Tuesday 6th February 2018

Vibration massage shown to have similar effects to stretching


Research shows that vibration massage produces a lengthening "stretching" of muscles similar to that achieved by using conventional stretching exercises.  The application of vibration massage is simple with practically no ongoing costs. In this summary we discuss this research some practical applications

The research

In all following trials vibration massage was applied to muscles.  Joint ranges of motion were measured, with any increase being due to a lengthening of muscles allowing the joint to move further,

Trial One (1)
Knee extension was measured with the hip flexed to 90 degrees.  Multiple applications of 50 Hz (cycles per second) massage were applied to the hamstring muscles over a eight week period.  Compared with the control group the massage group had an average increase of 13-14 degrees.

Trial Two (2)
Hip flexion was measured by attempting to touch ones toes.  For the massage group a 44 Hz massage was applied each day to the hamstrings for three days.  A stretching group used conventional stretches each day, while a third group acted as a control.  Both the stretching and massage groups showed a similar significant improvement in hip joint ROM

Trial Three (3)
This trial used the toe touching measurement and hamstring massage. Vibration massage was used with unspecified protocol on the hamstrings and erector spinae muscles.  The massage group showed a 5cm improvement as compared to the controls.

Trial Four (4)
In this trial a straight leg raise (SLR) was measured.  A proprietary device called “Deep Oscillation” was used.  This is a device that has a pad that applies to the skin.  The makers claim that it’s therapeutic affect is from mechanical vibrations that penetrate.  From what I understand the pad creates an electrostatic attraction to the skin that switches on and off.  It works like having a vacuum cleaner on your skin switching on and off very  fast creating a vibration.  In other words, it’s an impressive looking, patentable and very expensive way to create a simple mechanical vibration.  Anyway, the Deep Oscillation group had an increase in SLR over the controls.

Practical applications

We do not envisage the use of vibration massage as a replacement for conventional stretching, but rather something that could be used in conjunction to complemement stretching. There are two areas of usage though where the use of vibration massage has huge advantages over conventional stretching.

Where there is damage or injury
Conventional stretching usually involves full movement of joints.  This is usually inappropriate when a joint is injured, such as occurs with a sprained ankle or injured back.   Vibration massage can produce a similar lengthening of muscles without the need to move the joint.  Also, as discussed in a study on the effects of vibration massage the use of vibration may also help speed up healing.

Where specific stretching is required
In some parts of the body, particularly in the spine and pelvis, joints can be close to each other and work together as a “team”.   Often one joint can stiffen while other members of the “team’ work a bit extra.  Because the joints work together as a team it is impossible to stretch the muscles associates with just one joint.   The restoration of just one joint while minimally effecting another is definitely the domain of highly skilled qualified professionals. However, but localised vibration massage can be used to lengthen muscles associated with a stiffened joint while not affecting the muscles of other joints that may be already overloaded.

Futher information


(1) Bakhtiary AH1, Fatemi E, Khalili MA, Ghorbani R.  Localised application of vibration improves passive knee extension in women with apparent reduced hamstring extensibility: a randomised trial. J Physiother. 2011;57(3):165-71
(2)  J. Atha and D. W. Wheatley Joint mobility changes due to low frequency vibration and stretching exercise* Br J Sports Med. 1976 Mar; 10(1): 26–34.
(3) Beirman W. INfluence of Cycloid Vibration Massage on Trunk Flexion American Journal of Physical Medicine: December 1960 - Volume 39 - Issue 6 - ppg 219-224
(4) Hinman, M. R., Lundy, R., Perry, E., Robbins, K., & Viertel, L. (2013). Comparative effect of ultrasound and deep oscillation on the extensibility of hamstring muscles. Journal of Athletic Medicine, 1

Future articles and sharing

If you found this information useful email us and we will send you further articles as soon as they are available.  If you know of others who may benefit please share. To share this article click one of the buttons below. The Facebook button will ask to post a link to this article on your Facebook feed so your friends and colleages may see it. The twitter icon will ask to post to your Twitter account. The email icon will open your email application with a link to this article included.

Dr Graeme Photo

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and ... read more