Do Building Vibrations Shake up More Than Just Walls?

Do Building Vibrations Shake up More Than Just Walls?

Emily Newton 12/11/2023
Do Building Vibrations Shake up More Than Just Walls?

Vibrations are all around you, even if you aren’t aware of them.

While everyone knows that intense shaking can crack a wall or damage a foundation, most people don’t know how it affects them personally. Here’s what the effects of vibration on the human body look like.

Do Vibrations Affect the Human Body?

Vibrations affect the human body more than you might think — they can either be a great therapeutic tool or dangerous. It depends on how much you experience them, how strong they are and how long exposure lasts. 

You create vibrations whenever you move or interact with the world, so you shouldn’t be concerned. Plus, many happen on levels you can’t even detect. For instance, researchers identified nanoscale oscillations 0.001 of a hair’s width using atomic force microscopes — that’s not something you’d be aware of.

Humans interact with vibrations daily, so evolution has fine-tuned the body and mind to pick up on them. People have skin receptors called mechanoreceptors to detect extremely small vibrations. Amazingly, your body notices them even if you aren’t consciously aware. 

Although mechanoreceptors are spread evenly on your skin, most are in your fingertips and feet to give your body more precise insight. Think about this fact the next time you stand near heavy traffic or a construction site — you’ll notice how you feel the vibrations. 

Are Vibrations Good or Bad for You?

While the effects of vibration on the human body can be good, long-term or intense exposure can be physically damaging. Although they’ve been around forever, researchers can’t seem to make up their minds. While some clinical research suggests they can help ease pain or treat physical problems, more peer-reviewed studies on the subject need to be conducted. 

Vibrations can even cause change on a cellular level because they generate electromagnetic energy waves. Multiple studies point to direct stimuli altering cell functioning. The changes are generally minor — you won’t end up with superhero powers or sprout a new limb. At best, you’ll develop a nerve condition.

Direct, intense vibrations can quickly damage you physically. You could develop a condition in only a few months, depending on your exposure rate and oscillation strength. You’re at higher risk if you work in an industry where you use power tools, operate heavy machinery or drive on bumpy roads.

What Are the Effects of Vibration on the Human Body?

The effects of vibrations on the human body can be positive or negative — that’s the beauty of exceptions and variables. Generally, using a back or foot massager is relaxing and good for you. However, frequent exposure puts you in hazardous territory.

Since the highest concentration of mechanoreceptors exists in your fingertips, your hands are particularly sensitive to the damaging effects. You risk developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) with continuous exposure, a condition characterised by fine motor skill deterioration and chronic pain.

One study suggests women are more likely to develop HAVS — and experience severe symptoms like white fingers — than men. However, the sample size could’ve been bigger, as it only involved 38 participants. Researchers also didn’t account for situational exposure, as they only studied assembly-plant workers from one location.

For the most part, whole-body vibrations are physically and mentally damaging to humans. Although some clinical research has attempted to discover its benefits, exposure should be limited because it quickly becomes a health concern.

How Does Your Mind React to Vibrations?

People respond mentally to vibrations positively and negatively — think of how music can have a calming, energising or stress-inducing effect. Although it sounds like new-age spirituality, science backs it up. Minor, short-term exposure can feel rejuvenating. 

On the other hand, strong or frequent vibrations can cause you to become irritable, anxious or annoyed. They can affect your sleep schedule and mental alertness, causing an emotional domino effect that puts you in a bad mood. 

Are There Risks to Long-Term Vibration Exposure?

There are significant health risks of long-term vibration exposure. Frequent excessive oscillations aren’t good for your nerves, blood vessels, joints or muscles. Even though they can be quite relaxing, you can always have too much of a good thing. 

People who experience long-term exposure to partial or whole-body vibrations will experience chronic pain and develop lasting health conditions. For instance, you could have balance issues, anxiety, lower back pain, blurred vision or headaches. 

Severe and frequent oscillations could lead to spine issues or even nerve damage. Some conditions can even permanently alter you physically. For instance, any damage from HAVS is irreversible once it occurs. You would need preventive care to protect yourself.

What Are Common Sources of Vibration Exposure?

Common sources of vibrations are power tools, vehicles and industrial plants. You can be overexposed when sitting, standing, walking, driving or even holding something if the origin is strong enough. 

Even though you experience them all the time, you’re likely fine. For the most part, people don’t have any adverse reactions from standard exposure. Think of it like raindrops hitting a pond — unless something big comes along, the water’s surface stays calm. Generally, the effects of vibration on the human body are only harmful in extreme situations.

Can You Prevent Vibration-Induced Damage?

You can prevent vibration-induced damage if you catch it in time and take plenty of precautions. For example, you could use nonvibrating tools, only drive on paved roads, improve circulation with medication or use special dampening equipment.

You could even leverage technology to identify potential sources of excess exposure. Companies using heavy machinery or power tools can install industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors to monitor real-time vibration levels — even when they’re undetectable to humans.

Since there may be a connection between HAVS and cold weather, health experts recommend using protective clothing to stay warm when operating vibrating equipment. Even though vibration-induced conditions can seem concerning, preventing them is nearly effortless.

Be Mindful of Building Vibrations 

The effects of vibration on the human body might feel surprisingly concerning to you, but you generally don’t have to worry about it. You should be fine unless you work with heavy machinery or drive on bumpy roads for a living. Even then, all you need to do is take a few precautionary steps to protect yourself.

Share this article

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.
  • No comments found

Share this article

Emily Newton

Science & Tech Expert

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She is a science and technology journalist with over three years covering industry trends and research. 

Cookies user prefences
We use cookies to ensure you to get the best experience on our website. If you decline the use of cookies, this website may not function as expected.
Accept all
Decline all
Read more
Tools used to analyze the data to measure the effectiveness of a website and to understand how it works.
Google Analytics