The Benefits of Vibrotactile Therapy


Music’s healing power has been well-documented. The choice of music is extremely personal and almost everyone knows that music helps them feel pleasure or helps them with the catharsis of emotional energy. In fact, music has been show to have healing effects for a really wide range of human health issues. Sound has a long history of being efficacious in treating dis-ease. The ancients recognized the power of sound and vibration in maintaining balance. Primitive aboriginals are thought to be the first to use chanting, prayer, toning, and the sound from instruments like flutes, didgeridoos, drums, and later with bells, singing bowls, gongs, and wind instruments to heal.

In more modern times Pythagoras is credited with being the first to prescribe music as medicine. In 500 BC his discovery of music intervals allowed him to use harmonic frequencies as a healing power. From that point on, music evolved through many genres like Gregorian chants, classical, rock, hip-hop and electronic dance music and has continued to be used to inspire and heal. The earliest known use of a vibrotactile method for healing comes from the Aboriginal people of Australia, who used the didgeridoo 40,000 years ago. Many indigenous cultures around the world continue to use vibrotactile methods for balancing and healing.

As ancient traditions fell from favor, we lost sight of the powerful benefits of vibrotactile healing. It has taken millennia to return to this lost knowledge to the general public. Perhaps the reason why it has returned is because our first experiences of being alive occurred within the womb where we felt our mother’s heartbeat and heard her voice. Everything we know is vibrating at specific frequencies so it makes sense that we would continuously return to the study of vibration until we learn how vital it is to our understanding of reality.

In the mid 20th century Olav Skille and Tony Wigram found that vibration could benefit patients with cerebral palsy, insomnia, pain and Parkinson’s disease. In the 90’s Wigram discovered that vibration can heal cognitive disorders and self-harming behaviors like addition. More recently (1) Lee Bartel and his team in the new Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) at UT are exploring the medical effects of low frequency sound and have shown that this therapy can play a key role in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia with 40Hz. Treatments. His research, along with that of others is clinical proof of the efficacy of vibrotactile therapy in healing many debilitating diseases. 1 (1)

More and more research is beginning to verify that, in addition to music, specific haptic frequencies can have very effect strong, positive effects on physical, mental and spiritual conditions. When the low frequency aspects of music or sound are used to affect the body, it is (2) called vibroacoustic, vibrotactile or haptic therapy. Vibroacoustic therapy utilizes low frequency sound waves and therapeutic music to treat people for pain, addiction, and many other medical issues even though this type of therapy is not very well known by the general public. Music and sound is meant to be seen and felt in addition to being heard. Vibrotactile technology was developed to enhance the efficacy of sound and color therapy and allows users to feel the vibration in every cell of their body. There are currently a number of advanced hospitals around the world that use vibrotactile therapy as an adjunct to conventional treatments, along with more and more universities that teach courses about this subject.

The Science

The effect of vibrotactile therapy extends beyond the brain into every cell of every tissue within the body. It also provides deep physical cellular stimulation to skin, muscles and joints, resulting in decreased pain and increased mobility. Like hand/mechanical massage, vibrotactile therapy aids circulation, relaxes muscles, and feels really good.

Vibration enters into the brain via different circuits than the auditory nerves. There are thousands of corpuscles located all over the body in the integumental system that transfer vibrations directly to the brain. A third of the brainstem processes vibrotactile information. Adding that sense to an experience has an equal effect as when sound is added to a silent movie. It greatly increases the amount of information reaching the brain.

Figure One: The Integumental Vibrotactile System

2 Butler, 1997 and the National Institute of Health, 1999

While vibrotactile therapy has been around for many years, it has only recently become an accepted professional approach to healing pain, enhancing meditation and mindfulness for those trying to recover from addiction. There are many sound tables on the market but there is only one vibrotactile table. Humans can hear from 20Hz to 20,000 Hz so most sound tables available allow that at the frequency range of the table. This is based upon the idea that sound travels to the brain in the same way as vibration. However, as seen above, vibration enters the brain through an entirely different mechanism than sound. The human body is most sensitive to tactile vibration from only around 1 to about 280 Hz. Strangely, this range is similar to that of human brainwaves which might explain why vibrotactile therapy is so powerful. Therefore, a true vibrotactile table would limit its frequencies to a very narrow range which can be felt instead of heard. This greatly reduces the load put on the transducers, improves performance and is much quieter as sound tables generally require a sound proof room.

It is known that sound waves move through water at least 5 times more efficiently than through the air and that the water in the human body accounts for at least 50-65% of its makeup. This makes the human body a receptive vessel for vibrotactile input. The VibraSound® Wavetable™ was designed as a hydrosonic transducer that can turn a person’s body fluid into a speaker allowing the sound to be felt as though it was being generated inside the body rather than laying on something that is vibrating. Whenever vibration is passed from one material into another the impedance between them looses some of the signal. The Wavetable™ resolves this issue with a impedance matching technology and the hydrosonic mattress.

There is a difference between oscillation and vibration. Most sound tables on the market are oscillators as they vibrate the entire body all at the same time. Introducing 100Hz into the system will vibrate every cell of the body regardless of its resonant frequency. However, the Wavetable is a vibrator that causes the vibration to remain within the body. Putting 100Hz into its special mattress allows only those structures within the body that are resonant to 100Hz to respond to the signal. Therefore, it makes a much more accurate transfer of specific frequencies to certain parts of the body than oscillation.

A new science called Cymatics illustrates how vibration responds on different types of media. A metal plate can be used with sand to show the patterns that specific sounds create on the surface. The same phenomenon occurs in water. A device called a cymascope is used to observe the way structure created

by certain frequencies and vibrations fed into water vibrate its surface. Amazing patterns can be seen arising from such visualizations. Figure Two on the left shows a typical cymagraph. The VibraSound® Wavetable™ is a gigantic cymascope that a person lays down on and receives those kinds of patterned vibration throughout the fluid in their body.

How it Works

Clients lay down on a reclining chair, massage table or bed with embedded speakers called transducers that turn sound into tactile vibration. As a person’s body has contact with the transducers, the music is sent from the source into the transducers and then is felt by the body as vibration. The vibrotactile input stimulates nerve bundles along the spine, up into the brain stem and then through the limbic system. In addition, the sound stimulates the medulla in the brain stem and activates the auditory nerve that connects with all the muscles of the body. These reactions signal the body to relax and flood the brain with mood lifting chemicals. In addition, the low frequencies also cause a relaxation of the tissues, and a dilation of blood vessels and an opening of the lymphatic pathways which in turn increases the body’s ability to heal. The VibraSound® system adds sound, light and color into the synchronized experience.

Figure Three: The VibraSound® Wavetable

Effects of Vibrotactile Therapy

The vibrations stimulate nerves in the spine, brain stem, the limbic system that drives emotional response, and activates the auditory nerve that connects to muscle nerves. The low frequency bass causes muscle tissues to relax, blood vessels to dilate, and increases the body’s capacity to heal. It dramatically enhances the parasympathetic relaxation response and balances the entire nervous system via the vagus nerve. Vibrotactile therapy puts the body in sync with itself.

Vibrotactile therapy improves mental, physical, and emotional health. For those dealing with major stressors in early addiction recovery, vibrotactile therapy can help one relax and stay present in the moment without feeling the urge to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. This form of therapy has no known negative side effects and numerous positive effects.

Some of the positive responses from vibroacoustic therapy include:

• Helping the body self-regulate to a calming state

• Reduced anxiety

• Lowered blood pressure

• A reduction in pain and muscle tension

• Increased relaxation and happiness

• Increased blood circulation

• Slower heart rate and reduction of stress

• Better sleep quality