Spasticity affects approximately 65% of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) and negatively impacts function and quality of life. Whole body vibration (WBV) appears to reduce spasticity and improve walking function; however, the optimal dose (frequency/duration) is not known. We compared single-session effects of four different WBV frequency/duration dose conditions on spasticity and walking speed, in preparation for a planned multi-session study. Thirty-five participants with motor-incomplete SCI received four different doses of WBV: high frequency (50 Hz)/short duration (180 s), high frequency/long duration (360 s), low frequency (30 Hz)/short duration, and low frequency/long duration, plus a control intervention consisting of sham electrical stimulation. In all conditions, participants stood on the WBV platform for 45-s bouts with 1 min rest between bouts until the requisite duration was achieved. The frequency/duration dose order was randomized across participants; sessions were separated by at least 1 week. Quadriceps spasticity was measured using the pendulum test at four time points during each session: before, immediately after, 15 min after, and 45 min after WBV. Walking speed was quantified using the 10-m walk test at three time points during each session: baseline, immediately after, and 45 min after WBV. In the full group analysis, no frequency/duration combination was significantly different from the sham-control condition. In participants with more severe spasticity, a greater reduction in stretch reflex excitability was associated with the high frequency/long duration WBV condition. The sham-control condition was associated with effects, indicating that the activity of repeated sitting and standing may have a beneficial influence on spasticity.
Trial registration: NCT02340910 (assigned 01/19/2015).
Keywords: Afferent input; Hyperreflexia; Oscillation; Pendulum test; Stimulation.