What’s the Deal with Inversion Tables?
What are Inversion Tables –
An Inversion Table is a device where your ankles are attached to a table, the table then flips downwards and suspends your body upside down. This upside-down position is proclaimed to alleviate back pain by alleviating tension from the lower back. The weight of your upper body provides traction to the spinal area. Inversion tables are used as a treatment for lower back pain but, there is a lack of agreement on systemic effects of inversion1.
Does it Work –
Studies on Inversion Tables have been quite poor. The results are equivocal, and experts are not sold on its efficacy. Well-designed studies evaluating spinal traction have found the technique ineffective for long-term relief. However, some people find traction temporarily helpful as part of a more comprehensive treatment program for lower back pain caused by spinal disk compression1.
Is it Safe –
Your heartbeat slows and your blood pressure increases when you remain inverted for more than a couple of minutes — and the pressure within your eyeballs jumps dramatically. For these reasons, you should not try inversion therapy if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma2.
How to use an Inversion Table –
1. Set the length adjustment by pulling the
spring-loaded pin at the bottom of the table
and setting it at your height.
2. Adjust the strap on the bottom of the table
to determine the angle at which you want to
unload the spine. Note. Many people find it
difficult to start hanging directly upside down
and prefer to start at a 45° or 60° angle until
they get used to the table.
3. Adjust the padded leg clamps so that the
ankles will slide comfortably into place.
4. Step into the padded leg clamps. Note. Some
people go barefoot; or prefer to wear shoes
because they offer even more padding.
5. Lie down supine on the table. Note. You may
place a lumbar roll into the small of your back
for added support.
6. Reach both arms over your head, and the
table should slowly invert. Note. If the table
inverts too quickly for your comfort, simply
grasp onto the side rails and slow it down.
7. While in the inverted position, try to relax
your muscles and your breathing as much as
possible. Note. Separation of the joint
surfaces is resisted by the muscles and other
soft tissues surrounding the joints. By relaxing
you will be able to take the pressure off your
nerves and intervertebral disks. At first you
might only be comfortable in this position for
1 or 2 min.
8. Slowly bring your arms back to your waist,
grasp the side rails, and bring the table to a
horizontal position to let the blood return to
your lower limbs.
9. Repeat the process. See if you can do three
sets of 5 min each.
10. When finished with the last set. slowly return
to the starting position and lie prone on the
floor in the McKenzie extension position remain in
this position for 30 min
The Conclusion –
Although the Inversion Table has not been shown to be the most effective method; if you are healthy and do not have hypertension of glaucoma, it can be a relatively inexpensive method to try3. In my opinion, before you go out and purchase an Inversion Table make sure you are staying active. Even though the Inversion Table has not been shown to do much, an active lifestyle has been shown to alleviate lower back pain unequivocally. Remember to stretch daily, stay active, and get evaluated by a health care professional prior to purchasing this piece of equipment.
2. David D. Inversion Table Traction as a Therapeutic Modality, Part 2: Application. Athletic Therapy Today. 2005;10(4):3p.
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