Inversion therapy has been around for decades. The goal is to reverse the compression of gravity on the spine to relieve painful muscle spasms caused by spinal disc compression.
When participating in inversion therapy, people often use devices called inversion tables. The user’s ankles are secured, and the body is held in a straight position. With your ankles secured, you can then invert your body position so that you are upside-down.
Some people say that inversion tables help to relieve pressure on the spine. However, there are a few things you should know before you give inversion tables a try.
1. Even if it is helpful, the effects of inversion therapy won’t be long-term.
Inversion therapy is supposed to stretch the spine, increasing the space between the vertebrae and relieving pressure on the spinal nerves. You may temporarily feel better while you are upside-down, but once you are upright again, your spine will go back to the way it was before. No reputable studies have indicated long-term effectiveness of inversion therapy.
2. You can hurt yourself or make your symptoms worse.
People have a tendency to overdo it with inversion tables. They either stay inverted too long or invert the table too far. Most tables are adjustable, so you don’t have to completely invert yourself. Going too far or staying on the table too long could cause you to pull a muscle, leaving you in more pain than you were in before. Additionally, while some people find that inversion tables help to relieve the symptoms caused by spinal conditions, some find that it can make their symptoms worse. For these reasons, if you do decide to give inversion therapy a try, you should start slow. You should also consult with your doctor beforehand to make sure that inversion therapy is safe for you.
3. It can increase your blood pressure.
When you are upside-down on an inversion table, your heart rate slows and your blood pressure increases. This puts a great deal of stress on the circulatory system, which can be especially problematic if you already have high blood pressure, hypertension, or are taking blood thinners. Using an inversion table while you have high blood pressure, hypertension, or are taking blood thinners can be very dangerous and should be avoided.
4. It can can make some pre-existing conditions worse.
High blood pressure isn’t the only condition that can be made worse by inversion tables. Being inverted can also increase pressure in the eyes and inner ear. If you have inner ear problems, glaucoma, or a retinal detachment, an inversion table can can make it worse, even to the point of causing bleeding from the eyes if there is too much pressure. You should also avoid using an inversion table if you have a heart condition, fracture, osteoporosis, or hernia. Inversion tables can also be dangerous for those who are overweight or pregnant. In all of these cases, you should avoid using an inversion table.
The nice stretch you get from an inversion table may provide temporary relief from your back pain, but you need to make sure you are using the device correctly to make sure that you don’t end up with worse back pain than before. As with any new form of exercise or therapy, always consult with your doctor first to rule out any potential problems, and start off slow.
For more on healthy living and prevention, visit Michael A. Gleiber, MD