Inverting Your Life

Woman with raised up hands enjoying sunny day

What is an inversion table? For those who do not already own an inversion table, that’s a common question. Simply stated, if you have a back or neck problem, using an inversion table on a regular basis is one of the most effective things that you can do – on your own or at home – to keep from getting worse. An inversion table allows you to get the benefits of traction on your spine in the comfort and convenience of your own home. You will likely feel better, with less pain and stiffness.

An inversion table is easy to use. It’s a good idea to have someone with you the first time you try it. And of course, read the directions first. With an assistant, it’s easier to make adjustments to set the inversion table specifically for you. After the first use, when everything is adjusted, you can use the inversion table without an assistant.

First, you set the table for your height. Then you get on it and buckle your ankles. There are many different inversion tables out there to choose from. And when you get down to details, the only real difference between them is the mechanism for buckling your ankles. Some are easier to use than others.

Finally, you raise your arms up over your head. If the table is properly adjusted, the table will tilt back and return upright easily. Keep tilting until your head is lower than your feet. You will begin to feel gravity stretching your body. If you want to limit the angle of tilt, set that limit, or have your assistant set it. Otherwise, you can keep tilting back until you are completely upside down.

So, what is happening to my body while I am in the inversion table? This is one of the few ways to pull on the ligaments and disks that hold your spine bones together. When you are sitting or standing, gravity is pulling your body down. Your spine holds you up. Each of your spine bones stacks on the bones under it. The disks between get compressed.

When you are on the inversion table, the disks and ligaments get stretched. Stretching helps strengthen the ligaments. It also helps keep the ligaments elastic, like a rubber band. When the disks are stretched, it allows water and nutrients to enter the disks more easily than when the disks are compressed. Stretching your spine on a regular basis helps preserve the youthful qualities of the ligaments that keep your spine flexible and of your disks in order to provide a cushion between each of your back and neck bones.

People are always asking how long to stay on the inversion table. My personal opinion is that three minutes is probably enough. Ten minutes seems like a really long time. If you stay inverted long enough, your nose will stop up. It will get uncomfortable. Ten minutes is not twice as good as five minutes. You probably get more benefit from using the inversion table twice daily for five minutes than once daily for 10 minutes. Bottom line: use the inversion table for three to five minutes once or twice daily. Make it part of your daily routine, either morning or evening or both.

If you are having a flare-up of pain, you can use the inversion table as many times daily as you wish.

OK, so who should use an inversion table? It is easier to list those who should not use an inversion table. It’s a short list. People who have glaucoma, people who have had spinal fusion surgery and people who have had knee or hip replacements should only use an inversion table at the direction of their doctor. People who have uncontrolled high blood pressure need to get it controlled before using an inversion table.

When it comes to other physical impairments, there is a general rule of thumb: If your physical impairment prevents you from getting onto the inversion table and securing your ankles without assistance, it’s probably not for you. Check with your doctor.

Do you have back or neck pain? What about bulging disks? Have you had an old whiplash injury? Or sports injury? Then you can probably benefit from regular use of an inversion table. Why wait? Shop around town. There are floor models at retail stores. Try out the different methods for securing your ankles. Get started with your inversion table and lead a pain-free life.

Written by Dr. Michael Cassaro