Vibration therapy for osteoporosis not yet proven effective
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Monday, December 10, 2012
12/10/12 at 3:37 AM
Dear Doctor K: I've heard that vibration therapy can help to improve bone density. Can you tell me more about it?
Dear Reader: Our bones are in constant flux, as old bone is broken down and new bone is created. If old bone is broken down faster than new bone is created, low bone density and eventually osteoporosis develops.
Low-intensity vibration devices gently stimulate muscle and bone. (Don't confuse them with high-intensity, whole-body vibration, which is used mainly for exercise training.)
In low-intensity vibration therapy, you stand on a platform that resembles a bathroom scale. The device oscillates up and down a barely noticeable amount. Both the size and speed of the vibration are set to match the natural stimulation that occurs as your muscles relax and contract to maintain your posture.
How vibration therapy promotes bone density isn't well understood, but researchers have several possible explanations. Vibration enhances circulation to muscle and bone, boosting the supply of nutrients to these tissues.
Exposure to low-intensity vibration has been used to prevent bone loss in people who are unable to perform any weight-bearing exercise whatsoever - patients with spinal cord injuries, for example.
But does it work for age-related osteoporosis? We don't know yet.
There are also safety concerns. The very people who are most likely to benefit from this therapy - frail older people with osteoporosis who are at risk of falling - are also the most likely to hurt themselves trying.
So I can't recommend vibration therapy to you, based on current evidence. Fortunately, many different types of medicines are effective: calcium and vitamin D, bisphosphonates, hormone therapy, selective estrogen receptor agonists, parathyroid hormone, calcitonin and others. Not all of them are right for everyone.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106