A comparison of the effect of a variety of thermal and vibratory modalities on skin temperature and blood flow in healthy volunteers

Med Sci Monit. 2011 Sep;17(9):MT72-81. doi: 10.12659/msm.881921.


Background: Circulation plays an essential role in tissue healing. Moist heat and warm water immersion have been shown to increase skin circulation; however, these heating modalities can cause burns. Recent research has shown that passive vibration can also increase circulation but without the risk of burns.

Material/methods: The aim of this study is to compare the effects of short-duration vibration, moist heat, and a combination of the two on skin blood flow (SBF) and skin temperature (ST). Ten (10) subjects, 5 female and 5 male, aged 20-30 years of age, received two interventions a day for 3 consecutive days: Intervention 1--Active vibration only (vibration exercise), Intervention 2--passive vibration only, Intervention 3--moist heat only, Intervention 4--passive vibration combined with moist heat, Intervention 5--a commercial massaging heating pad, and Intervention 6--no intervention, resting in supine only (control). SBF and ST were measured using a laser Doppler imager during the 10 minute intervention and then throughout the nine minute recovery period.

Results: The mean skin blood flow following a ten-minute intervention of the combination of passive vibration and moist heat was significantly different from the control, active vibration, and the commercial massaging heating pad. Skin temperature following the ten-minute interventions of moist heat alone and passive vibration alone were both significantly different from the commercial massaging heating pad and active vibration interventions.

Conclusions: The combination of passive vibration and moist heat produced the greatest increase in skin blood flow and the second highest increase in skin blood flow nine minutes post application.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Laser-Doppler Flowmetry
  • Male
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology*
  • Skin / blood supply*
  • Skin Temperature / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vibration*
  • Young Adult