Vibration: Cause or Cure of Back Pain?
Chronic low back pain of unknown cause occurs around the world. Despite painful and limiting symptoms, spine damage is not always found. X-rays and other imaging studies often appear normal. This kind of back pain is called nonspecific. It is likely that there are soft tissue, psychological, and social factors involved in nonspecific back pain.

A new treatment using vibration exercise (VbX) is ready for use. It is being tried in sports, geriatrics, and rehabilitation. It works by setting off muscle reflexes. These reflexes activate and strengthen the muscles.

Ironically, vibration is a risk factor for back problems. Workers who are exposed to whole-body vibration often have work-related back pain. VbX is different from industrial vibration, however. It is applied for no more than seven minutes at a time. The intensity is lower, and the patient is in a standing posture with knees slightly bent.

Researchers in Germany tested VbX against another kind of back treatment. The second type of treatment is exercise called isodynamic lumbar extension. These exercises are done on a machine that gives resistance to the movement. Resistance can be applied to different muscles and in different motions.

Both vibration and lumbar extension worked equally well in reducing pain. Both groups increased their back range of motion right after treatment and six months later. Only the lumbar extension group had less psychological depression after treatment. The reason for this isn't known. In practical terms, the VbX device takes up less space and may be better for clinics where space is an issue.
References
Jörn Rittweger, MD, et al. Treatment of Chronic Lower Back Pain With Lumbar Extension and Whole-Body Vibration Exercise. In Spine. September 1, 2002. Vol. 27. No. 17. Pp. 1829-1834.