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Vibration Therapy Improves Mobility and Strength in Young People with Cerebral Palsy

March 14, 2016

Young adults with cerebral palsy enjoy stronger bones and greater mobility after training on a specialized vibration plate. These patients found this relief after participating in a clinical trial of the whole-body training at the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland.

These patients were aged 11-20, and stood on this vibration plate for 9 minutes, 4 times a week. This trial went on for 20 weeks, and the researchers were pleasantly surprised that the patients found multiple benefits.
The hypothesis was that the patients would increase their bone and muscle mass, which did happen. The added bonus was that patients also saw their day-to-day functioning improve.

Dr Silmara Gusso, who led the study, said “Some kids were walking 30 per cent further in a 6-minute walk test – that might not sound much for us, but being able to walk an extra 100m is huge for them. The feedback from parents and caregivers about the changes they were noticing was especially encouraging: improved mood, greater maneuverability and fewer falls.”

The trial used a vibration plate that has been specially developed and tested for physical therapy. Patients stand on it barefoot, holding onto its metal frame for support if necessary. It’s see-saw movement stimulates a pattern similar to walking. This is thought to improve communication between the muscles and spine, thereby aiding balance and co-ordination.

“Parents and physios saw not only physical but also emotional changes. Confidence improved: kids who used to walk around holding onto rails are now walking around the school with their chins up.”

Until now, treatments to relieve the disorders’ effects have been fairly limited: injection of botox, surgery, passive stretching by physiotherapists and injection of bisphosphonates to increase bone density.

Previous, small-scale studies had indicated that Whole Body Vibration Training (WBVT) offered benefits for young people with cerebral palsy. This trial, the biggest and most rigorous to date, confirms and elaborates on the benefits.