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Whole body vibration therapy in AIS: further research needed


Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) increases the risk of developing osteopenia, which is then predictive of a more severe spinal deformity and reduces peak bone mass after puberty. The overall impact is to increase the risk of osteoporosis and disability later in life. No safe and effective treatment is yet available to prevent osteopenia.

Lam et al. performed a randomized controlled trial of whole body vibration (WBV) therapy in 149 females with AIS, aged between 15 and 25. All had bone mineral density (BMD) Z-scores of less than −1. Half (61) of the AIS patients received WBV therapy, standing on a high-frequency, low-magnitude WBV platform 5 days each week, for 20 min each day, over a 12-month period. The remainder were kept under observation but received no therapy.

In the treated group the increase in areal BMD and bone mineral content at the lumbar spine and femoral neck, as assessed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), was significant. The authors stress the positive effect of WBV but admit that further studies are now needed to fully explore its potential as a therapy in AIS.

Editor’s comment: The WBV treatment group showed greater increases in all DXA parameters, which is encouraging. However, no significant change in trabecular bone microarchitecture at the distal tibiae was detected using high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography, which raises concerns about the results.

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