Ask A Therapist: Using Vibration for Low Muscle Tone

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Hi TalkTools,

 

I have a question about using vibration (as with the DnZ-Vibe or Vibrator & Toothettes). I understand that vibration can be used to "wake up" the sensory system, and I believe I’ve heard that it can have a temporarily positive effect on low muscle tone. I’ve read that vibration should be used in short durations, but I was wondering if you had any guidelines for the maximum or minimum duration of vibration? I’m thinking especially in a case of low muscle tone as in children with Down Syndrome.

 

Thank you very much!

 

Riley

 

Hi Riley,

I’m Renee, a TalkTools® Instructor, and I would be happy to help you. This is an excellent question, I am asked this many times when teaching and working with clients!

You are correct, vibration can give the muscle more input and therefore often trigger a better motor response, thus “waking up” or “stimulating” the muscle to move. There are no specific “time” or duration guidelines for this. It is our responsibility as the therapist to look at the motor response while providing the input. So for some children with significantly low tone and an extremely under-responsive sensory system, it may take longer for the muscle to respond. But for a child who may have a better sensory system, the client may only need quick input 1-2x to see the motor response. It is important to remember what specific motor movement you are looking for and that the stimulation given is causing the appropriate reaction.

For example if I am providing stimulation to the lateral margin of the tongue to facilitate tongue tip lateralization to the back molars, once I see the movement, the vibration has done its job. Then I need to decide if my goal is repetitive movement using the vibration - leading me to possibly provide the input several times until I no longer see the tongue tip follow the stimulus - or possibly to quickly transition that movement to function (i.e. placing a cube of food on the back molar so the client then uses the movement in a functional way) which is my highest priority but sometimes not yet obtainable in my first sessions with the client.

Once I am sure of the goal of the vibration stimulation (what am I looking for in the motor system) it is easier to determine how long I should use it! The goal is always to eventually eliminate the vibration so that the movement is then stimulated through functional activities such as eating and speaking.

I hope this helps!

Renee Roy Hill, MS, CCC-SLP

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