There is a growing movement in the use of vibration plates in gyms, physical therapy offices, wellness centers and at home as a means of simulating exercise, to provide neurological and orthopedic rehabilitation and to prevent bone loss in osteopenia and osteoporosis patients. Additional benefits being advertised are increased blood flow, decreased muscle soreness, and increased fat burning and flexibility. After researching this topic, I came to some surprising conclusions that I did not expect, so if you have thought about buying a device like this or use one in the gym that you go to you might want to read this.
Vibration plates are a platform device that when standing on it delivers a mechanical oscillating vibration to all the cells in your body. As the machine vibrates it transmits energy which causes your tendons and muscles to contract and relax dozens of times per second. There are two types of vibration platforms. One is Whole Body Vibration (WBV), and another called Low Intensity Vibration (LiV). With WBV, there are settings on the platform for increasing vibration, so much so that most include a handrail so that you do not lose your balance while on it. This vibration can be intense and therefore is not recommended for someone who is pregnant, has any current or recent blood clots, has a pacemaker, has a risk for retinal detachment or suffers from advanced osteoporosis, dizziness, or any other inner ear problem. On the other hand, LiV, emits a vibration that is much less intense than a WBV while you stand on a platform, so no handrail is necessary. Additionally, there are no medical restrictions to use a LiV. With two such opposing “platforms” for how to effectively build bone and muscle for aging adults, how do you “shake out the truth” between the two?
There is no denying that as we age, we lose bone mass and that after age 35 there is a 2-3% loss per decade for both men and women. Women lose an additional 2-3% per year for 3-8 years post menopause. This is a problem not just because bone acts as a structural support system for us but also because bone is a metabolic factory for the secretion of red and white blood cells and mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) which can turn into muscles, more bone, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. MSC can also turn into fat cells, and this is something that occurs more readily as we age and even more so if we are not exercising. We know that exercise is important, but the question is what type of exercise works best as a surrogate for developing bone? Research is pointing to a concept of impact loading. Impact loading causes mechanotransduction, which describes the ability of a cell to integrate mechanical stimuli into biochemical signals that result in intracellular changes. Regarding impact loading there does not seem to be anything that is better than walking barefoot. While all these forms of exercise are great, it beats yoga, swimming, biking, Pilates, and weightlifting.
Two of the most prominent researchers in this area are Peter Simonson a mechanical engineer who is President of Juvant and Dr. Clinton Rubin, an Anatomist, and the head of the Bioengineering department at Stony Brook University, who is affiliated with Marodyne. Both Juvant and Marodyne produce LiV devices, and both their research is showing that LiV is much more effective than WBV. However, it was Dr. Rubin who was one of the four main people involved with Juvent when they started, when the group had twenty patents and forty-five million dollars invested into it before the original owner passed away and Peter Simonson took over. Dr. Rubin who has written three hundred articles and has been cited over 35,000 times has found that more (shake) is not better. What is better? It is an emphasis on frequency. Walking and running measure at a frequency of 1-2 hertz or 1-2 cycles per second respectively. Muscle contractions even while used during a simple task like moving a fork to your mouth, operate at a frequency of 20-50 hertz or 20-50 cycles per second. Walking is about a .3-.4 g force (gravitational force), so it behooves us to try and replicate these same patterns in a platform.
WBV are operating at g forces between 2-15 g’s. These forces are so great that you must bend your knees to help absorb the vibration or otherwise risk damaging joint cartilage. This is not natural to our body. So far, LiV research is showing that barely perceptible amplitude with a natural 20-50 cycle and a g force between .3-.4 g’s lasting 10 minutes per day is sufficient to improve bone density. It also helps the intrinsic metabolic health of bone with a positive impact on MSC’s. What is unique to the LiV units is that they calibrate to each person who stands on it and delivers the proper .3 or .4 g force based on the weight of the person.
There are many different companies making WBV units touting these devices as an exercise equivalent with the osteogenic benefits that really should only be attributed to LIV devices. Do WBV devices have any benefits? Perhaps. They do create an increase in circulation and there are reports that they help with balance and prevent falls. However, the risks are not equal to those few benefits. In my opinion, low impact vibration is better version over whole-body vibration in the vibration plate industry. The gentle impact loading found in LiV units safely and effectively mimics the impact loading that would occur naturally. As Dr. Rubin says, if you are a healthy person exercising regularly then you do not need low impact vibration. However, if you have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, or have some other health issue that precludes you from exercising, then this biomedical hacking using LiV with a Marodyne or Juvent device is something to consider. One of Dr. Rubin’s studies had sixty post-menopausal women thirty of which were a control with no intervention and thirty of which used a LiV device, the control group lost 3% bone mass as was predicted, and the group using the LiV device maintained their bone mass. Of the two devices listed here I am more of a fan of Marodyne. On one interview Dr. Rubin talked about how sensors on a hip were able to receive 80% of the impact when the frequency was kept at 30 hertz. When the frequency went up above 30 hertz the impact to the sensor reduced to 50%. Juvent uses a frequency above 30 hertz which is higher than Marodyne. Another difference is the Marodyne also uses a .4 g vs a .3 g force for the Juvent.
Special thanks to my patient M.K. for bringing this information to my attention.
If you would like to learn more about LiV, I would suggest watching YouTube videos of Dr. Clinton Rubin or visiting https://www.juvent.com/health/ or https://www.marodyne.us/marodyne-liv/ https://mybones.health/low-intensity-vibration-research/#research-navigation