Does Vibration Therapy Work for Neuropathy?
Peripheral nerve damage is a difficult condition to address. The standard treatments are effective (for some) at numbing the symptoms of neuropathy, but at the same time allow the nerve damage to continue deteriorating. Alternative treatments like vibration therapy are showing promise when it comes to reducing painful symptoms of nerve damage, and encouraging nerve growth at the very same time.
The most effective way to combat peripheral nerve damage is to encourage your body’s natural healing and regenerative processes. Helping your body heal itself. Your nerves, just like the rest of your body, want to be healthy. As such, your body is full of systems that are designed to help keep them that way…but they can’t always stand up to the imposing presence of the perpetrators that cause peripheral nerve damage.
When neuropathy sets in and our nerves start to die off, the symptoms can be painful. The current standard treatment is designed to address these sensory symptoms with medications, but they do not address the nerve damage that’s been caused. While these medications successfully mask the symptoms (for some people), the actual nerve damage is allowed to progress, unabated.
The more we learn about treating nerve damage, the more it becomes clear that a whole-body approach is best. Whenever possible, the first step should be eliminating the cause of the damage. But even when the cause cannot be removed, recovery is often still obtainable by focusing on the foundations for nerve health that you do have control over.
There are a number of ways to go about promoting nerve growth and regeneration, like promoting oxygenation with improved blood circulation and strengthening muscles to stimulate nerves. And vibration is one option to go about it.
Vibration Therapy to Improve Nerve Health and Relieve Pain
While there is currently no FDA-approved therapy to directly treat neuropathy, there are therapies that support the foundations that have been established for nerve health.
Though research is still in its infancy, vibration therapy shows promise to for nerve health in many ways, including:
- Pain relief1
- Faster nerve regeneration
- Blood circulation2
- Balance improvement3
- Muscles strengthening
- Sensory function improvement
- Glucose metabolism4
In one particular study, 731 patients were tested using vibration therapy. An impressive 70% reported a reduction of pain by about 50%. And the pain relief lasted for at least 3 to 12 hours or more after the vibration therapy session.
Blood Flow Helps Your Nerves Recover from Damage
One of the most important benefits of vibration therapy for nerve health is the ability of vibration to improve blood circulation.
The most common symptoms of poor circulation include:
- throbbing or stinging pain in your limbs
- muscle cramps
Over time, reduced blood flow in your extremities can cause:
- nerve damage
- tissue damage
Vibration, then, not only may help to alleviate the symptoms associated with impaired blood flow and tissue damage, but also help to reverse damage.
Vibration Provides the Benefits of Exercise
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to encourage sustained blood flow throughout the body. But the simple fact of the matter is that exercise is simply not always a viable option. This can be the case for a number of different reasons. Some patients are simply too frail and weak, or have too much pain for regular exercise, while others have had their nerve damage progress to a point that makes exercise nearly impossible.
When exercise just isn’t a good option, vibration therapy may be an effective alternative, producing many similar effects with few of the associated risks.
In fact, vibration therapy can actually be a pretty decent replacement for exercise for people with debilitating neuropathy and has been shown to have a similar impact on the muscles as resistance training.
Mayo Clinic’s Edward Laskowski, M.D. reports, “Advocates say that as little as 15 minutes a day of whole-body vibration three times a week may aid weight loss, burn fat, improve flexibility, enhance blood flow, reduce muscle soreness after exercise, build strength and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.”5
Work Yourself Out, Without Working Out
The mechanisms behind vibration therapy are as interesting as they are intuitive. The primary reasons that exercise is so helpful in the fight against peripheral nerve damage are twofold:
1. Muscle Contraction = Nerve Use
When you exercise your muscles, you’re sending
constant signals to them. Your muscles, after all, are put to use when they’re
reached by signals that travel from your brain through the nervous system.
Exercise activates these nerves, which is one of the best ways to keep them
healthy and functional.
2. Increase Blood Flow and Oxygenation
Muscle use also signals your body to increase blood flow to the area, in addition to oxygenating your blood more thoroughly by increasing your breathing rate and elevating your heartbeat. The increased flow of highly oxygenated blood through your body is nourishing to your nerves, encouraging their healing and feeding them the nutrients they need.
Vibration therapy accomplishes both of these by sending vibrations through the entire body by use of a vibration platform or pad. The vibrations stimulate micro-expansion and contraction, in the same way that they might during a round of exercise, but smaller and more frequent.
This type of physiotherapy is an effective way,
then, to encourage an increased flow of oxygenated blood while also activating
the nerves which innervate your muscles, as well.
What are the Health Benefits of Vibration Therapy?
While more research is needed, the more studies that are performed on this method, the more it shows potential to be highly effective when it comes to calming some of the more painful and debilitating symptoms that come with peripheral nerve damage.
Vibration therapy is showing promise when it comes to the following:
- Reduce pain and sensitivity due to sensory symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
- Improve muscle strength, resulting in higher levels of balance and coordination — this reduces the risk for dangerous falls and accidents
- Increase vibration sensitivity, helping with gait improvement and a reduced risk for resulting alignment issues
- Increase nervous system stimulation
- Increase sensory nerve function
- Alleviate stress
- Boost metabolism
What are the Risks of Vibration Therapy?
Vibration therapy may have adverse risks if the intensity is too high.s It is important to always begin vibration therapy at very low frequency and duration. Talk to your doctor before starting vibration therapy at home if you:
- have very advanced stages of diabetes
- have advanced heart disease
- are taking blood thinner medications
- are pregnant
- have cancer
The Takeaway About Vibration Therapy
Much of the research behind whole-body vibration therapy is in its relative infancy. A lot of it is recently performed, and many of the available papers mention that further research is necessary.
Still, the available research is highly convincing, and anecdotal evidence is showing with increasing frequency that vibration therapy is one of the more effective complementary therapies available.
Of course, the term “complementary therapy” implies that vibration therapy isn’t enough on its own. It must be enacted with other effective therapies that have been shown to encourage nerve growth and regeneration, as well. When it’s possible, it’s best to eliminate the cause of neuropathy, too (though this is not always an option).
When vibration therapy is combined with reducing chronic inflammation, an anti-inflammatory diet, reduction of environmental toxins, restorative sleep, and stress management, it’s been shown to be a safe and effective way to encourage the body’s natural healing and regeneration processes.
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