Wang XQ, Gu W, Chen BL, et al. Effects of whole-body vibration exercise for non-specific chronic low back pain: an assessor-blind, randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2019 May 17:269215519848076. doi: 10.1177/0269215519848076. (Original study)

OBJECTIVE: To confirm the benefits of whole-body vibration exercise for pain intensity and functional disability in patients with non-specific chronic low back pain.

DESIGN: Single-blind randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: Outpatient.

SUBJECTS: Eighty-nine patients with non-specific chronic low back pain met the inclusion criteria, they were randomly allocated to either the intervention group ( n = 45) or the control group ( n = 44).

INTERVENTION: The intervention group received whole-body vibration exercises three times a week for 12 weeks. The control group received general exercise protocol three times a week for 12 weeks.

MAIN OUTCOMES: The primary outcome measures were pain intensity and functional disability measured by the visual analog scale scores and Oswestry Disability Index. The secondary outcome measures included lumbar joint position sense, quality of life (Short Form Health Survey 36) and overall treatment effect (Global Perceived Effect).

RESULTS: A total of 84 subjects completed the 12-week study program. After 12 weeks, compared with the control group, the mean visual analog scale and Oswestry Disability Index scores decreased by additional 1 point (95% confidence interval (CI) = -1.22 to -0.78; P < 0.001), 3.81 point (95% CI, -4.98, -2.63; P < 0.001) based on adjusted analysis in the intervention group. And the intervention group provided additional beneficial effects for in terms of lumbar joint position sense ( P < 0.05), quality of life ( P < 0.05), and Global Perceived Effect ( P = 0.012).

CONCLUSION: The study demonstrated that whole-body vibration exercise could provide more benefits than general exercise for relieving pain and improving functional disability in patients with non-specific chronic low back pain.

Discipline Area Score
Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) 5 / 7
Physician 5 / 7
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Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

Whole body vibration has been around for awhile, without any clear indication of what it might be good for - a treatment in search of an indication. Back pain might be it! (Also, possibly, falls prevention, per other literature.) It is too soon to start using whole-body vibration exercise clinically, but clinicians should keep an eye out for future studies. It certainly looks like it would be more entertaining than traditional exercise.

Physician rater

I don't think the results of this study are generalizable to the US population (mean age of 21, BMI of 22, and duration of back pain <1 yr). Although the treatment likely wouldn't cause adverse effects, I am not sure that it would be worth the time and cost to our patients.

Physician rater

Chronic low back pain is a common problem seen in primary care, but I would like to see this study confirmed in other settings before I would consider recommending it to my patients.

Physician rater

Low back pain is very common and difficult to treat. However, it is difficult to apply this study to clinical practice given the lack of patient blinding and the short duration of the study.

Physician rater

A small trial that is difficult to take seriously.

Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) rater

There were no control measures for multiple confounders of the results such as Depression and Anxiety, Fear Avoidance, Educational attainment etc. I am unsure whether the intervention arm had been previously validated. This is a flawed study.

Rehab Clinician (OT/PT) rater

The authors' stated objective is to confirm the benefits of whole-body vibration exercise for pain intensity and functional disability in patients with non-specific chronic low back pain. "Generally scientific work sets out to investigate rather than confirm a hypothesis". There does not appear to be an attempt to assess participant's perception of whether they are in the experimental or control group. The modest results would appear consistent with a placebo response facilitated by the belief of the researchers conducting the exercise programs.
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