Physiotherapists use a variety of sensory stimulation techniques in the management of many clinical conditions including disorders of the central nervous system, peripheral nerve lesions and amputations. The rationale underlying these techniques is based on the neurophysiological effects of different types of sensory input onindividual receptors and the central nervous system as a whole. In recent years, neurophysiological research has necessitated a critical reappraisal of many old assumptions about the central nervous system. This paper examines the rationale for using vibration in the ‘tactile defensive’ patient and questions earlier conceptual models. Effects of vibratory stimulation on the nervous system are discussed, with some pertinent methodological considerations.