From driving carts over uneven roads and taking long journeys on horseback, to hopping on exercise machines and travelling space, humans have been exploring the effects of vibration therapy on health for millennia.
The ancient Greeks and Romans are thought to have been the first to discover the healing potential of vibrations.
Ancient Greek doctors would create vibrations on parts of the body that required healing by sawing wood or plucking large instruments, and ancient Romans created whole body vibrations by driving carts with irregular wheels over rough ground to heal wounds.¹
A Japanese book from the 1500s, Sau-Tsai-Tou-Hoei, outlines the medicinal effects of vibration. Based on ancient massage techniques, physicians adopted methods of vibration, percussion and passive motion to cure involuntary muscle contractions, rheumatic pains and even fractured bones.²
Jump ahead to the 19th century and significant medical and technological advances opened up a new world of possibilities for vibration therapy.
Jean-Martin Charcot, one of the founders of modern neurology and dubbed the ‘Napoleon of neuroses’, observed that Parkinson’s patients experience marked symptom improvement following long carriage, train or horseback rides and invents a vibratory chair to mimic the sensations.³ He hails therapeutic use of vibration as ‘a powerful sedative for the nervous system’.⁴
Later, Swedish doctor Jonas Gustav Zander kickstarts a movement, for movement.
Modern gym-goers have Dr.Zander to thank (or blame) for the invention of exercise machines in their familiar form.
His early invention, the Zanderapparat F2, which used a system of weights and pulleys to stimulate a jog trot similar to the experience of riding a horse, was said to aid digestion, stimulate weight loss and contribute to muscle and bone gain.
As we approached the 20th century, Dr John Kellogg improved on Zander’s designs with the development of steam-powered vibrating chairs, bars and platforms for use in his Battle Creek Sanitarium, a medical spa flocked to by the most affluent individuals of the time – Kellogg’s vibrating devices even found their way into the White House and the Titanic’s first-class gym.⁵’⁶
Battle Creek was also the birthplace of the now famed Kellogg’s cornflake, originally served as a medicinal food to spa-goers.
Whole body vibration devices didn’t see much use in the first half of the 20th century, with interest falling due to the impact of two world wars.
They saw a resurgence in the 60s when Professor William Biermann championed vibration for muscle and bone strength training in sportspeople – calling it rhythmic neuromuscular stimulation, or RNS. This was adopted by Russian scientist Vladmir Nazarov, who used it to increase the performance of Soviet Union athletes participating in the Olympics throughout the 70s.⁷
Experiencing zero-gravity may be a dream for many of us who are fascinated by space, but prolonged weightlessness can cause a few unwelcome effects on the human body.
Astronauts lose 1-2% of their bone density for every month they are in space; It would take several decades to lose the same amount on solid ground.⁸
When there is no gravity, your bones no longer have to support body movement or posture. Some researchers describe it as ‘the most drastic physical inactivity there is’.⁹
All that floating around can therefore severely weaken the bones, which can cause fractures and even lead to osteoporosis on return to Earth.¹⁰
Realising this cosmic conundrum, NASA joined forces with biomedical scientist Professor Clinton Rubin to develop a non-invasive, drug-free way to mitigate bone loss while in space.
Drawing on decades of research into the effects of mechanical stimulation on the body, Professor Rubin and his team developed a vibration platform for astronauts that uses low-intensity, targeted vibrations to grow and strengthen bone and muscle cells. Read more about the different types of vibration therapy in our complete guide.
But those daring enough to venture beyond the Earth’s atmosphere aren’t the only ones who need to worry about bone loss.
Owing to its success in space, Professor Rubin realised the potential for low intensity vibration to treat osteoporosis on Earth – leading to the invention of the Marodyne LiV.
The Marodyne LiV is a medically-certified, safe and effective vibration platform proven to increase bone density and combat osteoporosis. Discover more about the Marodyne LiV and how it works here.