The Basics of Vibration Therapy and Platforms


History and Current Role of Vibration Therapy in Rehabilitation

Pettibon-Vibration Platform

Vibration therapy is not new. Dr. J. H. Kellogg was one of the first in the modern era (1800-1900) to utilize mechanical vibration as a modality to treat health problems. The ancient Greeks, also, we’re the ones to use primitive methods to cause whole-body vibration (WBV) for health care.

In 1960 Dr. Jan Biermann in Germany developed the forerunner of today’s vibration methods. Later, the Russians utilized WBV to help their astronauts combat the effects of minimum gravity. In the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, the Soviet Union and the Dutch Olympic team trainers were the first to recognize the benefits of WBV to enhance athletic performances.1,2

There are several different models and methods for the mechanical and electrical production of WBV. Mechanical WBV is one type that is not always painless or tolerated by patients.

Presently, there are two methods of mechanical WBV in use; piston (straight-up-and-down motions) and the triangle-oscillating method. Essentially the triangle force is a wobbling force and maybe more easily tolerated by patients. The Pettibon Vibrating Platform and the Therapeutic Wobble Chair utilize this oscillating wobble method. Currently, there is no published research proving one method is better than the other.


The Language and Physics of Whole Body Vibration

The Pettibon System Wobble Chair secured onto a Pettibon Vibration Platform


Whole-body vibration is a direct stimulation to the patient’s body, muscles, and nervous system. Over-stimulation may result in sweating and fatigue. Since WBV is such a powerful tool, those using it in their offices need to understand the terminology associated with it and how to identify when over-stimulation is approaching.

A woman using the Pettibon System Vibration Platform and Wobble Chair for back treatment


Frequency is the number of vibrations per second. Most platform vibrations may vary from 10 to 60 Hertz (Hz). To be effective, the Hz is varied to fit the patient’s body type and change as the patient’s physical condition changes.

Amplitude is the distance the vibration forces the platform to travel, usually from 1 to 4 mm.

Time is the duration a person experiences the vibration. This varies from individual to individual. This also depends on the Hz used and muscle activity of the individual during exposure to the vibration.



The Physiology of Whole Body Vibration

Whole-body vibration or vibration of any kind affects postural muscles differently than phasic muscles (the muscle made mostly of quick-contraction, high-power, short-durability fibers). This is because postural muscles can spasm, splint, and have tone, while phasic muscles do not.3,4  The vibration stimulates fibers in the muscles, causing reflex contraction. This increases muscle tone and eventually one’s strength when performed on a regular schedule.5,6,7 The vibrations on the VibePlatform can cause the loaded or stretched muscles to voluntarily over contract. This can cause the muscles to fatigue up to 50% faster. 8,9  

WBV has also been shown to cause spastic and splinted muscles to relax. This prevents spasms of muscles that can be overstimulated.


Impediments to the Use of Whole Body Vibration

As in all clinical applications, the use of WBV is patient-specific. There are a number of system components to follow for the success of WBV. The following may negatively affect WBV success:

  1. The patient is dehydrated before vibration therapy.
  2. The pH of the water consumed is acidic rather than alkaline.
  3. The patient has a vitamin or mineral deficiency causing an electrolyte imbalance.
  4. The patient has not consumed an adequate amount of protein within the past 3 to 4 hours.


Post Vibration Procedures

Since the spine is a closed kinetic system, for best results, head, shoulder, and hip weights should be used simultaneously. This should be done with vibration and followed for up to 20 minutes as soon as the patient can tolerate them.

The vibrations should be set at 10 to 30Hz for at least 3 to 8 minutes.

The Pettibon Vibration Platforms, like any platform, make a significant amount of noise. This is to be expected and is normal for clinics implementing Vibration Therapy with the Pettibon VibePlatforms.




1) Bernini PA, Wiesel SW, Rothman RH. The Aging Lumbar Spine. 1982 WB Saunders Philadelphia, PA
2) Divorak J, Divorak V. Manual Medicine Diagnostics, 2nd ed. 1990 Thieme Medical Publishers New York
3) Viidik A: Elasticity and tensile strength of the anterior cruciate ligament influenced by training. 1979
4) Stoppani J, ed: The science and application of vibration training. Muscle and Fitness. Weider Publications Inc
5) Delecluse C, Roelants M, Verschueren S. Strength increase after whole-body vibration compared with resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise (J American Sports Medicine) 2003; 35(6)1033-1041
6) Warman, et al. Leg Extension Strength. 2002
7) Issurin VB, Tenebaum G: Acute and residual effects of vibratory stimulation on explosive

8) Cardinale M, Wakeling J: Whole body vibration: Are vibrations good for you? College of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Aberdeen Scotland UK 2005
9) Divorak J, Divorak V. Manual Medicine Diagnostics, 2nd ed. 1990 Thieme Medical Publishers New York