Purpose of review: The musculoskeletal system is largely regulated through dynamic physical activity and is compromised by cessation of physical loading. There is a need to recreate the anabolic effects of loading on the musculoskeletal system, especially in frail individuals who cannot exercise. Vibration therapy is designed to be a nonpharmacological analogue of physical activity, with an intention to promote bone and muscle strength.
Recent findings: Animal and human studies suggest that high-frequency, low-magnitude vibration therapy improves bone strength by increasing bone formation and decreasing bone resorption. There is also evidence that vibration therapy is useful in treating sarcopenia, which confounds skeletal fragility and fall risk in aging. Enhancement of skeletal and muscle strength involves regulating the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells to build these tissues; mesenchymal stem cell lineage allocation is positively promoted by vibration signals.
Summary: Vibration therapy may be useful as a primary treatment as well as an adjunct to both physical and pharmacological treatments, but future studies must pay close attention to compliance and dosing patterns, and importantly, the vibration signal, be it low-intensity vibration (<1g) appropriate for treatment of frail individuals or high-intensity vibration (>1g) marketed as a training exercise.