Inversion Table Therapy for Low Back Pain

Inversion Table Therapy Low Back Pain

An Inversion Therapy View

Maybe you have heard about inversion therapy for low back pain from a friend or know someone who swears by this type of lumbar traction. Hanging by your ankles on an inversion table is quite an appealing idea for some low back pain sufferers who feel if only someone could stretch them out to release the pressure.

Today I wanted to look a bit into inversion tables, what people have found with regards to inversion traction therapy and low back pain and some videos of people using and inversion table.

Inversion Therapy – Spinal Decompression

Inversion therapy is a way of using gravity to create spinal decompression on your discs, joints and muscles in your lower back.

There are other machines out there that will do spinal decompression or maybe you have experienced being in a hospital where they used pulleys and weights to traction your spine. Inversion tables use gravity to lengthen your lower back when you hang upside down.

Inversion Therapy Study on Disc Problems

Here are the results of a study from Newcastle university that looked at whether people with discogenic low back pain would need as much spinal surgery after using an inversion table.

Download (PDF, 132KB)

This is only a very small group of people tested, but what the researchers found looks promising for inversion table therapy.

So Should Everyone with Low Back Pain Use an Inversion Table?

I would say probably not everyone with low back pain needs to do inversion traction.

I know from personal experience times when I have done inversion traction that it would sometimes give me my left sided low back pain when I got off the table. So probably selected people are likely to benefit more. Some doctors like low back traction therapy others not at all, so it might depend quite a lot on who you speak to.

Are there Risks Doing Inversion Traction?

Like all things in life there always risks. Mild risks could be a head rush from hanging upside down to more severe health risks like increasing your already high blood pressure.

Most of the risks involved with inversion traction of your lower back look to be:

  • Cardiovascular like high blood pressure (a.k.a Hypertension)
  • Pregnancy
  • Eye conditions like glaucoma and retinal detachment
  • Bone Weakness like osteoporosis or recent fractures
  • Hernias like hiatus hernia in your diaphragm

I don’t know all the risks, but hopefully the manufacturer of an inversion table would tell you of any risks involved.

Like I found with my own particular lower back pain, inversion therapy could stimulate an episode of low back pain sometimes. So if you are going to use an inversion table take it slow.

Do you Have to Hang Completely Upside Down?

It looks like the answer is, no.

Hanging completely perpendicular to the ground might look the most effective form of traction, but probably doesn’t give you any more benefit than at 60°. Inversion table companies say 60° is where people really experience inversion therapy. Most inversion table companies recommend starting with smaller angles first to get used to the inversion feeling and table control.

Videos Of Inversion Therapy

In the following video you can see someone who likes doing inversion therapy on their lower back for helping their flexibility in golf and low back stiffness and ache. It does look quite simple to control the speed and angle to hang upside down. If you had a lumbar disc pain you would have a problem trying to bend forward to lock the bar around your ankles like the video shows you.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnoY3fs41mI

In this inversion video I found is a someone who is using gravity boots on a pull up bar. It is a portable pull up bar that attaches to the door frame and he has clipped his gravity boots onto the frame. This will only give you 180° inversion and I could see being risky if the pull up bar doesn’t hang onto the door frame properly. You may have also seen people at gyms using their gravity boots like I have.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqF43cd7k9g

In this video you get to see where some of the stress occurs on an inversion table when it is used over a period of time. Maybe this would help you to look out for problems on an inversion table you might already be using.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeSgAj3lHlQ

Types Of Inversion Tables

There are many different manufacturers of inversion tables out on the market. Doing an internet search it looks like the American company, Teeter, is a big name in inversion tables manufacturing.

Home DIY inversion table prices seem to range from a tens of pounds to hundreds of pounds. The Teeter inversion tables are more expensive than some of the others on the market as you can see in the images below from Amazon. However they say from their video above that they take pride in producing a quality built inversion table.

Have you tried inversion therapy before? Do you own an inversion table and found it made a difference for your low back pain? Let me know in a comment below.