ealthy bone formation and growth is a complex process involving numerous systems in the body, including bone building and remodeling cells within the bone itself, digestion, hormones, the liver and kidneys, and the presence in plentiful amounts of more than a dozen minerals and vitamins. An excellent book in which this process is extensively researched and clearly detailed is Your Bones: How You Can Prevent Osteoporosis and Have Strong Bones for Life—Naturally, by Lara Pizzorno.
Excellent nutrition and a healthy digestive system that is able to extract and absorb all the necessary nutrients are of critical importance to building bone. In addition to calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, it is also necessary to have available the minerals strontium, boron, zinc, manganese, copper, silicon, molybdenum, and selenium and vitamins A, C, D, K1, K2, B6, B12, folate, and riboflavin.
Luckily, a healthy diet for building bone is the same diet that is healthy for every other part of you. A primarily plant-based, whole-foods diet with small amounts of animal products if desired will make an enormous difference to your health. All parts and systems in your body will work better, and the nutrients that every part of your body requires to function are supplied.
Poor nutrition, a lack of exercise, and the use of numerous drugs that inhibit proper digestion and assimilations of nutrients and/or bone development have combined to create an epidemic of weak and brittle bones. Statistically, in the US, one third of women and one sixth of men will now experience a hip-bone fracture at some point in their lifetime, and these types of fractures often result in death or permanent loss of independence and mobility.
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In response, the pharmaceutical industry and Western medicine have developed, and heavily promoted, a class of drugs called bisphosphonates. These include all those drugs advertised by poorly informed movie stars and celebrities on TV: Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, and Reclast. These drugs do result in bone-density tests showing an increase in bone density—but beware! These drugs achieve an increase in bone density by halting your body’s natural ability to reabsorb old and damaged bone. The result is more bone, but it is weak, old, and fragile bone.
Within our bones, one type of specialized bone cell, called an osteoclast, breaks down old and worn-out bone. Another type of bone cell, called an osteoblast, is a bone-forming cell that pulls calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus from the blood to build new bone. Without the osteoclasts, damaged bone builds up, leading to weak bone; without healthy osteoblast activity, new bone will not be formed. Bisphosphonate drugs increase total bone density by killing the osteoclast cells; the result is weak and diseased bone.
The situation is most acute in the jawbone, where increased blood flow supports the extra bone repair that is normal in that area. This causes a concentration of the drugs and their effects and has led to a surge in cases of a horrifying condition called osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw (ONJ). Unfortunately, this process of bone death and rot is usually painless and hidden, so it goes unnoticed for years, until the person goes to the dentist for a surgical procedure. Then, with exposure to the bacteria in the mouth and the increased demand for healing, a major disaster follows, with permanent, untreatable pain; disfigurement; and great difficulty eating.
Another area in which this drug-induced bone weakness is showing up is in a bizarre type of severe thigh-bone fracture that happens without any unusual stress on the bone. People who have been taking bisphosphonates for five or more years (though occasionally this problem shows up within months) are ending up in emergency rooms with cross-transverse compound fractures of the femur bone from merely standing up or walking. These are still very rare occurrences, but they may be about to become more common as hundreds of thousands of Americans who have been on these drugs for many years reach the critical time period.
What is Whole Body Vibration (WBV)
WBV (whole body vibration) is famous for promoting bone growth. Extensive research over the last forty years has shown that WBV safely promotes and increases bone density, more so than conventional exercise, which has long been understood to be important for healthy bone development. This breakthrough is of critical importance to postmenopausal women in developed countries, who are experiencing epidemic levels of bone loss. Add to this scenario the very real dangers associated with bone-density drugs, and you have a lifesaving technology that has spurred hundreds of studies and interest all over the world.
Research results with animals and younger, healthy people have been dramatic. The development and use of vibration in the 1970s allowed Russian cosmonauts to be in space twice as long as their nonvibrating American counterparts (approximately two hundred days versus one hundred days). More recently, a NASA website cited the effects of vibration on turkeys, sheep, and rats as “profound . . . promoting near-normal rates of bone formation”under laboratory conditions simulating the zero gravity conditions of space flight.
In other research, Dr. Clinton Rubin, director of the Center for Biotechnology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, reported increasing the bone density in mice nearly 30 percent with vibration for fifteen minutes a day for fifteen weeks. And a research study with a well-trained cyclist showed an increase in bone density of 1.6 percent in just ten weeks.
The results with postmenopausal women show not only increases in bone density, but also improvements in other critical areas affecting the risk of falls. One recent six-month study of ninety women concluded that strength increased as much as 16 percent in upper leg muscles, while bone density at the hip increased by 1.5 percent. In addition, the whole body vibration group showed an improvement in postural control and balance, increased muscle strength, and lean mass while losing body fat and fat mass.
While this study is encouraging, there are other studies concluding that vibration did not increase bone density in postmenopausal women. The studies with animals and younger people demonstrate clearly that WBV does stimulate bone to increase its density, but building bone is a complex process involving the healthy functioning of many different systems. As people age, many systems in their bodies do not work as well, so just providing the signal to build bone may not be a sufficient intervention by itself. WBV will signal your body to increase bone density without interfering with the removal of old and weak bone.
Why Does It Work?
A critical missing element in the studies with older people is comprehensive nutritional supplementation. Studies on bone density typically provide participants with, at most, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, but bone building is a complex process requiring more than a dozen critical nutrients, and older people often have decreased nutrient intake and absorption.
My clients, who receive more extensive supplementation along with WBV, see impressive results. For example, Mary Onorato, a seventy-year-old woman whose doctor told her that going over a bump in the road or coughing too hard could cause a fracture in her vertebrae because her bone-density test put her in the category of “extremely severe” bone-density loss, experienced a complete reversal of bone loss in two and a half years to where she now has the “bones of a healthy young woman”.
Documented Case Study
Mary Onorato has the most dramatic and well-documented case among my clients. Over the course of five years, she had four DEXA bone density tests (the gold standard of bone density testing) to track her extremely severe osteoporosis, all at the same hospital and with the same equipment. After two years of slowly declining bone density, despite a strict routine of comprehensive mineral and vitamin supplementation and regular weightlifting and walking, she found me and began WBV (whole body vibration). At that point, she saw a sudden and dramatic turnaround.
Mary never took any bone-building prescription drugs and had stopped the weightlifting and walking several months prior to beginning WBV, but she had always continued with her nutritional supplements. The only change in her program once she met me was the addition of whole body vibration. WBV clearly provides a powerful signal to your body to build bone. And given the right stimulus and nutritional support, nearly everyone can build bone.
Note: Mary Onorato’s results are not typical, but are so well documented and clear that I wanted to show her case. Most of my other postmenopausal clients with osteopenia or osteoporosis build bone at a slower rate, usually 2 to 6 percent over six months.
How WBV Increases Bone Density
Research by Dr. Rubin, through his work with Marodyne Medical and the LivMD low-intensity vibration device, has shown that it is small, high-frequency signals that cause bone to grow, a sort of buzz or vibration received from muscle attachments to bone, not high-impact signals as was once thought. In other words, it is not the impact of a person’s foot against the ground that signals bone to grow, but rather the quivering of muscle fibers against bone as the muscle fibers contract in the process of running.
Just standing on a vibrating plate will cause all muscle fibers connected to weight-bearing bone to involuntarily contract and release twenty to fifty times per second. To impact the arms, hands, wrists, and shoulders, different positions would be recommended, such as a push-up, to activate muscles attached to these bones.
The power and size of the vibration machine also affects muscle activation, with a greater amplitude vibration transmitting the signal to more of the body, but larger more powerful machines are also more expensive and have more powerful detoxification effects, so they are not always the best choice for an individual. Most of the bone-density research has been done on relatively gentle low-power machines (1–2 mm amplitude with a gravitational force of less than 1.25), so as long as enough time is spent on these machines in varying positions (ten to twenty minutes per day), they should be sufficient.
A Word of Caution: Double Motor Vibration Machines
To achieve greater power, thus a greater workout effect, many WBV machines have two motors in them. However, it is impossible to ever completely synchronize two motors. This results in a desynchronizing message sent to your nervous system and energy field, which can have negative consequences over time.
Whole Body Vibration: The Future of Good Health
by Becky Chambers.
About the Author
Becky Chambers, BS, M.Ed, is a naturopath, teacher, author and the president and owner of Vibrant Health, where she specializes in the breakthrough body, mind, energy therapy of Whole Body Vibration. As the first and most experienced provider of Whole Body Vibration in the Northeast, Becky provides expert guidance and coaching on how to achieve the best results with this revolutionary technology. See more at www.BCVibrantHealth.com
Watch a video explaining the Whole Body Vibration Ten Minute Workout.