Dr. Karl H. Wenger, biomedical engineer in the MCG Schools of Graduate Studies and Medicine, and his colleagues found that vibration improved density around the hip joint with a shift toward higher density in the femur, the long bone of the leg, as well.
Hip fractures are a major cause of disability and death among the elderly.
They also found a reduction in a biomarker that indicates bone breakdown and an increase in the surface area involved in bone formation in the vibrating group.
The findings provide more scientific evidence that the technique, which dates back to the 1800s and is now showing up in homes, gyms and rehabilitation clinics, has bone benefit, particularly as a low-risk option for injured individuals with limited mobility, Wenger said.
The scientists theorize that the rhythmic movement, which produces a sensation similar to that of a vibrating cell phone but on a larger scale, exercises cells so they work better.
Vibration prompts movement of the cell nucleus, which is suspended by numerous threadlike fibers called filaments. "The filaments get all deformed like springs and then they spring back," Wenger said.
The findings were reported in the journal Bone.