Background and purpose: Whole-body vibration (WBV), has become increasingly popular as a form of exercise training. WBV involves the application of a vibratory stimulus to the entire body as opposed to local stimulation of specific muscle groups. The purpose of this review was to assess the evidence concerning the effectiveness of WBV training studies on bone density, muscle performance, balance, and functional mobility in older adults and to discuss potential precautions, safety concerns, and practical clinical considerations of WBV.
Methods: A literature search of online databases was conducted and methodological quality assessment was performed using the critical appraisal scales developed by Sackett and Jadad on the WBV articles that met the predetermined inclusion criteria.
Results: The initial search resulted in the retrieval of 196 potential articles. One additional article was found by manual search. After review, 13 studies were identified that met the predetermined selection criteria.
Discussion: Much of the WBV research to date is methodologically weak and should be interpreted with caution. Study protocols have used widely variable WBV parameters which also complicates the studies' interpretation. Some but not all of the studies in this review reported similar improvements in muscle performance, balance, and functional mobility with WBV as compared to traditional exercise programs. Bone studies consistently showed that WBV improved bone density in the hip and tibia but not in the lumbar spine.
Conclusion: Additional studies are needed to determine safe and effective parameters for WBV training in older adults.