How Vibration Therapy Helps Athletes

Krista BugdenDOMS Management, Fitness Training, Mobility & Recovery, Pain Relief, vibration therapy2 Comments

Brent Fikowski using the Sidekick Fuse

The legacy of Ancient Greece lives on. Thousands of year later, the ideas of these ancient people are deeply rooted in modern society.

But, what does that have to do with CrossFit or athletics?

Most people will immediately think of Olympic origins. And while true – the Olympics originated in Greece – the Greeks were also famously the first to use localized vibration therapy to help heal injured soldiers.

The original vibration therapy device was a vibrating saw and a piece of wood that was placed over the top of the soldier’s wound. Upon sawing the wood, fluids and stagnant blood drained faster – which promoted natural healing mechanisms in the body.

However, localized vibration therapy has come a long way since the time of the Ancient Greeks. In the 1800’s, Jonas Gustav Zander, a Swedish doctor, introduced a whole body vibration machine as a way to boost weight loss and muscle gains.

Then in the 1960s, Russia began using it. The Russians introduced vibration therapy to their space program. Space travel often results in decreased bone density. The Russians discovered that vibration therapy could stimulate not only muscle growth, but also bone regeneration. Thus, it helped their astronauts recover after space exploration.

The Russians further extended the use of vibration therapy to their Olympic athletes. They used it to aid their athletes in recovery and rehabilitation. From there, localized vibration therapy took off.

Today, localized vibration therapy is used by any and all types of athletes – including CrossFitters and weightlifters. It can help ease a variety of conditions and injuries, as well as aid in the post-workout recovery process.

What is Modern Localized Vibration Therapy?

As aforementioned, localized vibration therapy has come a long way since the Ancient Greeks. Today, devices – such as Sidekick’s FLUX Vibration Therapy Massage Ball – don’t require any sort of crude sawing to achieve the vibration effect. Often, you simply turn on the device and apply a moderate pressure to the affected area. Unlike a foam roller, you don’t necessarily need to roll over the device.

The device simply vibrates – sending sound waves through the nearby tissues. These vibrations cause the muscles to contract, then relax. Consequently, the area where the device is applied experiences increased blood flow, improved range of motion, and reduced muscle soreness.

What Conditions Does Localized Vibration Therapy Help?

Scientists have explored the use of vibration therapy for a variety of conditions. These conditions include:

  • Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
  • Muscle Strains
  • Muscle Tears
  • Bone Fractures
  • Arthritis
  • And Many More.

We explain more on these conditions below. We’ll dive into how different aspects of localized vibration therapy contribute to relieving symptoms associated with the above conditions – as well as how vibration therapy can help improve your athletic performance.

Research shows that localized vibration therapy helps in 4 main ways. Let’s take a look!

  1. It increases blood flow.

Good blood circulation is important for delivering nutrients and other cells throughout the body. It ensures proper functioning, repair, and recovery. Yet, sometimes blood flow isn’t as efficient as it could be. Vibration therapy fixes this problem.

Localized vibration therapy increases blood flow to a particular area. In contrast, there is also whole body vibration therapy which increases blood flow to the entire body. A 2011 study explored the use of whole vibration therapy in spinal cord injury patients. The frequency was set to 20 Hertz or above. The therapy was then applied for 2 or 3 minutes. In turn, blood flow in the patients’ legs improved. Researchers also noticed increased muscle activation. From these findings, they concluded that vibration therapy may prove useful in rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries – especially for reducing muscle wasting and increasing muscular strength.

But what exactly is going on here? The sound waves from vibration therapy – localized or whole body – causes muscle contractions then muscle relaxation (which we briefly mentioned above). Each time a muscle contracts then relaxes, blood flow increases to the area. With increased blood flow, nutrients and cells required for repair are brought to the area. Further, the muscle contractions help maintain and improve muscle strength. This prevents muscle wasting.

This increase in blood flow can further aid in injury recovery and post-workout soreness. It allows the body to bring the necessary nutrients and cells required for the repair of the injury. For example, it could potentially speed up the process of repairing a muscle tear or strain. The necessary building blocks for muscle are provided through the bloodstream. With increased blood flow, these building blocks can reach the site faster, along with other cells to help repair the injured area.

The same concept can be applied to post-workout soreness. Increased blood flow can bring the necessary compounds to help heal the small micro-tears created by intense exercise. In addition, the blood filters out the toxins and byproducts caused by exercise – allowing you to recover faster.

  1. It aids in muscle growth.

Vibration therapy may improve your muscle strength and growth. However, a training plan consisting of weightlifting and a proper diet is also necessary to see any gains.

In another 2011 study, researchers concluded that vibration therapy improved muscle strength in the tested group of older adults. As we age, we lose lean muscle mass – which is why it’s critical to partake in a regular exercise routine, such as CrossFit or another weightlifting program. Combined with exercise, vibration therapy may enhance the muscle building process – especially as we age.

Other researchers developed a 24-week program involving vibration therapy. They found it increased bone density. These studies suggest that using vibration therapy as part of your regular exercise and healthcare routine can vastly increase your chances of healthy aging – leading to a decreased risk of osteoporosis or other muscle and bone-related diseases.

  1. It may help relieve muscle soreness.

After an intense exercise session, you might notice you feel even more sore after 24-72 hours. This delayed onset muscle soreness, DOMS, is caused by small tears in your muscle tissue. These small tears are created during your exercise session. A day or 2 later, you might feel pain and discomfort. Moving the affected part of your body might be difficult.

A 2014 study explored how vibration therapy can reduce the discomforts caused by DOMS. Researchers determined that vibration therapy might not only help manage DOMS, but also prevent it. How? It increases the proprioceptive neuromuscular function, improves muscle strength, and reduces pain due to a specific hormonal response. This hormonal response also leads to increased fluid drainage and an improved mood. All around, it makes you feel better.

  1. It decreases pain.

From the above evidence and studies, we can conclude that localized vibration therapy also reduces pain. The study on DOMS and vibration therapy showed these results. The vibrations disrupt the pain signals that are sent from your body to your brain. The result? You feel less discomfort or pain.

Further, improved bone and muscular strength from vibration therapy leads to a reduced risk of injury – meaning less pain.

How it Improves Your Athletic Performance

Vibration therapy mainly improves athletic performance by improving post-workout recovery. The faster and better you recover, the more you can do.

It also has the potential to lower your risk of injury. This prevents setbacks and keeps you on track toward your fitness goals.

And as aforementioned, it may boost your muscle growth and bone density – all of which contribute to optimal health. In turn, your performance in your chosen sport or activity may improve.

In addition, vibration therapy has shown to increase range of motion and flexibility. A 2006 study explored how vibration therapy can improve the range of motion in the hamstring muscles. The group that used vibration therapy over 4 weeks had a 30% increase in hamstring range of motion. The control group that did not use vibration therapy – but used stretching exercises for 4 weeks – had only a 14% increase in hamstring range of motion.

What does this mean? It means that vibration therapy is useful following an injury. If you’ve ever experienced an ankle sprain (which most of us have), you’ve likely noticed a decreased mobility in your affected ankle. This reduced range of motion is common following many injuries. Thus, localized vibration therapy may help dramatically improve your range of motion after an injury. It can also help prevent injuries caused by a lack of flexibility.

In other words, localized vibration therapy keeps your joints strong and flexible – ultimately, improving your performance.

Should You Start Using Localized Vibration Therapy?

Localized vibration therapy is a great addition to your workout toolkit. However, discussing your options with your doctor or healthcare provider can determine if it is the right method for you – especially if you’re recovering from a recent injury.

If you have not recently experienced an injury, localized vibration therapy might be an exceptional addition to your post-workout recovery methods, your cooldown, and even, your warm-up.

How does it contribute to a proper warm-up? Vibration therapy increases blood flow and causes muscle contractions – meaning it can be an effective way to ease into your next workout. It helps prep your body for exercise. Researchers explored this concept with golfers. They had the golfers participate in vibration therapy during their warm-up. The result? The golfers had increased flexibility and power output. Ultimately, using vibration therapy as part of your warm-up has the potential to further increase your athletic performance.

 

Frequently, these devices are in the shape of a sphere. This allows you to easily sit on it or position yourself against a wall to use it. Many devices come with a range of frequencies. Choose one that feels the best for you and your body.

Similar to a foam roller, you want to apply moderate pressure to the targeted area with the vibration therapy ball. The major difference is that you don’t have to roll back and forth or side to side over the ball. You can if you want, but you don’t have to. Although, by rolling on the ball, you also get the benefits of myofascial release. Again, do what feels best for you.

Ideally, you use the ball on each point for 2 or more minutes. If you are new to these tools, try 1 minute to start, then see how you feel.

Only place the device on soft tissue points. This means avoiding bony prominences and the spine.

Like foam rolling, it should feel like a good pain on the point you’re targeting. If it doesn’t feel quite right, consider adjusting your position. If the pain persists and isn’t your usual muscle soreness, book an appointment with your doctor. You may have an injury. And it’s important to take the proper care to ensure a speedy and smooth recovery.

Improve your flexibility, muscle strength, post-workout recovery, and injury recovery through the use of a localized vibration therapy device. If you suffer from delayed onset muscle soreness, consider a vibration massage therapy device – like the Sidekick Flux. It can get you through those tough days after that intense workout.

The Ancient Greeks were onto something. And if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for you. Start unlocking your movement and athletic performance potential today.

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Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden has worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for the past 4 years. She has a Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.

2 Comments on “How Vibration Therapy Helps Athletes”

  1. Avatar

    Interesting article! The use of vibration therapy is aiding post-workout muscle relaxation doesn’t seem far-fetched; infact it could be a proper science-backed medicinal therapy for athletes. Stretching and proper warm-ups remain a pain-point for a lot of athletes, who are hard-pressed for time and resources. This can help the body heal from pain symptoms.

  2. Avatar

    What do you think of the overall vibration therapy for the whole body? For instance standing on a Power Plate.

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