According to some findings, inversion therapy can relieve pressure on the spine, widen the vertebrae, and improve circulation. However, evidence of its effectiveness is conflicting, and it may not be suitable for everyone, including those with high blood pressure or glaucoma.
In this article, we will look at how inversion therapy works, its types, potential benefits, and risks.
How Does Inversion Therapy Work
According to the theory behind it, it is possible to reverse the effects of gravity on the body by turning a person upside down. Over time, gravity causes the back’s muscles, joints, and bones to compress the spine, contributing to chronic back pain.
Similar to a gentle massage or physical manipulation, it is thought to decompress the spine, which may provide some relief for symptoms like chronic back pain. People with sciatica, scoliosis, poor circulation, and chronic lower back pain may also benefit from engaging in inversion therapy.
Inversion Therapy Types
Specialized chairs, tables, or gravity boots are just a few examples of the specialized equipment needed for inversion therapy. However, by performing specific yoga poses and exercises, a person can also practice it without any equipment. Depending on the brand and build quality, inversion equipment is reasonably priced. However, most insurance companies will not cover the cost of alternative therapies. The specialized equipment used in it is explained below.
Most tables are designed to support your back while you stand in them upside down for a brief time. But you can also do some of your work out in an inversion table, depending on the model and brand. Some people prefer the model that allows them to perform torso rotations and ab crunches.
Inversion chairs operate on the same principles as tables. The main difference is that a person will sit rather than stand. Depending on the brand and model, inversion chairs range from $150 to $450.
Gravity boots are basic ankle boots that allow a person to hang upside down through their feet. The boots offer more maneuverability and freedom than other inversion equipment. Gravity boots cost between $50 and $100 per pair.
Inversion Therapy Benefits
Inversion therapy proponents assert that the method can treat and prevent back problems. They also think that the benefits of stretching and circulation can aid in preventing related health problems in the future. However, research on the effectiveness of it is conflicting. Here are the potential benefits of it.
Decreases Back Pain
In one study, 47 patients with persistent low back pain were examined. They practiced it in three 3-minute sets at various angles. According to the study, inversion therapy at a 60-degree angle decreased back pain after eight weeks. It increased torso flexibility and strength as well. (1)
Inversion therapy’s decompressing features may be able to treat a variety of back pain causes, including disc or joint pain. Decompression may also lessen the severity of any back muscle cramps.
Improves Spinal Health
It can potentially increase the space between your spinal discs and relieve pressure. These discs may become compressed during activities like sitting, running, and bending. The pressure raises the risk of back pain, vertebral collapse, and other complications.
The overall condition of the spine and ligaments may be improved, relieving pressure on the surrounding muscles by using inversion devices or performing specific yoga poses every day. This might ultimately result in more relaxed motions and a flexible, open body. (2)
It may also improve flexibility. Over time, the spine’s small movements might aid in forming a more powerful body. For this reason, reaching and bending might be better and easier for you. Additionally, it’s thought that inversion therapy helps with posture. This can benefit those who tend to sit all day due to the nature of their work. (3)
Lessen the Need for Surgery
The use of an inversion device decreased the need for surgery in some patients with lumbar discogenic disease, a condition that causes the back’s discs to become thinning and weak, according to a 2012 study published in Disability and Rehabilitation. More research is required, though, as this study only examined 26 participants. (4)
Despite these results, it’s crucial to remember that back issues are complex. Inversion therapy should not be used as a substitute for surgery or as a preventative measure for back pain. Before attempting inversion therapy as a form of treatment or exercise, consult with your doctor.
Risk of Inversion Therapy
Certain conditions make inversion therapy unsafe. Your heart rate and blood pressure both rise and fall in the upside-down position. Additionally, your eyes are under a lot of strain. People who are taking blood clotting or blood pressure medications should avoid inversion therapy. Inversion therapy is also not suitable for pregnant women.
Inversion therapy is also not appropriate for people with conditions such as:
- Osteoporosis, fractures, spinal injuries, or herniated disk
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye), glaucoma, ear infections, or cerebral sclerosis
- High blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke
Other factors that can cause complications are:
- retinal detachment
- use of blood clotting medications
Inversion therapy also takes time to adjust to. To get used to the process, start with smaller increments and slowly increase from one-minute sets to three. This may lessen negative effects like lightheadedness or sore muscles. Make sure not to overdo it.
Before investing in a table, chair, or other related items, think about the advantages and possibility of back pain relief with inversion therapy. Additionally, you might be able to locate a gym with inversion therapy equipment, so you can test it out before buying one.
There is no proof that using an inversion table is more advantageous than doing inversions while standing or sitting.
If the advantages of inversion therapy appeal to you, discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor can advise you on whether this therapy is appropriate for you. They might also be able to provide you with exercises, home remedies, and more efficient back pain treatments.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Kim, J. D., Oh, H. W., Lee, J. H., Cha, J. Y., Ko, I. G., & Jee, Y. S. (2013, August 6). The effect of inversion traction on pain sensation, lumbar flexibility and trunk muscles strength in patients with chronic low back pain. Isokinetics and Exercise Science, 21(3), 237–246. https://doi.org/10.3233/ies-130506
- Mendelow, A. D., Gregson, B. A., Mitchell, P., Schofield, I., Prasad, M., Wynne-Jones, G., Kamat, A., Patterson, M., Rowell, L., & Hargreaves, G. (2021). Lumbar disc disease: the effect of inversion on clinical symptoms and a comparison of the rate of surgery after inversion therapy with the rate of surgery in neurosurgery controls. Journal of physical therapy science, 33(11), 801–808. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.33.801
- deVries, H. A., & Cailliet, R. (1985). Vagotonic effect of inversion therapy upon resting neuromuscular tension. American journal of physical medicine, 64(3), 119–129.
- Prasad, K. S., Gregson, B. A., Hargreaves, G., Byrnes, T., Winburn, P., & Mendelow, A. D. (2012). Inversion therapy in patients with pure single level lumbar discogenic disease: a pilot randomized trial. Disability and rehabilitation, 34(17), 1473–1480. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638288.2011.647231