Shake It Off: A Randomized Pilot Study of the Effect of Whole Body Vibration on Pain in Healing Burn Wounds

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Abstract

Whole body vibration (WBV) has been shown to improve strength in extremities with healed burn wounds. We hypothesize that WBV reduces pain during rehabilitation compared to standard therapy alone. Patients with ≥1% TBSA burn to one or more extremities from October 2014 to December 2015 were randomized to vibration (VIBE) or control. Each burned extremity was tested separately within the assigned group. Patients underwent one to three therapy sessions (S1, S2, S3) consisting of five upper and/or lower extremity exercises with or without WBV. Pain was assessed pre-, mid-, and postsession on a scale of 1 to 10. Mean pain scores at S1 to S3 were compared between groups with paired samples t-tests. An independent t-test was used to compare differences in pain scores between groups. Continuous variables were compared using a t-test or Mann–Whitney U test, and categorical variables were compared using a χ2 or Fisher’s exact test, as appropriate. Forty-eight randomized test extremities (VIBE = 26, control = 22) were analyzed from a total of 31 subjects. There were no significant differences between groups in age, gender, overall TBSA, TBSA in the test extremity, pain medication use before therapy session, or skin grafting before therapy session. At S1, S2, and S3, there was a statistically significant decrease in mid- and postsession pain compared to presession pain in VIBE vs controls. Exposure to WBV decreased pain during and after physical therapy. This modality may be applicable to a variety of soft tissue injuries and warrants additional investigation.

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