What is Whole Body Vibration? Causes, Effects, and Symptoms

Understanding the complexities of our bodies and the external forces that can affect our health is crucial in maintaining overall wellness. One such external factor is Whole-Body Vibration (WBV), a common occupational phenomenon experienced by workers across various industries. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the nuances of WBV – what it is, what causes it, the potential effects it can have on the body, and the symptoms it can induce.

Whether you operate heavy machinery, drive on rough terrains, or are simply curious about the mechanics of the human body under different conditions, this blog will shed light on the important aspects of Whole-Body Vibration.

What is Whole Body Vibration?

Whole-body vibration (WBV) refers to a type of vibration that impacts the entire human body. It happens when mechanical energy oscillations, often from machinery or vehicles, are transferred into the human body.

To break this down further:

  • Mechanical Energy Oscillations: All machines and vehicles, when in operation, generate energy that can cause parts of the machine to move or oscillate. This movement is typically a back-and-forth motion that happens repeatedly while the machine functions. For example, think of an engine running or a tractor treading over uneven ground – these activities produce mechanical energy oscillations.
  • Transfer into the Body: This energy doesn’t just stay within the machine; it can be transferred or transmitted to anything in contact with it. So, when a person is operating a vibrating machine or vehicle and is in direct contact with it (like sitting in the driver’s seat of a bus or standing on a vibrating platform), these mechanical energy oscillations can enter the human body. The energy is transmitted through the point of contact and can cause the person’s body to vibrate.
  • Through a Supporting Surface: The point of contact between the person and the source of vibration, known as the supporting surface, is crucial in WBV. This could be any body part in contact with the vibrating object. Most commonly, it’s the feet for standing workers or the buttocks for seated workers. The vibrations travel from the machine, through the supporting surface, and into the person’s body. For instance, if a truck driver is sitting in their vehicle for hours, the vibrations from the truck would transfer into their body via the seat, causing WBV.
  • Shaking or Jolting of the Entire Body: The transferred vibrations can cause the person’s entire body to shake or jolt, hence the term ‘whole-body’ vibration. It’s localized to the point of contact and travels throughout the body, leading to the shaking or jolting sensation. Depending on the intensity and frequency of the vibrations, this can range from a mild, barely noticeable tremor to significant shaking that can affect a person’s comfort and performance.

WBV often plays in occupational settings, especially where heavy machinery or vehicles are frequently used, like in the construction, mining, or transportation industries. Workers often experience WBV due to the nature of their work, which requires them to be in contact with vibrating machines or vehicles for extended periods. Over time, this exposure can lead to various health issues, underscoring the importance of understanding and mitigating WBV in such settings.

Whole Body Vibration Effects

Whole Body Vibration Symptoms

Whole-body vibration (WBV) can produce a range of symptoms depending on the level and duration of exposure. Some people may feel immediate effects, while others might develop symptoms over time after prolonged exposure. Here are some common symptoms associated with WBV:

  • Musculoskeletal Symptoms: The most common symptoms involve discomfort or pain in the musculoskeletal system. This can include low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, or joint pain. It can also cause muscle stiffness or muscle fatigue.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Some people might experience a numbness or tingling sensation in their hands, feet, or other parts of the body due to the vibration. This is often a result of repeated or prolonged exposure to high-intensity vibration.
  • Balance Problems: Problems with balance or coordination can also occur, especially immediately after exposure to WBV. People might feel unsteady or have difficulty walking.
  • Headaches and Dizziness: WBV can also cause headaches or feelings of dizziness. In extreme cases, it could even lead to motion sickness-like symptoms.
  • Fatigue: General fatigue or tiredness can be another symptom of WBV. This could be due to the physical exertion of dealing with the vibrations, the stress it puts on the body, or disturbed sleep patterns due to persistent after-effects of the vibration.
  • Digestive Issues: Some people might experience digestive issues, such as stomach upset, nausea, or loss of appetite. In severe or chronic cases, it could even contribute to the development of peptic ulcers.
  • Visual and Cognitive Effects: In some cases, people might notice blurred vision or difficulty focusing their sight. They may also experience cognitive effects like reduced concentration or memory problems.

It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary from person to person, and not everyone exposed to WBV will experience all these symptoms. The onset, severity, and duration of symptoms can depend on several factors, including the intensity and frequency of the vibration, the duration of exposure, and the individual’s overall health and resilience.

Whole Body Vibration Symptoms

Different Causes Of Whole Body Vibration

Whole-body vibration (WBV) can be caused by a variety of factors, often related to specific occupational settings or activities that involve large machinery or vehicles. Here are some common sources of WBV:

  • Heavy Machinery: Operating heavy machinery, such as in construction, farming, or mining, can expose workers to WBV. This includes machinery like excavators, bulldozers, pile drivers, tractors, and other earth-moving equipment.
  • Vehicles: Driving certain vehicles, especially for extended periods, can cause WBV. This includes trucks, buses, trains, and even certain types of cars, particularly when they are driven on uneven or unmade roads. In these cases, the vibration from the vehicle’s engine and the motion of the vehicle itself can both contribute to WBV.
  • Industrial Equipment: In an industrial setting, machines like industrial vibrators, power tools, and even large stationary machines that have a high rate of oscillation can cause WBV. Workers who stand on platforms attached to these machines or sit on seats integrated into the equipment can experience this vibration.
  • Marine Vessels: Crew members aboard ships, particularly high-speed boats or those with powerful engines, may be exposed to WBV due to the engine’s vibration and the motion of the boat on the water.
  • Aircraft: Pilots and crew members of certain types of aircraft can experience WBV due to engine vibrations and turbulence during flights.
  • Physical Exercise: Interestingly, WBV can also be intentionally induced for therapeutic or exercise purposes. Whole body vibration machines found in gyms or physical therapy centers are designed to stimulate muscle contraction and increase circulation, bone density, and flexibility.

While these are some common sources, it’s important to note that the frequency, duration, and intensity of the vibration, along with an individual’s body position and contact with the vibrating surface, will all impact the extent of WBV and its potential effects on the body.

Whole Body Vibration Causes

Different Effects Of Whole Body Vibration

Whole-body vibration (WBV) can have various effects on the body. While some may be potentially therapeutic when administered in controlled settings, many can be harmful, especially when a person is exposed to WBV frequently and over extended periods. Here are some potential effects of WBV:

  • Musculoskeletal Effects: Chronic exposure to WBV can lead to various musculoskeletal disorders. Lower back pain is one of the most common issues, but it can also affect other parts of the body such as the neck, shoulders, and knees. These issues can arise from both the vibration itself and the posture one might adopt to deal with the vibration.
  • Neurological Effects: Some people may experience numbness, tingling, or decreased sensation in their extremities due to the impact of WBV on the nervous system. This is often caused by long-term, high intensity WBV exposure.
  • Cardiovascular Effects: Some studies suggest that long-term exposure to WBV might contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The exact relationship is not fully understood, but it could be related to stress, disturbed sleep, or the influence of WBV on the autonomic nervous system.
  • Digestive Issues: WBV can potentially affect the digestive system, leading to conditions such as gastritis or peptic ulcers. This could be related to stress or the body’s general response to constant vibration.
  • Balance and Coordination: WBV can affect a person’s balance and coordination, especially immediately after exposure. The vibration can cause a temporary disruption in the balance-regulating systems of the body, leading to an increased risk of falls or accidents.
  • Visual and Cognitive Effects: Some studies have shown that high levels of WBV can affect visual acuity and cognitive function, leading to reduced concentration, memory issues, and difficulty in performing mental tasks.
  • Therapeutic Effects: In a controlled setting, WBV has been used for therapeutic purposes, such as improving bone density, muscle strength, balance, and flexibility. These are usually done under the guidance of a health professional and involve a specialized machine that delivers specific frequencies and amplitudes of vibration.

Remember, the effects of WBV on the body can vary widely depending on a range of factors, including the duration and intensity of exposure, the frequency of the vibration, the individual’s health status, and the specific circumstances of their exposure.


In conclusion, Whole-Body Vibration (WBV) is a phenomenon experienced when mechanical energy oscillations from vehicles or machinery are transferred into the human body. Causes range from operating heavy machinery and vehicles to certain types of physical exercise. Prolonged exposure to WBV can result in a wide array of effects, including musculoskeletal discomfort, neurological issues, cardiovascular risks, digestive problems, and even cognitive impairment.

Symptoms can be immediate or develop over time, including pain, numbness, balance issues, and fatigue among others. Understanding and recognizing WBV is crucial, especially for those in occupational settings where such vibrations are prevalent, to ensure necessary measures are taken for health and safety.