Vibration Therapy for the Treatment of Osteoporosis

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Osteoporosis, Bone & Joint Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

When it comes to exercise for osteoporosis, vibration therapy is better than weight lifting

Bones grow and re-mineralize in response to the forces of stress placed on them. This generally requires that you engage in some type of progressive resistance exercise—that is, weight lifting—to keep your bones strong and to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

However, weight lifting isn’t an option for everyone. Fortunately, there’s a therapy that can be used by even those unable to lift weights to strengthen muscles and bones. It’s a technology called “whole body vibration therapy.” (You may also recognize this therapy by the name of one of the best known vibration exercise machines, the Power Plate.)

How Does Whole Body Vibration Therapy Work?

Vibration therapy involves a mechanical vibrating plate upon which an individual stands. When the plate is adjusted to the right frequency, simply standing on it will cause the body’s postural muscles to contract anywhere from 30 to 50 times a second.

As the body ever so slightly shifts back and forth, the muscles must contract and relax with each shift. In just 10 minutes, the muscles get a tremendous workout, resulting in increased strength, stability, and tone. Blood flow also increases throughout the body, and joints become stronger and more flexible. Also, studies have shown that levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol decrease, while levels of other hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone, which are important for regeneration and repair processes, actually increase.

What Kind of Results Can I Expect?

Using vibration therapy three times a week can lead to dramatic results. (Studies have also shown that more than three times a week didn’t provide any additional benefits.)

Vibration training can increase muscle strength 20 to 30 percent more than conventional strength training, while dramatically cutting training time. There are also a number of exercises that can be done on the machine. The vibration effectively increases the force placed on muscle fibers by three times the force of gravity.

Vibration therapy is one of the easiest ways I know for someone of any age or condition can increase joint mobility, muscle strength, overall circulation, bone strength and density, and overall fitness. If there's a downside to the Power Plate, it's cost. The model used in gyms and spas costs nearly $10,000, and even the personal model is a few thousand.

However, when it comes to the treatment of osteoporosis and increasing muscle strength and overall stability, I don't know of anything besides weight lifting that can achieve similar results. So if you compare it to the cost and consequences of a hip fracture, then the price may not seem so high.

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