This study aimed to investigate the acute effect of whole-body vibration (WBV) on the reflex and non-reflex components of spastic hypertonia and intramuscular blood perfusion among individuals with chronic stroke. Thirty-six people with chronic stroke (age: 61.4 ± 6.9 years) participated in this randomized controlled cross-over study. Each participant underwent two testing conditions: static standing for 5 minutes with WBV (30 Hz, 1.5 mm) or no-vibration. We assessed the soleus H-reflex, shear modulus (ultrasound elastography) and vascular index (color power Doppler ultrasound) of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscle on either paretic or non-paretic side at baseline and every 1-min post-intervention up to 5 minutes. The results revealed a significant inhibition of the H/M ratio bilaterally for the WBV condition (absolute change on paretic side: 0.61 ± 0.35, p = 0.001; non-paretic side: 0.34 ± 0.23, p = 0.001), but not the control condition. The inhibition of H-reflex was sustained up to 4 minutes and 3 minutes on the paretic and non-paretic side, respectively. The vascular index of MG muscle was significantly increased only for the WBV condition [paretic: from 0.55 ± 0.07 to 1.08 ± 0.18 (p = 0.001); non-paretic: from 0.82 ± 0.09 to 1.01 ± 0.13 (p < 0.001)], which lasted for 3 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively. No significant change of the shear modulus in the MG muscle was observed, regardless of the testing condition. Based on our results, WBV had an acute effect on modulating spastic hypertonia dominated by hyperreflexia in people with chronic stroke and facilitating greater intramuscular blood perfusion. No acute effect on passive muscle stiffness was observed.
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