Although I’ve used vibration therapy for stabilizing knee function in rehabilitation for over 10 years, it’s always refreshing to see some new research that substantiates some of the results we’ve achieved. This article is not only written for health professionals. If you have any knee pain or undergoing rehabilitation, you’ll get a great insight into how vibration therapy can benefit you. We’ll look at a great new research study and how vibration therapy can benefit the end user and the health professional.
Knee rehabilitation generally follows specific guidelines in the treatment process. Whether you are a physical therapist, chiropractor or strength and conditioning coach, having proper control of the knee stabilizing muscles is critical for increasing the effectiveness of an exercise program. When one thinks of vibration therapy, we tend to focus more on strength and flexibility gains. There isn’t much talk about neuromuscular control. This is one area of rehab that health professionals should begin seeing a huge advantage of integrating vibration into the process.
Let’s take a typical knee patient. They may have arthritis and limited range of motion, or they may be coming off knee surgery. Strength and flexibility are critical to recovery and are usually the main drivers of rehab. However, what if you could find something that could decrease the time to stabilize the knee joint? You can progress a patient through functional training or proprioceptive exercises with better neuromuscular control. The better control you have, the more effective that rehabilitation exercise becomes.
A study was recently done, and to be published in the Journal of Sports Science. The study looked at whether vibration exercises could improve neuromuscular control after single-legged drops. The significant finding was that the time to stabilize the lower-limb was lower in the vibration group. The group performed the vibration exercise for 1 minute, 6 times at 30 Hz and 4 mm. The study was done on a vertical vibration machine.
The practical implications are significant. Our main focus with vibration therapy for knee pain has been to increase muscle activation of inhibited muscles. For the knee, this basically refers to the vastus medialis (inner thigh muscle) and the gluteus medius. We have been getting great response with using vibration exercise for strengthening and flexibility, but it’s the activation of inhibited muscles that showed the greatest benefit. Most health professionals know the frustration in trying to get these muscles to fire. The better they can fire with movement, the better neuromuscular control over the knee joint. Vibration exercise is one of the few treatment modalities that has been able to consistently affect these muscles.
The best situations that we’ve seen this to work is in those with arthritis and those that have undergone surgery. We’ve also used these principles in functional training and sports performance. If vibration therapy can truly decrease the time that it takes to stabilize the knee joint, then it becomes an important tool. However, everyone should also realize that the technology is one aspect of a complete rehabilitation program. It doesn’t have to be a stand alone tool, although I’ve been able to get much faster results using only vibration therapy. Do you have someone that is doing knee lunges or squats but has difficulty with proprioception and balance? Try 1 minute of vibration exercise, preferably in a squat position. Rest for 1 minute and attempt the squat or lunge again. You’ll begin to notice subtle improvements in balance and muscle firing.
In summary, vibration therapy research is beginning to show why vibration exercise has been an effective part of a knee rehabilitation program. It allows for increased neuromuscular control, in addition to activation of inhibited muscles. Using vibration therapy to stabilize knee function in rehabilitation makes it one of the most effective tools any health professional or patient can use in return to optimal function.
Dr. Jasper Sidhu has been using vibration platforms for over 10 years in rehabilitation, sports, fitness and weight loss settings. In addition to hands on treatment of patients and clients in these settings, he has lectured at various universities and medical association meetings on the application of vibration training.