it is good for us. And not too expensive. As I find home/non-professonal most you donot recommand – like the Vibrogym home one.

    Thank you for your experties and willingness to help others
    Alice from Sydney Australia

    • Hi Alice. Welcome to the forum. First off, just to clarify, it is not my site. I just contribute a great deal of articles to it. I am glad you took the time to read them.

      Based on what you have outlined here, I do agree that pivotal is the way to go. It will allow for more variety of applications (from therapeutic/wellness to strength training). It is also reproduces the motion of walking so it will help transition you into your goals of walking and jogging. The higher accelerations will also be beneficial for your husband and serve to enhance his routine.

      Since it is for home use and you are looking to save money, I would investigate the Hypervibe. This is readily available in Australia and one of the platforms we support. The Galileo (Vibraflex) should be able to be purchased there are well, but the prices are quite high.

      As far as the oxygen chamber question, I am not sure how to advise you as it is not an area I am experienced in.

  8. Also I have a mild Hyperberic chamber 1.3ATA 100% O2 at home, should I use the WBV before or after a oxygen saturation session.
    Alice Sydney Australia

  9. I have a spinal cord problem (infarct) which slows down my leg movements. More on the right.
    I have spasticity in my legs.
    I am 75 years of age.
    I have co-ordination problems.
    When I sit on a chair for some time and I get up I find difficulty in my balance and my legs feel jammed.
    Do you think WBV would help my condition in some way and enable me to walk better?
    Will it strengthen my legs?
    Will it improve my stability and co-ordination?
    What kind and make of home machine you recommend for me if at all?

    Kind regards

  10. Evdokimos Xenophontos

    Yes it should help. ….. Watch this video to see how…

    Or YouTube …… Vibration Therapy for people with limited mobility

    A cheaper Slow Pivotal will be all that is needed. A few hundred $$ at best.

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