Simple Exercise for Chronic Stroke Shows Benefits

The damage caused by a stroke can be life-changing and the road back challenging and not always completely successful.  Anything that can help is important, especially if the answer is as simple as this.

Our office has had a high-end whole body vibration unit for many years, and over this time span I have seen some pretty remarkable things happen.  From a Parkinson’s patient with dramatic improvements to athletes who went from unstable knees after an ACL repair to full stability in a handful of treatments.  The research supports a benefit as well in such situations as increasing stability in the elderly at risk for falls, improving knee pain in the elderly, improving quality of life and mobility in multiple sclerosis patients and improving mobility in post stroke patients as well.

In general, I tell patients that, the less active you are (whether from choice or from a condition) the greater benefits you will achieve from vibration platform exercises.

This particular study, although small, adds weight to the benefits of the use of a whole body vibration platform in patients with chronic stroke.  Here’s the details:

  • The vibration group performed both static and dynamic squat exercises on a vibration platform at frequencies of 35 and 40 Hz.
  • Treatment lasted 30 to 60 seconds, with 5 to 17 repetitions per exercise.
  • 3 times weekly for 6 weeks.
  • The outcomes were evaluated based on muscle strength (both isometric and isokinetic) of quadriceps, hamstring strength, static and dynamic postural control and muscle spasticity.

So far it sounds pretty easy.  Basically stand on a platform for about a minute, 3 times per week for 6 weeks, doing some easy squat exercises.  This couldn’t possibly be worth anything, could it?

  1. Compliance as excellent and both vibration frequencies of 35Hz and 40Hz were well-tolerated with no adverse effects.
  2. The whole body vibration had improvements in isometric knee extension strength (knee angle 60°) and in isokinetic knee extension strength.
  3. Postural control improved as well.
  4. Muscle spasticity, however, was not affected by vibration.

Overall, the whole body vibration was not a game changer for these patients, but it clearly made a difference in these patients with chronic stroke, an arguably very difficult condition to get improvements from.  It is also a therapy that could be administered far more frequently and for a much longer time frame if a home unit was purchased.  Our office has a particular unit that we recommend that runs around $1750.  Be careful with some of the lower priced units—they may not have the quality you’re going to need for long-term use.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.