Lipedema causes a unique set of vascular and lymphatic challenges to the individuals who have it. Secondary lymphedema, bruising and an increased prevalence of varicose and spider veins are just a few of the complications that lipedema can cause in affected individuals. Let us look at the evidence for the question of whether vibration devices or vibration plates can help lipedema and does whole body vibration for lipedema work?
Vibration Treatment and Lipedema
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.
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. 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 a vibration? There have been multiple studies showing that vibration in the range of 10 to 30 Hertz it 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.
Types of vibration plates/devices
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 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. Venous hypertension causes increased pressure at the capillary bed and result in increase lymph production. Increase 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 – ones that vibrate more rapidly or more slowly and plates that are vibrating in other directions. 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 for lipedema improved skin blood flow and nitric oxide production in diabetic individuals. When combined with resistance training, but not alone augmented the changes in body composition in older women was shown by Fjeldstad. Specifically, the 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.