Does Vibration Therapy Work!

Do vibration rollers and Massage Guns work! Local vibration, that is vibration directly applied to a muscle, was used in studies as early as the 1960s to investigate sensory afferents, reflexes and motor response (1-6, 9, 12-13, 22, 40-41). Note, this paper has purposefully excluded whole-body and indirect vibration research. Hundreds of studies have been published investigating whole-body vibration training; however, the intent of such training, effects and mechanisms involved may be different than local vibration.

Summary:

Key Points for Practical Application

  • Pre-exercise local vibration reduces signs and chemical markers of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and may improve performance in subsequent frequent workouts.
  • Local vibration is effective for reducing acute muscle pain (and can be added to a home program via the devices like the Hypervolt by Hyperice® or similar devices).
  • Local vibration alone may be sufficient to increase strength in deconditioned muscles/individuals.
  • Currently, research implies that adding vibration to self-administered release techniques (SMR) (e.g. foamrolling) enhances benefits for DOMS, pain pressure sensitivity, and increasing proprioception. Further research is needed to refine protocols and determine whether adding vibration to SMR enhances benefits for increasing range of motion and improving power performance when used as a warm-up.

Summary of Receptor Response to Local Vibration

  • Local vibration has been used to study sensory afferents and muscle response sense the 1960s.
  • Studies have demonstrated that high frequency vibration preferentially stimulates type Ia sensory afferents (dynamic muscle spindle), and results in much less stimulation of type Ib sensory afferents (golgi tendon organ) and type II afferents (static muscle spindle afferents).
  • Research suggests that length, stretch and increased tension in the muscle being vibrated increases facilitation of receptors, including type Ib and type II afferents.
  • Local vibration results in simultaneous agonist inhibition and tonic contraction (known as the tonic vibration reflex or TVR), and reciprocal inhibition of the functional antagonist.
  • Local vibration may result in a reduction in muscle tone (H-reflex sensitivity), while potentiating the reactive component of stretch reflex (T-reflex) associated with performance of sport and power activities such as running and jumping.
  • Studies demonstrate that the CNS is involved in agonist tonic contraction, inhibition of antagonists, and kinesthesia resulting from local vibration.
  • Studies imply that additional mechanoreceptors (Pacinian corpuscles, Ruffini endings, free nerve endings) play a significant role in motor control and muscle activity, and that Pacinian corpuscles are the receptor most likely to respond to local vibration.

Local Vibration and Pain

  • Pre-exercise local vibration may be protective, reducing swelling, improving range of motion and decreasing pain associated with DOMS.
  • Pre-exercise vibration attenuates chemical markers associated with DOMS including decreased CK, LDH, IL6, histamine, lymphocytes, and increased neutrophils.
  • Direct application of vibration may have benefits for addressing acute muscle pain (and can be added to a home program via the Hypervolt or similar devices).

Local Vibration and Muscle Performance

  • Local vibration alone may be sufficient to increase strength in deconditioned muscles/individuals.
  • Pre-exercise local vibration improved muscle performance when exercise was performed on subsequent days (frequently).
  • The application of pre-exercise local vibration should be limited to less than 10 minutes per muscle. (The Brookbush Institute protocols suggest 1 – 2 minutes per muscles, and no more than 5 minutes)
  • The application of local vibration during training may attenuate sub-maximal concentric strength and maximal power; however, the limited benefit, lack of residual effect and practical issues with wearing vibration technology warrant further study before use in strength and performance settings can be recommended. (Reminder, this is a statement based on studies investigating the direct application of vibration to muscles being trained, and does not include whole body vibration research)
  • Currently, research implies that vibration added to foamrolling has a significant effect on DOMS, pain pressure sensitivity, and proprioception, and further research is needed to determine the effect on range of motion and power performance when used as a warm-up.
  • The Brookbush Institute recommends that local vibration (vibration release techniques) is used prior to lengthening techniques; however, these studies suggest that there may be some benefit to incorporating local vibration while stretching.

Receptor Response:

What is being stimulated:

Research has demonstrated that the application of local vibration preferentially stimulates type Ia receptors (dynamic muscle spindles), with minimal stimulation of type II receptors (static muscle spindles) and type Ib receptors (golgi tendon organ) (2-8, 10). Research suggests that increased length, stretch and tension in the muscle being vibrated may increase facilitation of receptors, including type Ib and type II afferents; however, the increase in facilitation may be the result of an increase in sensitivity and not the actual stimulation of action potentials (11, 13-15, 18, 24). These studies imply that local vibration preferentially stimulates sensory afferents associated with dynamic muscle spindle receptors; the receptors affiliated with stretch reflex. Further, vibration may have little to no effect on the sensory afferents associated with rating tension (type Ib) or static joint position (type II).

Receptors

Afferent Nerve Type Associated Receptor Response
Type Ia Dynamic Muscle Spindle Responds to the amount and rate of length change.
Type Ib Golgi Tendon Organ Responds to the amount and rate of tension developed.
Type II Static Muscle Spindle Provides information about joint position, even at rest.

Interesting Note: A study by Ushiyama et al. demonstrated that vibration elicited a larger response from the gastrocnemius composed of mostly type II muscle fibers, when compared to the soleus composed of mostly type I muscle fibers, providing further evidence that the largest type Ia afferents are preferentially stimulated by vibration (15).

How is it being stimulated:

Additional studies have demonstrated that both monosynaptic and polysynaptic type Ia pathways are stimulated with vibration of sufficient frequency and amplitude (6- 8). The expected response of this stimulation would be a stretch reflex mediated increase in activity of the agonist, as well as presynaptic inhibition of the antagonist (reciprocal inhibition). Several studies have demonstrated a decrease in antagonist activity and reciprocal inhibition (5, 8 – 10, 16, 20); in fact, a study by Hagbarth et al. demonstrated that simultaneous vibration of both agonist and antagonist resulted in inhibition of both muscles (5). The stimulation of stretch reflex and the effect vibration has on agonist activity is more complex, and not definitively understood.  Studies demonstrate that vibration results in both the presynaptic inhibition of stretch reflex of the muscle being vibrated (9, 12, 20), as well as a frequency matched increase in motor unit firing rate referred to as the tonic vibration reflex (TVR) (1, 2, 4-8, 11, 13- 20, 33). This is a contradictory set of findings, as presynaptic inhibition should result in a decrease in motor unit recruitment. Only a few references could be found exploring this contradiction (21 – 24), an older study by Gillies et al. (1969) offers two hypotheses (21):

  • Vibration may lead to pre-synaptic inhibition, as well as volleys of Ia afferent stimulation that results in sufficient excitatory post-synaptic potentials to result in a tonic contraction. This hypothesis is supported further by Matthews et al. (23).
  • Other types of tonic contractions, such as those exhibited by stroke patients, involve supraspinal structures. Vibration may stimulate a longer reflex arc that involves similar supraspinal structures, and results in motor neuron excitation despite pre-synaptic inhibition from Ia afferents. This hypothesis may be supported by research on central nervous system (CNS) involvement.
    • Note: These two hypotheses may both be correct, occurring simultaneously, contributing to some of the fluctuations in motor activity exhibited during the TVR (45).

In summary, these studies suggest that local vibration results in simultaneous agonist inhibition, agonist tonic contraction (TVR), and reciprocal inhibition of the functional antagonist, which may have implications for using local vibration for rehabilitation or performance.

Summary

  • Local vibration results in:
    • Inhibition of Agonist
    • Activation of Agonist
    • Inhibition of Antagonist

Effect on Reflexes:

The use of local vibration in practice may benefit from an understanding of the effect vibration has on reflex. Specifically, the effect vibration has on the H-reflex (Hoffman’s reflex) which is analogous to the stretch reflex but stimulated electrically, and the T-reflex (deep tendon reflex) which is stimulated by a tendon tap, such as the “knee-jerk test”. Arcangel et al. demonstrated that Achilles tendon vibration resulted in a decrease in the H-reflex and T-reflex, but in the post-vibratory period the H-reflex stayed inhibited while the T- reflex was potentiated (17). Similar findings, using vibration on other muscles, has been demonstrated by other researchers (9, 20 – 25, 35). These findings are hypothesised to relate to the tonic and phasic aspects of stretch reflex; that is, they are the result of the inherent properties of the muscle spindle/gamma afferent system. In practice, these results may suggest that vibration is capable of reducing muscle over-activity or tone (H-reflex sensitivity), without effecting the reactive component of stretch reflex (T-reflex) associated with performance of sport and power activities such as running and jumping.

Summary

  • During Vibration
    • Inhibition of H-Reflex and T-Reflex
  • Post Vibration
    • Inhibition of H-Reflex and potentiation of T-Reflex

CNS Involvement:

Several studies have demonstrated that local vibration results in a response from the central nervous system (CNS). In the Gillies et al. study mentioned earlier, one hypothesis for the contrary findings of inhibition and activation was the potential for a longer reflex arc that included cortical involvement in tonic contraction (22). Studies referred to earlier by Eklund et al. and Bishop et al., and additional research by Burke et al., have demonstrated that conscious voluntary effort, the Jendrassik’s maneuver (clasping and pulling the hands apart), and CNS excitability may influence the strength of contraction of a muscle being vibrated (4, 16, 27). More recent studies have used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to more directly infer cortical involvement. Steyvers et al. used TMS to demonstrate increases in corticospinal excitability related to both the vibrated agonist and non-vibrated antagonistic muscle (28). Kossev et al. demonstrated that a vibratory stimulus resulted in a crossed response, resulting in contralateral evoked potentials (29). A study by Munte et al. suggests cortical involvement that may extend beyond primary sensory fields to include kinesthetic phenomena, demonstrating phasic highly-lateralised evoked potentials located in the vicinity of the central sulcus contralateral to the stimulated arm, and over the fronto-central regions (30). The contribution of vibration to kinesthesia (also referred to as proprioception and position sense in this research) is supported by additional studies. Goodwin et al. demonstrated that vibratory stimulus could result in illusions of movement, even when a static position was being held (31). Roll et al. demonstrated that local vibration at the ankle masked or abolished proprioceptive afferentation resulting in quantitatively erroneous proprioceptive messages concerning movement parameters (11). Kazai et al. demonstrated significant alterations to wrist position during extension and knee and foot position during step-ups when local vibration was applied to wrist muscles or thigh muscles. (32) And, Eklund et al. demonstrated that vibration was an additive stimulus to position sense during motion of the knee, resulting in consistent under-estimation or over-estimation of knee position (depending on vibrator placement) (33). Although increased afferentation from type II receptors may account for the altered position sense, it cannot account for the results demonstrated by TMS that infer cortical stimulation of brain centers involved in both muscle activation and kinesthesia. Although more research is needed, these studies demonstrate that the CNS is involved in the perception and response to local vibration, including tonic contraction, inhibition of antagonists and kinesthesia resulting from vibration.

Summary

  • TVR can be influenced by conscious effort, being in an excited state, or the Jendrassik’s maneuver.
  • Local vibration results in cortical evoked potentials.
  • Local vibration influences position sense, which may be explained by stimulation of type II receptors; however, cortical areas affiliated with kinesthesia also respond to stimulus.

Consideration of Additional Receptors:

A complete explanation of the body’s response to local vibration may need to include response from additional receptors. The mechanoreceptors found in muscle and connective tissue (joint capsules, ligaments, tendons, fascia) include the previously mentioned muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs, as well as Pacinian corpuscles, Ruffini endings, and free nerve endings (36 – 42). Several studies on felines have demonstrated a relationship between these mechanoreceptors and reflexive changes to motor control. Solomonow et al. demonstrated that sustained stretch and creep of the lumbar fascia resulted in immediate and long lasting hyper-excitability of the multifidus (38). Another study by Solomnow et al. demonstrated that resection of shoulder joint afferents resulted in changes in shoulder muscle electromyographic (EMG) activity (39). Freeman et al. performed a similar study, demonstrating persistent and specific changes in motor activity and gait post resection of feline knee joint afferents (40). A study by Ekholm et al. adds additional detail, demonstrating that increasing intra‐articular pressure or pinching the anterior aspect of the feline knee joint capsule resulted in inhibition of the knee extensors and facilitation of the knee flexors in both decerebrated and spinalized preparations. Further, activation of the receptors in the medial collateral ligament also produced flexor facilitation (41). Last, Homma et al. demonstrated receptor activity matching the anticipated response of Pacinian corpuscles following vibration of the gastrocnemius in decerebrate cats (42). In all of these studies, the experiment was followed by dissection and staining for mechanoreceptors of the involved tissues, demonstrating an abundance of free nerve endings, as well as Pacinian corpuscles and Ruffini endings. Golgi tendon organs were found in ligamentous and tendinous tissue, but not in joint tissue or fascial sheaths. The results of these studies demonstrate that additional mechanoreceptors are intimately involved in motor control via reflex arcs. These reflex arcs are not dependent on supraspinal structures, as the decerebrated and spinalized preparations demonstrate. Although a few studies on human subjects are discussed below, more research is needed to better understand which of these receptors is specifically effected by vibration, and the specific effect each receptor type has on motor activity.

A few studies have been published on human knee joint receptor stimulation and the effect on muscle activity. In a review on knee joint receptors, Zimny et al. summarizes some of the research findings with this statement, “Ruffini mechanoreceptors are believed to contribute mainly to maintenance of muscle tone, Pacinian corpuscles and Golgi tendon organs are stimulated during movement, and free nerve endings are generally nociceptors”(43). Rutherford et al. demonstrated that effusion of the knee joint results in inhibition of the quadriceps (44). Another study by Kim et al. demonstrated significant increases in vastus medialis EMG activity following electric stimulation of the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and increases in vastus lateralis EMG activity following electric stimulation of the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) (45). Naliboff et al. demonstrated that a toothed roller resulted in a decrease in muscle tension and increased sympathetic activation that may be consistent with a model of activation of Pacinian receptors (46). Pacinian corpuscles are of special interest, as they are fast adapting receptors that respond to sudden changes in pressure and vibration. Models referred to by Zimny et al. and Noliboff et al. suggest that stimulation of Pacinian corpuscles may result in a decrease in muscle tone. These additional studies imply that mechanoreceptors also play a significant role in motor control and muscle activity in humans, and considering what is currently known Pacinian copuscles may play a special role in response to vibration. It may be prudent for future research on local vibration devices to investigate the the effect vibration has on Pacinian corpuscles and the resulting effect on muscle activity.

Summary

  • Mechanoreceptors include muscle spindles, golgi tendon organs, Pacinian corpuscles, Ruffini endings, and free nerve endings.
  • Stimulation of mechanoreceptors results in changes in muscle activity, likely through spinal reflex arcs.
  • Pacinian corpuscles may be the additional mechanoreceptor most likely to respond to local vibration.

Summary of Receptor Response to Local Vibration

  • Local vibration has been used to study sensory afferents and muscle response sense the 1960s.
  • Studies have demonstrated that high frequency vibration preferentially stimulates type Ia sensory afferents (dynamic muscle spindle), and results in much less stimulation of type Ib sensory afferents (golgi tendon organ) and type II afferents (static muscle spindle afferents).
  • Research suggests that length, stretch and increased tension in the muscle being vibrated increases facilitation of receptors, including type Ib and type II afferents.
  • Local vibration results in simultaneous agonist inhibition and tonic contraction (known as the tonic vibration reflex or TVR), and reciprocal inhibition of the functional antagonist.
  • Local vibration may result in a reduction in muscle tone (H-reflex sensitivity), while potentiating the reactive component of stretch reflex (T-reflex) associated with performance of sport and power activities such as running and jumping.
  • Studies demonstrate that the CNS is involved in agonist tonic contraction, inhibition of antagonists, and kinesthesia resulting from local vibration.
  • Studies imply that additional mechanoreceptors (Pacinian corpuscles, Ruffini endings, free nerve endings) play a significant role in motor control and muscle activity, and that Pacinian corpuscles are the receptor most likely to respond to local vibration.

Practical Application

Muscle Soreness

Vibration may aid in preventing the inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that accompanies strenuous exercise, especially from eccentric contractions.  Sahebazamani et al. demonstrated that the administration of vibration before a DOMS inducing exercise protocol for elbow flexors, resulted in a decrease in DOMS, increase in range of motion, and decrease in circumference of flexors when compared to controls (48). Koeda et al. demonstrated similar findings applying vibration before and two days after exercise (49). An additional study by Hakami et al. demonstrated similar findings using vibration on lower extremity muscles in a group of female athletes (50). In an RCT by Fuller et al., post-exercise vibration was found to be “no more effective” than conventional massage and stretching for reducing signs and symptoms associated with DOMS. However, this wording used by the researchers is suspect; it is just as accurate to say that vibration was as effective as stretching and massage when performed post exercise (51). One potential benefit of vibration when compared to massage, is that vibration is easily self-administered. A study by Kim et al. compared pre-exercise vibration to post-exercise vibration and found that pre-exercise vibration was significantly more effective at reducing DOMS (52). These studies imply that pre-exercise local vibration may be protective, reducing the swelling, loss of range of motion and pain commonly associated with DOMS.

Pre-exercise Vibration and Chemical Markers of DOMS

The effects of pre-exercise vibration on DOMS are not limited to functional signs and pain, which may be influenced by patient/tester expectations (placebo effect). Several studies have demonstrated significant differences in chemical markers associated with DOMS and muscle damage. The study mentioned above by Kim et al. demonstrated that creatine kinase (CK) levels were lowest in the pre-vibration group, and that lactate

dehydrogenase (LDH) levels were lower in pre- and post-vibration groups than a control group that did the same workout protocol without vibration (52). Cochrane et al. demonstrated improved pain, range of motion and lower CK levels at 24, 48 and 72 hours when compared to controls (53). Imtiyaz et al. demonstrated that massage and vibration had similar effects on pain, range of motion and CK levels when compared to controls; however, vibration resulted in lower LDH and massage resulted in better recovery of strength (1RM) (54). Bakhtiary et al. demonstrated reduced CK levels, pain pressure sensitivity, and attenuated the loss in strength exhibited after downhill walking (55). Broadbent et al. adds the effect on additional markers associated with DOMS, demonstrating vibration reduced pain, as well as decreased interleukin 6 (IL6), decreased histamine, increased neutrophils and decreased lymphocytes (56). Lau et al. was the only study that could be found that did not demonstrate a positive effect on chemical markers, and the vibration intervention was administered after exercise (57). This may imply that vibration only impacts chemical markers when done prior to exercise, as was the case in the other studies mentioned (52 – 56). These studies demonstrate that pre-exercise vibration decreases functional signs of DOMS, as well as attenuates chemical markers including decreased CK, LDH, IL6, histamine, lymphocytes, and increased neutrophils.

Local Vibration for Acute Muscle Pain

Vibration may also be used directly to reduce acute muscle pain. Ayles et al. demonstrated that when compression was applied to muscles affected by a DOMS inducing protocol pain increased; however, when pressure and vibration was applied to the muscle pain decreased (58). The inhibition of muscle pain from local vibration may be more directly implied by a study by Weerakkody et al., that noted the same relationship between pain, compression and vibration as Ayles., but induced pain by injecting saline solution into a muscle (59). In an RCT by Guieu et al. the combination of vibration and TENS was more effective for alleviating pain (reducing pain pressure sensitivity) than either TENS or vibration alone (60). The combination of these two modalities is interesting, considering multiple researchers (58 – 60) have hypothesised that both TENS and vibration reduce pain via the same mechanism, the GAIT theory of pain control. Direct application of vibration may not be considered a viable “treatment for pain” until studies have demonstrated carry-over; however, vibration may have benefits for acutely addressing muscle pain. Addressing acute muscle pain may aid in self-management, as direct application of local vibration is available to patients for home use with tools like the Hypervolt by Hyperice® used in on our video.

Summary

  • Pre-exercise local vibration may be protective, reducing swelling, improving range of motion and decreasing pain associated with DOMS.
  • Pre-exercise vibration attenuates chemical markers associated with DOMS including decreased CK, LDH, IL6, histamine, lymphocytes, and increased neutrophils.
  • Direct application of vibration may have benefits for addressing acute muscle pain (and can be added to a home program via the Hypervolt or similar devices).

Effect on Muscle Performance

The effect of local vibration on muscle endurance, strength and power is nuanced, but is fairly congruent with the effects on receptor activity and the tonic vibration reflex (TVR) discussed above.

Local Vibration may Increase Strength of Deconditioned Muscles

Several studies have demonstrated that local vibration alone may be sufficient to increase strength in deconditioned muscles/individual. Pietrangelo et al. demonstrated that 12 weeks vibration training (initially 15 min./week progressing to 15 min/3 times per week) in a group of elderly (65+) individuals diagnosed with sarcopenia enhanced maximal isometric strength and increased the percentage of IIx myosin in the muscle investigated (61). An RCT by Rabini et al. demonstrated that 4 weeks of local vibration to knee muscles improved function in individuals diagnosed with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis (62). Iodice et al. demonstrated that a group of young healthy males without previous exercise experience significantly increased levels of growth hormone and creatine phosphokinase, decreased levels of cortisol, and increased in MVIC with 4 weeks of a local vibration training protocol (63). The increase in strength, function and performance noted in these studies may be explained by the demonstrated changes in myosin and hormones, as well as by the introduction of a contraction stimulus from the tonic vibration reflex (TVR). The ability of local vibration to increase strength without weight-bearing may be beneficial in a variety of rehab setting. Note, the Brookbush Institute does not recommend using local vibration training as a replacement for resistance training in young healthy individuals.

Enhancement of Performance in Subsequent Workouts:

Pre-exercise local vibration may be beneficial for enhancing performance in subsequent workouts; however, the protocol used should be considered. Koh et al. demonstrated that administering local pre-activity vibration improved maximal voluntary isometric (MVIC) contraction strength when tested on subsequent days (64). These findings likely relate to the “protection from DOMS attributes” discussed above, and may imply that pre-exercise vibration may be beneficial for those who exercise frequently. However, long duration (10 – 30 minutes/muscle), pre-exercise local vibration should be avoided and may be detrimental to performance. Jackson et al. demonstrated that prolonged local vibration to the quadriceps reduced knee extension MVIC (65). Mottram et al. demonstrated prolonged local vibration to the biceps brachii tendon reduced subsequent muscle endurance (66). These studies suggest that the use of local vibration pre-exercise may have a positive impact on performance in subsequent workouts; however, protocols for vibration release should limit application to any one muscle. Note, the Brookbush Institute only recommends 1 – 2 minutes per muscle group, and no more than 5 minutes.

Effect of Local Vibration when Applied During Contraction:

Direct application of local vibration during resistance training has a nuanced effect on muscle performance, and results from the following studies suggest that the competing inhibition and TVR resulting from polysynaptic stimulation of type Ia afferents may be involved. Samuelson et al. demonstrated local vibration during leg extensions had a negative impact on knee extensor muscle endurance (67). Bosko et al. demonstrated that mean power of wrist flexors during 5 concentric contractions with vibration was enhanced in 12 international boxers (68). Gabriel et al. demonstrated that local vibration applied to the triceps tendon improved subsequent performance in a pre-fatigued muscle (69). Warman et al. demonstrated local vibration increased wrist extension torque; however, only during concentric contractions, and not during isometric or isokinetic contractions (70). These seemingly contradictory findings may be explained by the addition of TVR to voluntary contractions in conjunction with pre-synaptic inhibition of agonists. That is, an increase in the initial number of motor units would have a negative impact on endurance, but a positive impact on concentric sub-maximal force production, and force production from a muscles losing motor unit recruitment to fatigue. Conversely, local vibration would not benefit muscle performance that requires maximal motor unit recruitment (e.g. MVIC, isometric and isokenetic tests), due to the limitation imposed by presynaptic inhibition.

Local Vibration During Strength Training:

The use of wearable local vibration technology during strength training is likely not beneficial; however, some benefit may be gained for individuals training for power. Drummond et al. compared the effects of 12 weeks of conventional dynamic strength training to the same program with the addition of local vibration on previously untrained individuals. The study demonstrated no significant difference between the two groups (71). Issurin et al. demonstrated that muscles vibrated while working out resulted in an increase in mean and maximal power for amateur athletes, and increased maximal power for elite athletes; however, there was no residual effect (72). The Issurin et al. study likely implies that local vibration would be a good training aid for power, but any benefit would have to be the result of adaptation to the increases in performance during training sessions. Further study to refine protocols is likely warranted, as an additional study by Ivanenko et al. demonstrated significant differences in performance (walking speed) during the application of various vibration protocols on thigh muscles while walking (73). These studies imply that the application of local vibration while training may be beneficial for power training but not strength training. These findings may be due to the combination of H-reflex inhibition, T-reflex potentation, and presynaptic inhibition of motor unit recruitment. Considering the fairly limited potential use (only for power training), the lack of residual effect, the difficulties of applying local vibration while training, and the potential of wearable technology being uncomfortable during ballistic movements, further research is recommended before adoption of local vibration in performance programming.

Comparing Foam Rollers to Vibrating Foam Rollers

Recently a new application of local vibration has entered the market; devices that add vibration to foam rolls and balls for self myofascial release (SMR). Research implies that the addition of vibration to foam rolling may enhance results. In an RCT by Cheatham et al., the vibrating foam roll (VFR) group demonstrated larger decreases in pain pressure sensitivity than the conventional foam rolling group (FR), and nearly achieved statistically significant increases in range of motion. Both VFR and conventional FR groups demonstrated better results than controls (74). A study by Han et al. compared VFR to FR for muscles around the hip, demonstrating that VFR resulted in a significant increase in hip flexion and internal rotation range of motion (75). Romero et al. demonstrated that after a DOMS inducing workout that greater short-term benefits in pain perception and passive extension hip joint ROM where achieved with VFR, and both VFR and FR improved pain pressure threshold, muscle oxygen saturation, jump height and knee joint range of motion (76). In an RCT by Lee et al. warming-up with VFR resulted in similar increases in mobility as FR or stretching, but significantly better knee joint reposition accuracy, dynamic balance (proprioception) and quadriceps muscle strength (77). Garcia-Gutiérrez et al. demonstrated that VFR and FR on the calf muscles resulted in similar improvements in ankle dorsiflexion range of motion (78). Sağiroğlu et al. demonstrated that VFR and FR resulted in similar improvements range of motion and jump height (79). These studies seem to imply that adding vibration to foam rolling has a small, but appreciable effect on various parameters that may be beneficial for performance. The inconsistent findings relevant to certain attributes likely suggests more research is needed to refine protocols and determine the best cases for adding vibration. Currently, research implies that vibration added to foamrolling has a significant effect on DOMS, pain pressure sensitivity, and proprioception, and further research is needed to determine the effect on range of motion and power performance when used as a warm-up.

Local Vibration During Stretching:

Three studies have demonstrated that adding local vibration to static stretching results in further increases in mobility. Sands et al. demonstrated that a 4-week program of vibration with stretching significantly increased range of motion, compared to a 4-week static stretching program, in highly trained male gymnasts (80). A study by Cronin et al. demonstrated that even a single bout of hamstring stretching with vibration was more effective than stretching for improving knee joint range of motion (81). A study by Peer et al. demonstrated that stretching with vibration was effective for improving ankle range of motion post ankle sprain, but no comparison group was used in this study (82). The Brookbush Institute recommends that local vibration (vibration release techniques) is used prior to lengthening techniques; however, these studies suggest that there may be some benefit to incorporating local vibration while stretching.

Summary

  • Local vibration alone may be sufficient to increase strength in deconditioned muscles/individuals.
  • Pre-exercise local vibration improved muscle performance when exercise was performed on subsequent days (frequently).
  • The application of pre-exercise local vibration should be limited to less than 10 minutes per muscle.
  • The application of local vibration during training may attenuate sub-maximal concentric strength and maximal power; however, the limited benefit, lack of residual effect and practical issues with wearing vibration technology warrant further study before use in strength and performance settings can be recommended. (Reminder, this is a statement based on studies investigating the direct application of vibration to muscles being trained, and does not include whole body vibration research)
  • Currently, research implies that vibration added to foamrolling has a significant effect on DOMS, pain pressure sensitivity, and proprioception, and further research is needed to determine the effect on range of motion and power performance when used as a warm-up.

Bibliobraphy

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    • Consideration of Additional Receptors
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    • Preventing DOMS
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    • Effects on Muscle Performance
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    • Vibration Foam Rolling
  74. Cheatham, S. W., Stull, K. R., & Kolber, M. J. (2019). Comparison of a vibration roller and a nonvibration roller intervention on knee range of motion and pressure pain threshold: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of sport rehabilitation, 28(1), 39-45.
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  76. Romero-Moraleda, B., González-García, J., Cuéllar-Rayo, Á., Balsalobre-Fernández, C., Muñoz-García, D., & Morencos, E. (2019). Effects of Vibration and Non-Vibration Foam Rolling on Recovery after Exercise with Induced Muscle Damage. Journal of sports science & medicine, 18(1), 172.
  77. Lee, C. L., Chu, I. H., Lyu, B. J., Chang, W. D., & Chang, N. J. (2018). Comparison of vibration rolling, nonvibration rolling, and static stretching as a warm-up exercise on flexibility, joint proprioception, muscle strength, and balance in young adults. Journal of sports sciences36(22), 2575-2582.
  78. Garcia-Gutiérrez, M. T., Guillén-Rogel, P., Cochrane, D. J., & Marin, P. J. (2018). Cross transfer acute effects of foam rolling with vibration on ankle dorsiflexion range of motion. Journal of musculoskeletal & neuronal interactions18(2), 262.
  79. Sağiroğlu, İ. (2017). Acute effects of applied local vibration during foam roller exercise on lower extremity explosive strength and flexibility performance. European Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science, 3(11), 20–31.
    • Vibration and Stretching
  80. Sands, W. A., McNeal, J. R., Stone, M. H., Russell, E. M., & Jemni, M. O. N. E. M. (2006). Flexibility enhancement with vibration: Acute and long-term. Medicine and science in sports and exercise38(4), 720.
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