It seems a little kooky if you’re new to the idea, but inversion therapy has actually been around for thousands of years. People used to be tied up by their ankles as a yoga practice to rebalance the body and improve the positioning of internal organs. Luckily, modern inversion tables are a little less ‘medieval torture’ and a lot more comfortable. So what are you going to get out of bringing an inversion table into your home?
Think about popular yoga poses like Down Dog that position your head below your heart. The same idea applies to inversion tables. Proponents say that even just a few minutes a day in an inverted position reduces lower and middle back pain. An inversion table is not an upside-down rollercoaster, and you control how fast and how far you tilt. The main goal of inversion is not to make you nauseous, but to help you relax, to relieve back pain, naturally balance the body and even to strengthen your core. So, do inversion tables work? Let’s take a closer look.
What Does an Inversion Table Do?
An inversion table safely tilts you upside-down, but why is that so great? Well, many studies have shown that reversing the pull of gravity on your spine successfully stretches and separates your vertebrae – this is called spinal decompression. The study took x-rays of individual’s spines while upright, and while inverted and saw a trend that users experienced increased space between vertebrae while inverted. Many chiropractors practice spinal decompression in their regular office treatments as a way to relieve the discs between our spinal bones.
Just remember that these studies show that inversion therapy performs spinal decompression, but that doesn’t mean that spinal decompression is a definite relief for back pain. Proponents of spinal decompression claim that this extra space between vertebrae allows discs to regain moisture and flexibility. All these findings have peaked my interest – let’s talk more about specific inversion table benefits.
Relieve Back Pain
Ever measured yourself in the morning and then again at night? You’ll notice that you sort of shrink throughout the day. This is partly due to gravity and exertion working on the discs between your vertebrae, compressing and squeezing the fluids out into the surrounding soft tissue. Well, lying in a position with your feet above your head means gravity is now pulling on you from the opposite direction.
It is suggested that the extra space created when your spine is stretched in inversion allows the discs in your spine to reabsorb moisture and nutrients. This reversed pull of gravity also relieves pressure on the nerve endings that pass through the discs in your spine – a plump, hydrated disc allows higher clearance for nerves and in turn, is believed to reduce pain. Rehydrating discs is also said to add more shock absorption and flexibility to the entire spine.
Back Realignment and Posture Improvement
The spinal decompression experienced from inversion is also believed to help the spine naturally align and to help your muscles pull your spine into the correct position, without invasive surgery. Proponents of inversion claim that reducing the pressure from gravity’s constant downward pull relieves pressure on muscles that may have cramped and begun tugging our bones and joints into incorrect alignment. This should help your posture to naturally improve itself.
Relieve Joint Pain
For those with achy hips and knees, inversion also decompresses our joints. It is suggested that hanging upside-down opens up space for more lubricant to flow through your joints. Natural synovial fluid in our body helps feed our cartilage, which is what gives us our shock absorption – inversion is meant to alter the pressure in joints to allow for rehydration.
Our heart and bloodstream carry blood cells down to our feet and hands, but also transports it back up again. When we’re standing and active all day, this system is working against gravity. It is believed that regular inversion helps relieve the circulatory system by reducing the tug of gravity for a while and helping blood and oxygen to easily reach all parts of the body.
Many studies claim that inversion helps our bodies and minds relax. Because inversion increases circulation and decreases pressure on our joints, backs and shoulders, proponents claim that muscles are able to relax and more oxygen reaches the brain, allowing for comfort and stress relief.
Slow the Aging Process
You may have heard me say ‘anti-aging’ earlier. Well, you know how you get shorter as you get older – your back slouches and things start to sag? According to many sources, reversing the pull of gravity a few times a day helps with all that droopy, slouchy business. It’s also been suggested that reducing the appearance of varicose veins is another benefit of inversion therapy, due to increased blood flow.
Improve Core Strength
Many inversion tables can be used for unique inverted exercises like crunches and inverted squats. Regular strength exercises like these strengthen core muscles in the body, which improve posture and the way the torso holds the spine. Plus, proponents of these inverted exercises praise the fact that working out while inverted is low impact and reduces the strain on your joints and skeleton.
Who Can Practice Inversion Therapy?
Inversion therapy has been used on patients with lower back pain, slipped discs, pinched nerves, sciatica… and even those with no diagnosed pain at all.
However, there are some risks with inversion therapy that people with certain conditions should pay attention to. If you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease, be sure to consult your doctor before practicing inversion. Also, going upside-down increases pressure on the eyes, so those with glaucoma should also be careful.
Do Inversion Tables Work?
Most studies reveal that inversion tables really do cause spinal decompression, allowing increased space between the vertebrae and relieving pressure on the discs in the spine. Still, spinal decompression has not been unanimously proven to relieve back pain, especially not for every individual with a unique set of aches and issues. People have always reported somewhat mixed results, but a majority claim to feel relief, even if it’s sometimes only temporary. Often, an individual on an inversion table can instantly feel the relieving stretch in their spine.
Long-term results are still debatable, but many users claim to enjoy much greater mobility and decreased pain as benefits of inversion therapy. So long as you pay attention to your body and check with your doctor before you start regular inversion, this relaxing and pressure-relieving practice will most likely do you and your back some good.