Whole-body vibration therapy (WBVT) may have many health benefits, including strengthening muscle and bone. This could potentially help people with osteoporosis to alleviate certain symptoms.

Vibration is essential to the body. It is associated with functions such as heart rate, the digestive system, lung movement, and the activity of the circulatory and lymphatic systems. Activities such as walking, sports, and some occupations transmit mechanical vibration to the body, which helps create stressors that strengthen muscles and bones.

Osteoporosis occurs when the structural integrity of bone weakens, allowing it to fracture more easily. It is often associated with age but can also be related to medical conditions. WBVT may benefit people with osteoporosis as it can help strengthen muscle and bone.

This article examines the process of whole-body vibration and how it affects osteoporosis. We also discuss different forms of vibration therapy and the potential risks.

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According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), osteoporosis is a disease that often occurs with age. It could lead to a decrease in physical activity as a person may fear breaking a bone.

The inner bone has a honeycomb-like appearance. With osteoporosis, the spaces between bone increase, and the walls of the bone become thin, allowing for easier breakage. Osteoporosis can affect anyone. However, the NIA states that females, particularly white and of Asian descent, are more likely to develop it. Menopause also accelerates the loss of bone mass, which can contribute to osteoporosis.

For everyone, bone growth slows after age 30, and by ages 40–50, bone loss may outpace bone replenishment.

Weight-bearing exercises may help promote bone growth, such as:

  • weight training
  • walking
  • hiking
  • tennis
  • stair climbing

Learn more about osteoporosis here.

Scientists developed WBVT as an offshoot of a space program’s efforts to help astronauts avoid bone loss during space travel. They found that standing on a vibrating plate for 10–20 minutes each day helped astronauts regain the 1–2% bone loss they experienced from months spent in space stations.

During WBVT, a person stands or lays on a large vibrating platform with a handrail. The intensity of the vibration is adjustable, and the machine delivers vibrations to the person’s body at the rate of dozens of times each second.

WBVT may help build muscle in addition to bone and improve balance and mobility.

A literature review shows mixed study results regarding human trials of WBVT.

One study tested 70 people postmenopause with two 10-minute sessions of WBVT each day for 1 year. Most participants lost bone mass in that time, but those weighing less than 143 pounds increased bone mass density by 3.3%.

Another study in people after menopause tested 86 individuals for 6 months, utilizing 10-minute sessions five times per week. Bone mass density increased by 4.3% after treatment compared to a control group.

An analysis of 25 studies concluded that there were small but significant improvements in balance and gait speed among older adults after WBVT.

It is unclear whether WBVT helps improve bone density in people with osteoporosis.

However, alongside improving balance and gait speed in older adults, studies indicate that WBVT is effective in improving walking performance in people with knee osteoarthritis.

The body naturally produces and absorbs vibrations daily through environmental and physiologic factors. These vibrations cause muscles to contract and expand, leading to stress on the attaching bones. This stress prompts a response from the bone, which promotes growth.

During WBVT, an individual stands on a plate that vibrates dozens of times per second. The machine has handrails to hold onto for comfort. Muscles contract and expand in response to the vibration and indirectly places mild stress on the bones.

Individuals with osteoporosis often reduce activity out of fear of breaking a bone. WBVT provides a low impact way to prompt bones to grow and strengthen.

There are two types of vibration therapy available: whole-body vibration and low intensity vibration.

A person stands on a platform that delivers the vibration to the entire body with whole-body vibration. A range of intensity and programs are usually available on the machine.

During low intensity vibration, the intensity level of the vibration lessens to only travel as high as the hips and lower spine. This therapy is generally for treating the lower body.

Overall, experts consider WBVT to be safe. However, people cannot use WBVT if they:

WBVT is a promising therapy for people with osteoporosis. However, researchers need to complete more investigations, and the long-term outcomes are still unknown.

A person considering WBVT should consult a healthcare professional on its suitability and frequency of sessions.

Osteoporosis is a common condition that occurs as people age, particularly postmenopause. Some people may try WBVT to reduce bone loss, which may have promising results.

During WBVT, an individual will stand on metal plates that vibrate dozens of times each second. They can adjust the intensity and speed, and most machines provide handrails for support. These rapid oscillations stress the muscles and bones, promoting bone regeneration and growth.