New Musculoskeletal Health study cautions use of whole-body vibration platforms

A new study from Western University shows that whole-body vibration platforms, which are used extensively in health clubs and rehabilitation clinics, may be causing significant damage to joint tissues.

The findings by Cheryle Séguin, Matthew McCann and collaborators from the Western Cluster of Research Excellence in Musculoskeletal Health were published this week by Arthritis & Rheumatology.

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Whole-body vibration platforms are used to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders like osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and back pain while professional and amateur athletes employ vibration training machines to increase muscle strength. In addition, these platforms are also marketed to the general public as the 'no work workout' for weight loss. Yet surprisingly, there was previously very little known about the effect of whole-body vibration on joint tissues.

"Based on the positive effects whole-body vibration has on bones and muscle, we initiated these studies assuming that whole-body vibration would be equally beneficial to the soft connective tissue of joints," says Séguin, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

However, the study using pre-clinical models revealed significant negative effects of whole-body vibration on joint tissues. Examination of the knee joints after just four weeks of daily exposure to whole-body vibration revealed focal damage to the articular cartilage resembling osteoarthritis, as well as damage to the spine resembling disc degeneration.

"Caution should be taken with the use of whole-body vibration platforms at rehabilitation clinics and health clubs until more rigorous research has been done," says McCann, a post-doctoral fellow in the Séguin Lab. "Our study with pre-clinical models shows that whole-body vibration platforms cause significant joint degeneration both in the knee and spine."

This work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Arthritis Society. Infrastructure was provided in part by the Canada Foundation for Innovation-Leaders Opportunity Fund.