Have you heard about inversion therapy? Many people with low back pain and sciatica find that inversion therapy performed on an inversion table provides relief. This type of inversion therapy doesn't require the use of inversion boots or hanging upside down. Although inversion boots and racks are popular, that type of inversion therapy is not for the novice but best reserved for people who are in superb health and athletic condition.
This article is about inversion table therapy—an alternative that doesn't require turning completely upside down!
What's Old Is New Inversion therapy is not a new idea! In fact, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, witnessed what is now inversion therapy as early as 400 BC. The goal of inversion therapy is to defeat the effects of gravity; the downward force that pulls everything toward earth's center.
Low Back Pain and Gravity People who suffer back pain and sciatica find inversion table therapy turns gravity upside down causing this natural force to decompress the spine. Inversion therapy works a bit like spinal traction. For example, in a standing position, gravity pulls the spine downward compressing the discs, vertebral bodies, nerves, and other structures. Inversion therapy changes the physical dynamics with gravity's assistance to help relieve spinal compression. The result - the spine is temporarily lengthened and pressure on anatomical structures is reduced.
Other Benefits of Inversion Therapy Many people report that inversion table therapy is a great way to stretch muscles and ligaments, reduce muscle spasms, and improve circulation. Stretching stimulates the lymph glands to increase the flow of lymphatic fluids; part of the body's waste disposal system. Similarly, cellular health depends on good blood circulation to deliver nourishment and remove waste.
Inversion table therapy also helps to relieve motion sickness and stress. In addition, the body becomes more aware of its spatial orientation and balance when the inner ear is stimulated during inversion.
Plus, it is not necessary for the body to be positioned completely upside down to gain benefits from inversion therapy! Unlike antigravity boots used with an inversion rack, an adjustable inversion table offers the flexibility to choose the most comfortable angle.
Dialogue with Your Doctor Like anything that can affect your health, talk to your doctor before you start using an inversion table. This is important because certain medications and health conditions may make using an inversion table unsafe. Your doctor may recommend against inversion table therapy if you have obesity, a detached retina, fracture, glaucoma, heart condition (circulatory problem), hernia, implanted device, middle ear or eye infection, osteoporosis, are pregnant, or have a spinal injury. There may be other medical conditions not listed that your doctor may view as a contraindication.
Getting Started with Inversion Therapy What is the best way to start your inversion therapy program? Slowly - take it easy and take your time! Even at a 15-degree angle your body will feel a mild muscular stretch and the benefits of increased blood and lymph circulation. Most people do not need to exceed 60-degrees as the spine decompresses at this angle. Don't exceed what your body tells you!
Some of the better quality tables include a sliding backrest and a locking mechanism which allows you to combine gentle stretching and exercise movements during inversion. This might include moving the head from side-to-side, stretching the arms overhead, or performing abdominal sit-ups or crunches. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about how often you can invert and specific movements to enhance your inversion therapy program.