Intermittent vibrational stimulation enhances mobility during stair navigation in patients with knee pain

Arielle G. Fischer, Jennifer C. Erhart-Hledik, Jessica L. Asay, Thomas P. Andriacchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Reduced quadriceps function and proprioception can cause decreased mobility during stair navigation in patients with knee pain. Patients can benefit from interventions to mitigate pain and restore quadriceps function. Activating the somatosensory system via intermittent vibrational stimulation has the potential to improve stair navigation mobility in patients with knee pain by moderating quadriceps inhibition and enhancing proprioception. Research question: What are the effects of intermittent vibrational stimulus synchronized to stair ambulation on muscle activity, kinematics, kinetics, and pain using a randomized controlled clinical trial design. Methods: Thirty-eight patients with knee pain were enrolled into a blinded cross-over study, and twenty-nine patients completed all assessments and analyses. Subjects were randomly assigned sequentially to both an active Treatment A (active) and passive Treatment B (passive) worn at the knee during ambulation for 4 weeks with a 2-week washout period between treatments. Results: Knee pain during stair navigation was significantly reduced only with Treatment A (P = 0.007). During ascent, Treatment A (active) significantly increased vastus lateralis activation (P = 0.01), increased knee flexion moment (P = 0.04) and decreased trunk flexion angles (P = 0.015) between baseline and 4-week follow-up. After using passive Treatment B, there were no significant differences in pain (P = 0.19), knee flexion moment (P = 0.09), and trunk flexion angles (P = 0.23). Changes in muscle function correlated significantly with changes in knee flexion moment and trunk flexion with Treatment A (P < 0.015). Descending differed from ascending in response to Treatment A with significantly decreased knee flexion moment(P = 0.04), hip(P = 0.02) and ankle(P = 0.04) flexion angles. Treatment B significantly reduced hip flexion angles (P = 0.005) but not knee flexion moment (P = 0.85). Significance: The results of this study suggest that intermittent vibration can improve joint motion and loading during stair navigation by enhancing quadriceps function during stair ascent and improving movement control during stair descent by modifying an adaptive flexed movement pattern in the lower limb.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-131
Number of pages7
JournalGait and Posture
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Arthralgia/physiopathology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena/physiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Intermittent vibration stimulus
  • Knee Joint/physiopathology
  • Knee flexion
  • Knee/physiopathology
  • Knee intervention
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle function
  • Pain
  • Range of Motion, Articular/physiology
  • Stair Climbing/physiology
  • Torso/physiopathology
  • Vibration

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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