Neuropathy is a troubling condition that can progress with age. Today, nearly 20 million Americans suffer from neuropathy and its debilitating symptoms.
Finding relief from neuropathy pain can be challenging. The reason? Most traditional treatments do not offer long-lasting comfort.
Despite this struggle, a new solution is gaining traction among doctors. And research suggests it may be useful for managing neuropathy pain: vibration therapy.
Vibration therapy involves standing on a vibration platform. Gentle vibrations pulsate through the body, which trigger several natural pain-relieving processes. Not only does it offer relief, but vibration therapy is non-invasive and non-pharmacological.
Interested in learning more about this emerging therapy?
Keep reading for a closer look at vibration therapy for neuropathic pain. We cover how it offers relief, new research, and its potential impact on neuropathy.
What Is Vibration Therapy?
These vibrations stimulate the muscles like a gentle, low-impact workout. This “workout” triggers many potential health benefits, including increased blood flow. Plus, it also helps release tension in sore muscles and may promote bone growth.
Therefore, vibration therapy may deliver the same benefits as traditional exercise. For instance, it is widely used as a tool in weight-loss programs. The difference is that vibration therapy is low-impact and requires less cardiovascular effort.
Vibration therapy is delivered in two ways:
1. Whole-body Vibration Therapy
Whole-body vibration therapy works by standing, sitting, or lying on a vibration platform. The machine sends vibrations throughout the body, and the speed and frequency of the vibrations can be tuned.
This type of vibration therapy is most common, and it’s generally used in holistic wellness programs. Some potential uses include:
- Weight loss / vibration plate exercise
- Regain muscle or bone mass
- Better posture
- Improves metabolism
2. Localized Vibration Therapy
This treatment usually focuses on a particular body part that requires medical intervention. Unlike whole-body vibration therapy, where the machine is generally fixed in one place, a localized vibration machine is a handheld device that treats a specific body part.
For example, many massage guns use vibration to soothe and release tension. Some various treatments include:
- Tightening of calf or thigh muscles
- Reducing stomach fat
- Improvement of bone or muscle flexibility
- Fatigue reduction
What Is Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy, one of the most common types, originates from impaired peripheral nerves. These nerves are responsible for transmitting signals between the body and brain. Many conditions can damage the peripheral nerves, including diabetes and cancer.
However, diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is one of the most common causes. According to statistics, DPN affects up to 51% of individuals diagnosed with diabetes.
Symptoms of Neuropathy
The most common symptom is pain, which materializes in a number of ways. Neuropathy pain includes:
- Tingling and burning sensations
- Stabbing or burning discomfort
- Coordination issues, such as loss of balance
- Weakness and muscle numbness, usually in the feet
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Eyesight problems, such as pain or double vision
Treatments like pain medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes may provide some relief. However, doctors are now using vibration therapy as a complementary treatment.
Types of Neuropathies
Neuropathy refers to a condition that affects the peripheral nerves. It can be caused by many factors including diabetes, trauma, etc.
There are several types of neuropathies including:
1. Peripheral Neuropathy
A general term that refers to damage to the peripheral nerves.
Causes: The most common cause is diabetes, along with infections, trauma, autoimmune diseases, etc.
2. Diabetic Neuropathy
High blood sugar levels can lead to nerve damage. In most cases, a spike in blood sugar results from diabetes.
Causes: Patients with high blood pressure are more prone to high glucose levels, which damage nerves over time.
3. Autonomic Neuropathy
Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms that affect the nerves responsible for managing involuntary automatic bodily functions.
Causes: Digestive and bladder control, blood pressure, diabetes, constipation, dizziness, certain autoimmune diseases, and other conditions.
4. Hereditary Neuropathy
This refers to a group of inherited neurological disorders affecting the nerves and restricting activities.
Causes: Genetic mutations that disrupt nerve function.
Does Vibration Help Neuropathy?
Studies show that whole-body vibration therapy has positively affected various health conditions, including neuropathy and chronic pain.
Here are some potential effects of vibration therapy on neuropathy:
1. Improved Blood Circulation
Research has highlighted the positive influence of vibration therapy in improving blood flow. In one study, researchers determined that side-altering vibrations increase the peripheral blood flow compared to vertical vibrations.
Consideration: The blood carries healthy nutrients throughout the body. Thus, good blood flow may help improve nerve health and reduce neuropathy pain. This also helps circulate oxygen, which may aid in recovery.
2. Neurological Effects
In an in-depth review of research, researchers concluded that whole-body vibration has the potential to positively impact cognitive function. This could lead to greater clarity, improved sleep quality, and enhance mood.
Consideration: Neuropathy can cause a variety of cognitive issues, including increased stress, poor sleep quality, mood disorders, and attention issues. Vibration may help to alleviate some of these cognitive symptoms.
3. Pain Reduction
Limited research has been done on the results of whole-body vibration therapy on pain reduction. However, it’s been noted that WBV has shown positive outcomes for back pain, suggesting that WBV may also help alleviate pain associated with neuropathy.
Consideration: Although the mechanism behind pain reduction is not fully understood, it may be related to improved circulation and positive influence on physiological changes.
4. Balance and Gait Improvement
NCBI research papers that have studied WBV’s effects on neuropathy have mentioned its potential abilities to enhance balance , improve gait, and reduce spasticity in individuals with neuropathy.
Consideration: WBV may be an effective treatment for improved balance and gait. It can help patients with the risk of falls and injuries caused by neuropathy symptoms.
5. Muscle Strength and Stability
WBV may contribute to increased muscle strength and stability. It’s been reported that even 15 minutes of WBV therapy can help with flexibility, blood flow, and body strength.
Consideration: This treatment can be beneficial as increased body strength can support decreased injuries and better body stability.
Potential Benefits of Vibration Therapy for Neuropathy
Research suggests that gentle vibrations can affect nerve function and transmission. This has the potential to change how neuropathy patients experience pain.
Ultimately, this research is ongoing. But here are some of the ways, vibration therapy for neuropathy pain may offer relief:
1. Enhanced Blood Circulation
At the core of vibration therapy’s potential lies its capacity to amplify blood circulation. Increased blood flow helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to damaged nerves, speeding up their repair and potentially reducing pain. Vibration therapy can help improve blood flow and promote healing in areas affected by neuropathy, enhancing overall well-being.
2. Activation of Gate Control Theory
Vibration therapy introduces non-painful sensations that can outcompete pain signals. This aligns with the gate control theory of pain and offers a distinct approach to pain mitigation. In short, vibration helps modulate how the brain interprets and processes pain signals.
3. Potential for Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity may help with neuropathic pain. Researchers speculate that controlled vibrations could catalyze neuroplastic changes, fostering nerve healing and gradual pain reduction over time. This dimension underscores vibration therapy’s potential to offer not only immediate respite but also long-term improvements in nerve function.
4. Enhanced Nerve Function
Vibration therapy uniquely enhances nerve function in neuropathy patients. Controlled vibrations have shown promising outcomes in nerve conduction by introducing non-painful sensations that stimulate nerve pathways.
This holds potential for improved nerve responsiveness, potentially reducing pain sensations. In short, vibration helps to balance nerve signals and pain perception. This helps improve nerve function and may help to relieve neuropathic pain.
5. Non-Invasive and Holistic
Vibration therapy stands as an appealing proposition because of its non-invasive nature. This holistic approach to pain management dovetails with conventional treatments, enriching the repertoire of options available to patients.
Benefits of Vibration Therapy for Neuropathy Pain
Risks and Side Effects of Vibration Therapy for Neuropathy
A recent study says:
“Vibration therapy is a form of physical therapy, in which local vibrations of specific parameters directly or indirectly act on the human body to treat diseases , , . Recent studies have shown that vibration therapy is effective in improving neurological dysfunction and muscle strength, alleviating neuropathic pain, and correcting spasticity and gait”
Vibration therapy has shown promising results in neuropathy treatments and it’s non-invasive and generally safe.
However, there are specific concerns about vibration therapy when used unsupervised or for prolonged hours, such as:
- Chronic pain in the back and neck (due to the constant vibrations)
- Risk of cardiovascular diseases
- May cause damage to the body or increase pain
- Bone or muscle injury
Safety Precautions of Vibration Therapy to Ensure Safe Practices
Make sure you follow this checklist to avoid any mishaps:
- As a practice, use only for 15-20 mins per session
- Check and note down if you feel any discomfort during the sessions
- Take regular breaks and limit to 2 sessions per day
- Wear comfortable clothing to avoid any accident
- Don’t take a session if you are already in pain
- Consult your physician on how to begin your sessions
- Maintain your footing and have a firm grip to avoid misbalancing or falls
- Hydrate yourself and maintain a time gap after water consumption
Who Should Avoid Whole-Body Vibration Therapy?
Individuals who fall under the below list should avoid whole-body vibration therapy:
- Heart diseases or previous history of heart conditions
- Pregnant women
- Weak stomach or having stomach ailments
- Kidney stones
Vibration Therapy for Neuropathy: Study Spotlight
A recent case report explored the efficacy of local plantar vibration therapy in DPN management.
This case report explores the efficacy of local plantar vibration therapy for treating diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). A patient with a history of type 2 diabetes and DPN received 10-minute local vibration sessions on both feet. It happened five times over the course of treatment.
Results indicated a 62.5% reduction in pain severity, improved vibration threshold and protective sensation, increased skin temperature, and enhanced balance. This is just one case study. Further tests are in progress that will help us better understand the link between vibration therapy and neuropathy.
Vibration therapy is a beacon of potential in the field of neuropathic pain. This form of therapy offers numerous benefits that may help to modulate symptoms.
As research progresses, we will confirm to learn more about vibration therapy’s potential. Its promise extends beyond symptom relief, embracing comprehensive nerve health enhancement and quality of life improvement.