Effects of vertical and side-alternating vibration training on fall risk factors and bone turnover in older people at risk of falls

Background: Whole body vibration training may improve neuromuscular function, falls risk and bone density, but previous studies have had conflicting findings. Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the influence of vertical and side-alternating vibration on musculoskeletal health in older people at risk of falls. Design: Single blind randomised controlled trial comparing vibration training to sham vibration in addition to usual care. Participants: Participants were 61 older people (37 women and 24 men), aged 80.2 + 6.5y, referred to an outpatient falls prevention service. Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to vertical vibration (VV), side-alternating vibration (SV) or sham vibration (Sham) in addition to the usual falls prevention programme. Participants were requested to attend three vibration sessions per week for 12 weeks, with sessions increasing to six, 1 minute bouts of vibration. Falls risk factors and neuromuscular tests were assessed, and blood samples collected for determination of bone turnover, at baseline and following the intervention. Results: Chair stand time, timed-up-and-go time, fear of falling, NEADL index and postural sway with eyes open improved in the Sham group. There were significantly greater gains in leg power in the VV than Sham group and in bone formation in SV and VV compared to the Sham vibration group. Conversely, body sway improved less in the VV than Sham group. Changes in falls risk factors did not differ between groups. Conclusions: Whole body vibration increased leg power and bone formation, but did not provide any additional benefits to balance or fall risk factors beyond a falls prevention programme in older people at risk of falls.