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Good Vibrations? The theory and use of vibration plates in canine rehabilitation

Written by Jennifer Rouse, DVM CCRP Aug 31 • 2 minute read

​(photo credit: hometownlife.com) 

Today's blog post deals with another of the physical modalities- vibration!  Wait, what do we mean by that?!?

First off, what is Vibration?

Vibration is described in physics as an oscillation of the parts of a fluid or an elastic solid whose equilibrium has been disturbed, or of an electromagnetic wave. When we are discussing vibration therapy, we are usually referring to a solid plate that patients can stand, sit, or lie down on while vibrations are generated that expose the patient to these generated waves. This treatment is sometimes referred to as Whole Body Vibration (WBV) 

Why would we want to be exposed to vibrations?

The theory behind vibration therapy is that exposure stimulates the muscles to rhythmically contract and release, relaxing the tissues while enhancing muscle tone and increasing circulation. This increase in circulation aids in the healing process. The vibrations can also enhance equilibrium and increase bone density. The mechanism proposed is that the waves produced result in activation of stretch receptors in the muscles, which in turn stimulate involuntary muscle contractions. The rapid contraction and relaxation of the muscles basically works as a pump on the blood and lymphatic vessels, increasing the speed of the blood flow through the body. The motion also promotes remodeling of bone tissue, activating bone building cells and suppressing activity of cells that break bone down.  This can increase bone mineral density when used over time.

What's the evidence that it works for dogs and cats? 

There are not many studies out there and most are extrapolated from human data. A good article in US News and World report from a few years ago summarizes what we know on the human treatment side and can be found here: 

https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-06-08/good-vibrations-the-perks-and-pitfalls-of-whole-body-vibration-therapy

There was a case report in 2015 on the veterinary side that documented a female dog that was treated and converted a closed pyometra to an open pyo. Older articles (published in the 1970's) evaluated cardiac parameters in dogs that were treated with vibration plates. A 2016 article evaluated effects on renal function in treated dogs and found no changes. A 2021 article looked at treating cats with WBV for 15 minutes and concluded that there were no changes in hematologic, blood chemistry or cortisol levels. While there were no changes in either of the last 2 studies, the studies did not attempt to evaluate efficacy for neuromuscular or benefits to bone density. 

So, while there is not a lot of evidence for WBV's theoretical benefits at this time, it appears relatively safe and well tolerated as a therapeutic modality. As Marky Mark said, "C'mon, C'mon feel the vibrations!..." 

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