Can Whole Body Vibration Be Harmful
Whole body vibration has gained popularity as a form of passive exercise. However, studies regarding its benefits vs. harmful effects are limited

Whole body vibration is a form of passive exercise that involves using machines or platforms to transmit energy to the body, forcing the muscles to contract and relax. 

Although whole body vibration may have some health benefits, many experts agree that it can be harmful in the long run. Comprehensive research is lacking, and more studies are needed to understand the effects of vibration on the body.

What are the potential harmful effects of whole body vibration?

Some studies on the effects of occupational sources of vibration (occupational hazards), such as jackhammers, delivery vehicles (including tractors, forklifts, and earthmoving equipment), and other machinery suggest that repeated or long-term exposure to vibrations may be linked to negative health effects such as:

  • Acute and chronic injury to musculoskeletal, circulatory, and nervous systems
  • Lower back, neck, hand, shoulder, and hip pain
  • Spinal degeneration
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of balance
  • Neural dysfunction
  • Hearing loss (hearing impairment)
  • Blurred vision (visual impairment)
  • Chronic nerve and vascular damage to arms and hands
  • Increased risk of developing:
    • Cardiovascular diseases
    • Digestive issues
    • Nerve damage
    • Frequent headaches
    • Certain cancers

What are the potential benefits of whole body vibration?

Whole body vibration is commonly used in physical medicine and neurorehabilitation as a clinical prevention and rehabilitation tool. These machines may also be found in gyms, as they have gained popularity in fitness training.

Some studies have speculated that whole body vibration may be used as a non-drug therapy for musculoskeletal injury and diseases. For example, some researchers studied the effect of extremely low-magnitude, 30 Hz vibrations to act as an anabolic to bone and muscle in the hip and spine of young women with osteoporosis. However, results of the studies are inconclusive.

Although research is limited, advocates of whole body vibration claim that it may have the following health benefits:

  • May promote weight loss in people who are physically inactive or obese
  • May improve muscle function (strength, power, and endurance)
  • May help reduce arterial stiffness and decrease systolic blood pressure
  • May improve circulation and reduce cortisol (stress hormone)
  • May improve strength and flexibility
  • May reduces bone loss and improve balance in older adults
  • May help relieve low back pain
  • May help sarcopenia and osteoporosis
  • May help increase serum testosterone and growth hormone levels

Who should avoid using whole body vibration machines?

People should avoid using whole body vibrating machines include those with the following:

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Medically Reviewed on 5/9/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Image

Muir J, Kiel DP, Rubin CT. Safety and severity of accelerations delivered from whole body vibration exercise devices to standing adults. J Sci Med Sport. 2013;16(6):526-531. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3688642

Mayo Clinic. Is whole body vibration a good way to lose weight and improve fitness? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/whole-body-vibration/faq-20057958

ScienceDirect. Whole Body Vibration. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/whole-body-vibration Bouchez C. Passive Exercise: Whole-Body Vibration and More. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/passive-exercise-whole-body-vibration