In addition to several other procedures and treatments for lipedema, pump therapy, whole-body vibration, and dry brushing can also increase the circulation of lymph fluids and provide relief from the sometimes painful symptoms.
Because the lymphatic system lies just below the skin’s surface, dry brushing has been considered an effective treatment for lipedema. It has been shown to:
- Help move the venous blood
- Stimulate the lymph system
- Strengthen the immune system
- Improve surface circulation
- Exfoliate the skin
- Improve the look of the skin to produce a healthier feel
The dry brushing technique is performed with a brush, either with a handle or a strap, that has soft bristles. As the name says, the brush is used dry and without water. You will not get the same results if the skin or brush is wet. With long, gentle, firm strokes, go over your entire body (except the face). The strokes should move the skin toward the heart and neck. Start with the feet and brush upward to the knees, groin, abdomen, and chest. Then brush the hands and arms to the armpits.
So far to date, no controlled studies have looked directly at vibration devices and lipedema. All the evidence I’m going to cite is indirect and based on studies designed for other purposes. This also helps build and maintain skeletal muscle mass. Many studies have shown that women with lipedema have decreased muscle mass, impacting their mobility, quality of life, and the ability to lose weight. Van Esch- Smeenge showed in a study that quadriceps strength and functional exercise capacity by six-minute walk compared to overweight controls with similar BMI.
The best study to apply to lipedema is the study published in 2007 by Dr. Lowman on the effect of whole-body vibration on skin blood flow. The study looked at lower frequency vibration’s effect on laser Doppler measured skin blood flow. The vibration significantly increased blood flow to the skin after three minutes on a vibration plate. Interestingly the increased blood flow was blunted simultaneous isometric exercise on the plate. The study used a 30 Hertz cycle of horizontal pivot vibration much like a teeter-totter. In other studies, using a higher frequency of vibration and a vertical vibration have also shown changes in skin blood flow.
What Is the Best Vibration Frequency?
What does the literature say about the frequency of vibration? There have been multiple studies showing that vibration in the range of 10 to 30 Hertz is likely the most effective for changing blood flow and indirectly lymphatic flow. There are also studies that show high-frequency vibration such as plates vibrating at 80 Hertz or higher is associated with complications such as Raynaud’s symptoms.
Lipedema Venous and Lymphatic Changes
How do these studies relate to lipedema? Lipedema is associated with multiple vascular changes. There is an increase in subdermal venous vessels and an increase in varicose and spider veins and an increase in vessel fragility or bruising. All of these venous abnormalities increase venous pressure and lead to microvascular venous hypertension. The venous hypertension causes increased pressure at the capillary bed and result in an increase in lymph production. Increased lymph production can be accommodated in the early stages, but over time can lead to secondary lymphedema.
No Direct Comparison of Vibration Plates
There are no head-to-head studies comparing vibration plates and skin blood flow. So far all we can say is that the horizontal rotating vibration plate at 30 Hertz is proven to affect skin blood flow. Other vibration plates that vibrate more rapidly or more slowly and plates that are vibrating in other directions have been. There is some evidence that these other vibration devices may help skin blood flow, however, the evidence is not as good.
Other Effects of Whole Body Vibration
Johnson showed that whole-body vibration, improved skin blood flow, and nitric oxide production in diabetic individuals when combined with resistance training, but not alone. Vibration augmented the changes in body composition in older women when combined with resistance exercise in a study by Fjeldstad. Specifically, the study showed that whole-body vibration combined with weight training increased fat loss, muscle gain, and improved bone density. To learn more follow the references, including the review article by Park.
My recommendations for my patients: I recommend my patients consider adding a vibration plate to help their swelling and symptoms of lipedema once the basics of diet, compression, lymphatic massage, and or lymphatic pneumatic pumps have been implemented.
Fjeldstad C, Palmer IJ, Bemben MG, Bemben DA. Whole-body vibration augments resistance training effects on body composition in postmenopausal women. Maturitas. 2009;63:79–83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19386449 https://www.maturitas.org/article/S0378-5122(09)00103-0/fulltext or Google Scholar Link
Johnson, P. K., Feland, J. B., Johnson, A. W., Mack, G. W., & Mitchell, U. H. (2014). Effect of Whole Body Vibration on Skin Blood Flow and Nitric Oxide Production. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 8(4), 889–894. https://doi.org/10.1177/1932296814536289 or Google Scholar Link
Lohman EB 3rd, Petrofsky JS, Maloney-Hinds C, Betts-Schwab H, Thorpe D. The effect of whole body vibration on lower extremity skin blood flow in normal subjects. Med Sci Monit. 2007;13:CR71–76.
Song-Young Park. Effects of whole body vibration training on body composition, skeletal muscle strength, and cardiovascular health. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation 2015; 11(6): 289-295. 2015 https://www.e-jer.org/journal/view.php?number=2013600223 or Google Scholar Link
Learn More by reading this review article: Whole body vibration exercise: are vibrations good for you? https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/39/9/585
van Esch-Smeenge J, Damstra RJ, Hendrickx AA. Muscle strength and functional exercise capacity in patients with lipoedema and obesity: a comparative study. Journal of Lymphoedema. 2017;12:27–31. link https://www.