Peripheral neuropathy is such a complex condition to address that standard treatments often fail at providing pain relief caused by nerve damage. Many neuropathy sufferers turn to alternative pain management methods, whether caused by diabetes, chemotherapy, or other factors.
Vibration therapy is one of them. While scientific research is still limited about the effects of vibration on neuropathy foot pain, advocates claim its numerous benefits.
When correctly performed, vibration therapy may help relieve nerve pain, boost blood circulation, decrease neuropathy symptoms, stimulate the nerves, and even prevent further nerve damage. On the contrary, if the vibration intensity is too high or the use is too frequent, vibrations may worsen neuropathy pain and symptoms.
Vibration machines for neuropathy must be chosen carefully, and a medical team should supervise the therapy.
The vibration was first used for a therapeutic purpose in 1867 by a Swedish physician and orthopedist named Gustav Zander. Vibration is quite common in modern medicine and helps relieve numerous conditions and health issues.
Several vibration therapies serve different purposes, including fitness training, chronic pain relief, weight loss, osteoporosis treatment, blood circulation issues, and others.
The benefits vary depending on the types of vibration therapy. The results are not the same whether you receive whole-body vertical vibrations or localized oscillating ones on your foot. Before starting vibration therapy for neuropathy, you must know a few technical terms.
Related article: The Best Foot Massagers for Neuropathy & Diabetic Foot Pain
There are two types of vibration therapies: whole-body vibration therapy and local vibration therapy (also called focal vibration).
During whole-body vibration therapy, you are standing, sitting, or laying on a machine that makes the whole body vibrate. Whole-body vibration can be very intense and may be contra-indicated if you have peripheral neuropathy.
Localized vibration therapy involves a small hand-held vibrating device that you or your therapist place on strategic parts of your body (usually where it hurts). Localized vibration therapy is best adapted to neuropathy pain localized in the feet or hands.
Vibration plates and machines can send different types of vibrations.
Vertical vibrations move straight up and down. It’s most commonly used for fitness, muscle building, or osteoporosis treatment. It’s the most vital type of vibration therapy, and it’s recommended for active users. Vertical vibrations might be too intense for neuropathy patients and could be harmful.
Oscillating vibrations are best for people who want to start exercising, stimulate their body and muscles, lose fat, and burn calories. The vibrations oscillate and mobilize the core muscles to find balance.
Elliptical vibrations are probably the most suitable vibrations to use for neuropathy. It is the mildest form of vibration, and it’s often recommended for older people with blood circulation issues, balance problems, and chronic pains.
Related article: The 8 Best Shoes for Neuropathy in 2022
Nerve damage caused by peripheral neuropathy can be excruciating, and unfortunately, the standard treatments often fail at providing relief.
Vibration is showing great promise as an alternative pain management therapy. Even though research is still limited on the effects of vibration on neuropathy, it is claimed to have helped reduce neuropathy symptoms and slow down the progression of nerve damage for numerous patients.
Neuropathy is a serious health condition that can lead to severe complications. Any alternative treatment must be discussed with and supervised by a medical team.
There are several types of neuropathy, but for this article, we only refer to peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy – also called distal symmetric peripheral neuropathy – affects the peripheral nervous system from the lower limbs, legs, feet, and sometimes the arms and hands. It’s a type of nerve damage.
Peripheral neuropathy is mainly caused by diabetes, but this type of nerve damage can also be caused by chemotherapy treatments for cancer, alcoholism, or other factors.
Symptoms vary depending on the individual and may include numbness, loss of sensation, sharp pain, cramps, tingling, prickling, or burning sensations, increased sensitivity to touch, loss of balance, and others.
Related article: The Best Socks for Peripheral Neuropathy
Vibration therapy is not FDA-regulated, and more scientific research is needed to confirm its potential health benefits. Advocates claim that vibration can help treat specific conditions and alleviate chronic pain.
For neuropathy, in particular, vibration therapy may have exciting benefits such as:
Neuropathy is a complex condition to address. The symptoms and their intensity vary from one person to the other. Consequently, the effects of vibration on neuropathy vary depending on the individual. It may relieve the pain and slow the progression for some patients, while it may do nothing or worsen the symptoms for others.
The use of vibration therapy for neuropathy foot pain is relatively new, and scientific research still lacks to put things into perspective.
Whole-body vibration therapy may be considered for neuropathy. Although there is no clear evidence that it helps with nerve pain, it has proven to help relieve some chronic pain. However, because of its high intensity, whole-body vibrations for neuropathy should always be medically supervised.
The most suitable vibrations for neuropathy seem to be local or mild elliptical vibrations. Local (or focal) vibration therapies are done with small hand-held devices that only allow you to focus on the painful areas.
Always start vibration therapy at the lowest frequency and for short durations to prevent harmful side effects. Gradually increase the settings until you find the ones that work best for you. Vibration therapy should not feel painful or uncomfortable.
Related article: The Best Creams for Neuropathy Pain Relief
Vibration therapy is non-invasive and considered mostly safe if adequately performed. It may be dangerous if the intensity of the vibrations is too high or if it’s used too often.
High-intensity vibrations can have serious side effects, including lumbar injury and severe back pain. Most manufacturers recommend using their vibration machines for no more than 30 minutes daily.
Besides, vibration plates may impede the healing of diabetic foot ulcers and open wounds. If you’re using vibration machines for neuropathy, ensure you don’t have any scars before use.
Vibration therapy may be contra-indicated if:
Neuropathy is a serious condition that can lead to severe complications. Any alternative treatment must be discussed with and supervised by a medical team. Ask for your doctor’s advice before starting vibration therapy for neuropathy.
If you want to buy a vibration machine for neuropathy for home use, you should pay attention to a few things. Vibration therapy for neuropathy must be soft. Too intense vibrations could do more harm than good.
Choose plates or machines with adjustable settings. I prefer local vibrations focused on the feet or the specific areas affected by nerve damage. Avoid whole-body vibration unless you are medically supervised.
Always start with the lowest intensity and gradually increase until you find the correct settings. Vibrations should never feel painful or uncomfortable.
Last but not least, do not compromise on quality. Poor-quality plates or machines that send vibrations with the wrong intensity or movement can harm you, especially if you have peripheral neuropathy.
Here are 3 of the best and safest vibration machines for neuropathy.
Related article: TENS Units for Neuropathy Foot Pain
LifePro is the leading company in massage and vibration machines for therapeutic use. It offers no less than ten vibration plates and devices, all serving different purposes.
The VibraCare foot vibration plate is the most adapted to neuropathy foot problems. Specially designed for people suffering from chronic foot pain, tired feet, or poor blood circulation, it sends targeted, soothing vibrations to the feet and calves.
The multi-angle large textured surface allows you to change positions and focus on the feet or the calves.
You remotely control the machine by choosing from 9 preset modes and 30-speed levels. It’s not a fitness vibration plate. The vibrations are low-frequency here. They’re made to soothe and bring pain relief, not to build muscle strength.
LifePro VibraCare vibration plate is lightweight, portable, and easy to use. Last but not least, it comes with a lifetime warranty!
Snailax is another excellent company specializing in massage machines with a wide choice of products ranging from basic neck massagers to high-tech therapeutic foot spas.
The Vibration Foot Massager is simple yet efficient. It provides vibration therapy for the feet with high-frequency vibrations combined with more than 100 round grains. It specifically targets the deep nerves and joints of the feet, as well as acupuncture points to relieve pain.
You can also use it as a whole-body vibration machine if you stand on it or as a calf or back massager if adequately positioned.
There are three massage vibration modes and three levels of intensity that you can remotely control.
The best thing about the Snailax vibration machine is that not only does it perform vibration massages, but it also provides heat therapy with two heating levels. Heat therapy is fascinating for neuropathy as it helps relieve nerve pain and boost blood circulation.
It may not be as performant as the LifePro VibraCare machine regarding vibration therapy, but it is a bit more versatile and comes at a more affordable price.
Best whole-body vibration machine for neuropathy
The professional vibrating peanut massage ball from Rolling With IT is a hand-held vibration device. It’s an excellent alternative for those who don’t want vibration plates and prefer smaller, more affordable vibrating machines for neuropathy.
Its shape is ideal for contouring the feet and targeting specific lower limb areas. It’s been specially designed for chronic pain caused by fibromyalgia, neuropathy, nerve pain, and sciatica.
There are four intensity levels. It’s small, cordless, portable, lightweight, and waterproof. Customers’ reviews are eloquent enough: it’s 86% 5 and 4 stars on Amazon!
Related article: Does Massage Help with Neuropathy?