Tuesday 6th August, 2019
  Categories: General, Practitioners
  Topic(s): Sports, Exercise

The sports and exercise guide to vibration massage

Introduction

This guide is to introduce you to the huge potential benefits of using your own personal hand held vibration massager. Vibration massage is a long established form of therapy with a host of highly beneficial scientifically proven effects. Although it is very easy to self apply, the home and personal use of this valuable therapy has been massively under used because vibration massagers built for home use have been ineffective, and not something to be recommend or supported by professionals (1). Over a decade ago a Chiropractor, Dr Graeme, helped change this by building a highly effective easy to use massager for personal use. In the following sections we will

  • introduce you to the scientifically proven effects of vibration massage,
  • show you why vibration massage penetrates deeply without the need for pressure or pain,
  • show you why vibration massage is ideal for self use,
  • discuss how and when you can use your massager to get the most benefits.
  1. McDonagh D, Wilson L, Haslam C, Weightman D. Good vibrations: do electrical therapeutic massagers work? Ergonomics. 2005 May 15;48(6):680-91

The scientific effects: why vibration massage is so simple and effective

Because vibration massage uses vibrations rather than physical pressure to penetrate it penetrates deeper and is far easier to use than manual massage. There is no need know any special massage techniques, no need to to apply potentially damaging pressure, and no need to cause pain. All one needs to do is apply the massager and allow the vibrations to penetrate, knowing that as they do they will have the following scientifically proven effects. You not even the need to be able to find those tender spots masseurs find. The vibrations will penetrate and "find" them. For further information on the scientific effects please see our research summary The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage.

The scientifically proven effects

  • Causes muscles to relax (3)
  • Increases blood flow (4-6)
  • Reduces pain (7)
  • Causes "stretching" of muscles (8-11)
  • Reduces post exercise soreness (DOMS) (12-19)
  • Speeds recovery (12-19)
  • Assists healing (20-22)
  • Increases the performance of muscles (23)

How they penetrate

Manual massage is like this sheeps foot roller. It uses heavy and potentially damaging pressure to penetrate.
This truck has a vibrating pad that sends vibrations deep into the earth. They bounce off the rock layers and are picked up by sensors several kilometers away. Vibration massagers use this technology to penetrate deeply without harmful or painful pressure.

Specific uses: how those who play sport or exercise can benefit

Now you understand how vibration massage works and it's scientic effects, please allow us to introduce several potential uses and benefits for those who play sport or exercise. In this next section we will discuss:

  • warm ups
  • post exercise and recovery
  • stretching
  • trigger points/ muscular pains
  • rehabilitation
  • performance enhancement
Summary of warm up benefits

Warmups

The purpose of a warmup is to prepare your body for exercise, enabling full performance and minimising your risk of injury. As an example, stretching your muscles to full operational length allows full movement, and eliminates the risk of tearing a muscle because it is too tight. Vibration massage can contribute to a warmup routine in the following ways.

Increasing blood flow

Increasing blood flow helps flush muscles and other tissues with blood, bringing oxygen and nutrients while removing waste products. Vibration has been shown to increase blood flow, with the effect lasting for over 15 minutes.

“Stretching”

As mentioned, stretching lengthens muscles to their full operational length. Clinical trials have shown that the application of vibration has the same effect. In practice both could be part of a warmup routine, with vibration possibly used where muscles are hard to stretch or where stretching may cause injury.

Reducing post exercise soreness (DOMS)

The use of vibration massage before (and after) exercise will reduce post exercise soreness and speed recovery.

Post exercise/ recovery

Clinical trials have found that if you use vibration massage after strenuous exercise you will be far less stiff and sore, and you will recover faster. You get stiff and sore because strenuous exercises cause microscopic damage to your muscles and other tissues. Your muscles tighten, and there is a build up of chemicals from the breakdown of the tissues. This is inescapable, but the scientifically proven effects of vibration massage help minimise the effect of this by:

  • causing muscles to relax
  • stimulating increased blood flow, flushing out the chemicals that result from tissue breakdown, while bringing in oxygen and nutrients
  • increasing healing

The clinical trials had excellent results by applying vibration massage after exercising, then each day during recovery.

Clinical trials show that vibration massage gives the same muscle lengthening as stretching exercises.

"Stretching" muscles

Clinical trials have found that applying vibration massage to muscles causes them to lengthen (stretch) the same amount as stretching does. We do not advocate replacing stretching, but there are two circumstances where vibration would be preferred. These are discussed below. For further information please see our research summary: Summary of research on the effect of vibration massage on muscle length and joint range of motion, with practical applications

Difficult to stretch

Vibration massage is useful where muscles are difficult to stretch, such as for example where it is difficult to position oneself correctly, or in the case of the spine where multiple joints work together so it is impossible to isolate just one. To “stretch” these muscles all you need to do is apply the vibration directly to the muscle.

Where there is an injury

Vibration massage is ideal where conventional stretching exercises would cause damage to a joint. As an example, to stretch your calf muscles you need to bend your ankle. This cannot be done during the early stages of an ankle sprain. However, tightening of the calf muscles can be prevented by direct application of vibration massage to the calf muscles.

Increasing performance

Although scientists have found that applying vibration increases the strength and power of muscles, for the average sports person the biggest gains will come from helping muscles achieve their normal full potential, and eliminating things that inhibit them.

Achieving full potential

Lengthening muscles to their full operational length and increasing blood flow helps them to work to their full potential.

Eliminating things that inhibit performance

By far the greatest performance benefit for the average person will come from the elimination of issues that inhibit performance.

  • Better warmups will help reduce the effect of injuries
  • Post exercise massage will reduce pain and speed recovery. Exercise will be more enjoyable and there will be less time during recovery where you cannot train.
  • MOST IMPORTANT: helping eliminate performance robbing trigger points (discussed in the next section)
Trigger point chart

(Myofascial) Trigger Points

Introduction

If you have been to a masseur he or she will probably have found tender lumps in your muscles that shoot pain when pressed upon. There may have even been a chart like this showing the pain they cause. These are called trigger points. They are care caused by injury and over use, so most sports people have many. Trigger points can eventually cause the pain shown in these charts, but even before then those tender lumps cause muscles to tighten, under-perform and fatigue easily. The following sections cover how they are formed, the effect they have on your body, and finally how they are treated (27,28)

Trigger points start with overuse or injury then develop into a cycle that continually feeds itself.

What is a trigger point

A trigger point lump is part of the muscle that has been injured or overused and has gone into into spasm. As shown in this diagram, the effects of this spasm have a flow on effect which tends to make the muscle spasm more. This is like what happens when you place a microphone in front of a loud speaker and get a huge squeal. Unless treated, this process will keep going around in circles, gradually getting worse over time.

What trigger points do

Pain: the obvious consequence

If untreated, those tight lumps will continue to grow or eventually be aggravated. They will then start shooting pain without being pressed upon. Scientist say that these are the most common cause of musculoskeletal pain such as back, neck or shoulder pain.

Even without pain: tightness, less strength and fatigue

Even without causing pain muscles containing trigger points are abnormally tight, lack their normal strength, and fatigue easily. Apart from significantly lowering sports and exercise performance they will cause a host of other issues.

Torn muscles, muscle attachment and "over use" injuries

Tight muscles can easily tear. There is also added tension where the muscle joins to the bone, causing "over use" and other injuries.

Unexplained fatigue and pain on exercise

Trigger points are a common cause of abnormal tiredness and muscular pain when exercising.

Postural and mechanical changes

Your body will compensate for the abnormal tightness and lack of performance of individual muscles by changing your posture and body mechanics. This will alter joint alignment and place abnormal stress upon other muscles and tissues. This changed alignment and extra stress is a huge underlying cause of many injuries.

The treatment of trigger points

In the following section we will outline the two basic principles of trigger point therapy, then share how you can use these in a routine to help eliminate your trigger points.

Vibration massage penetrates, disrupting the trigger point cycle at three points

Principle one: how trigger point therapies work

There are many different forms of trigger point therapy. All work to disrupt the circle in the diagram by targeting one or more of it's parts. When you use vibration massage the vibrations penetrate deeply, targeting the circle at three points:

  • disrupting the nerve signal that causes the spasm,
  • causing the muscle to relax, and
  • increasing blood flow.
Stage One (short): stop the pain Stage two (long): eliminate the trigger point

Principle two: trigger points are stubborn

As this diagram shows, it may take a couple of treatment to stop trigger points causing pain, making the person feel much better, but it takes many more treatments until they are completely gone. If not eliminated trigger points continue to cause the problems discussed, then eventually worsen or are re-aggravated, causing pain again.

Trigger point treatment plans

There are two common ways to treat a trigger point: the first is the common way, which gives terrible results. The second which is the way professional sports clubs do it.

The common way: terrible results

Trigger point therapy is most commonly used when the trigger points become painful, then stopped when the pain is gone. The trigger points are still there, along with their effects. Relapse is usually inevitable.

The professional sports club way

The treatment of trigger points needs a regular and consistent effort over time to be successful. Professional sports clubs do this by combining trigger point therapy with other activities. This simply means that whenever players have warm up or recovery massages this helps find and treat trigger points at the same time. This helps keep players in excellent condition, but if an injury or problem were to develop professional sports clubs will often provide multiple therapy sessions a day.

Trigger points: our recommendations

We recommend that if you don't have this sort of care provided for you by a professional sports club you can copy it using your vibration massager. If you use vibration massage for warm ups or recovery the vibrations will be finding and treat any trigger points there at the same time. If you do have a problem or injury consult a professional, and discuss the use of vibration massage as part of his or her management plan.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is a complex issue and should always involve professional help. However, as a guide there are two areas of huge potential benefits from using using your vibration massager.

Functional Rehabilitation

In the (USA) National Academy of Sports Medicine's text (26) (pictured) they discuss the many issues that need to be addressed as part of a corrective exercise program. Much of this can be simplified by saying that as long as you have issues such as trigger points causing your muscles to be tight and unable to work normally your body will not be able to perform exercises properly. Because of this, the elimination of trigger points must be included as part of any rehabilitation plan.

The oval shapes are healing muscle fibres. Note that the one's treated with vibration muscle fibres have grown much larger Con: Healed normally LIC: Vibration of 45 Hz (cycles per second), 20 minutes a day

Assisting healing

Scientists have found that applying vibration for as little as 20 minutes a day can dramatically can hugely speed up and improve healing. Of course this should be used under professional advice, but is certainly something to strongly consider taking advantage of. As an example the pictures to the right (below on mobiles) compares muscle the has healed normally (CON) with muscle that has been given 20 minutes a day of vibration (LIV). There are a lot more equally impressive examples in our research summary Assisting healing.

We are continually adding more information on research and uses. Subscribe below to have us email them to you "hot off the press".

Dr Graeme

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