Injury to the central nervous system often results in impairments that negatively affect walking function. Prior evidence suggests that vibration may improve walking function. The purpose of this study was to determine whether repeated use of whole-body vibration (WBV) is associated with improvements in walking function in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). Subjects were 17 individuals with chronic (≥1 year), motor-incomplete SCI. Subjects were tested before and after participation in a 12-session (3 days/week for 4 weeks) intervention of WBV. We assessed change in walking function via 3D motion capture, with walking speed as the primary outcome measure. We also assessed the influence of the WBV intervention on secondary gait characteristics, including cadence, step length, and hip-knee intralimb coordination. Walking speed increased by a mean of 0.062 ± 0.011 m/s, a change that was statistically significant (p < 0.001). The WBV intervention was also associated with statistically significant increases in cadence, and both the stronger and weaker legs exhibited increased step length and improved consistency of intralimb coordination. Changes in cadence and step length of the stronger leg were strongly correlated with improvements in walking speed. The improvement in walking speed observed with the WBV intervention was comparable to that reported in the literature in association with locomotor training. This magnitude of change has been identified as being clinically meaningful, even in non-clinical populations. These findings suggest WBV may be useful to improve walking function with effects that may persist for some time following the intervention.
- Afferent input
- Human movement system
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine