Everything You Need to Know About Inversion Tables
Everything You Need to Know About Inversion Tables
Everything you need to know about using inversion tables. Benefits, drawbacks, buyer’s guide, and inversion table routines in this helpful guide.
If you suffer from neck or back pain, you may have heard about inversion therapy from chiropractors, friends, or the internet. Inversion therapy involves hanging or lying upside down at an angle, allowing the spine and back muscles to stretch out. One of the most common forms of inversion therapy involves inversion tables.
Before you try an inversion table, you should research the benefits, risks, and which model is right for you. To start, here is our guide to everything you need to know about inversion tables.
The Benefits of Using Inversion Tables
Many people use inversion tables to relieve back pain. Specifically, inversion tables help with spinal disc pain, joint pain, neck pain, muscle spasms, and sciatica.
A few minutes of daily use of an inversion table can strengthen your ligaments and improve joint health. Inversion tables can relieve pain from spinal stenosis, disc herniations, spinal degenerations, and other conditions.
Inversion tables work by completely stretching out the body, which can result in better posture and increased flexibility. Since inversion tables pull blood down from the lower half of your body to your head, they can reduce the appearance of varicose veins in your legs.
You can also use inversion tables for exercise. Low-impact workouts like inverted crunches can improve muscle tone without putting pressure on your spine.
Using an inversion table can promote the release of endorphins, which will make you feel happier and more relaxed. Many users report feeling more energized after spending a few minutes on their inversion table.
While all of the above benefits come mostly from anecdotal stories from customers, there have been a couple of scientific studies looking at the benefits of inversion tables.
A 1978 research study showed that inversion tables could lengthen the spine and reduce muscle spasms. There was also a study in 2013 that showed improved torso strength and flexibility and a reduction of back pain after eight weeks of use.
The Mayo Clinic reported that more rigorous studies had found inversion therapy to be ineffective, so it's up to you to determine whether the wealth of customer reviews outweighs the lack of intense scientific studies.
The Drawbacks of Using Inversion Tables
Inversion tables aren’t for everybody. As with any at-home physical therapy devices, there are significant risks you must be aware of before you start using it.
There are several medical conditions that can be exacerbated by inversion tables. If you have heart or circulatory system conditions, high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke, using an inversion table would be incredibly dangerous. Because of how hanging upside down affects your blood’s circulation, any issues with your heart or circulatory system could make inversion therapy lethal.
Inversion tables work by locking in your ankles, causing them to bear most of your body weight while you hang upside down. If you have any issues with your feet, ankles, or knees, inversion tables might be too painful for you. Even customers without any joint conditions have complained that inversion tables are too uncomfortable for them.
Since inversion tables put a lot of pressure on your leg joints and stretch out your spine, any skeletal disorders like osteoporosis, herniated disk, bone fractures, spinal injuries, or scoliosis could worsen with inversion therapy. Since inversion tables are supposed to treat some of those conditions, you should consult with your doctor to see what she recommends.
With all of your blood rushing to your head, your eyes will take a lot of pressure during inversion therapy. If you have glaucoma, retinal detachment, or conjunctivitis (pink eye), there’s a good chance an inversion table will make these conditions worse.
Inversion tables can increase your blood pressure, which makes them unsafe for pregnant women or anyone who already has high blood pressure. If you’re on blood clotting medication, inversion tables can be deadly.
Some other conditions that can be worsened by inversion tables include ear infections, cerebral sclerosis, and atrial fibrillation.
Buying an Inversion Table
If you’ve read over the last two sections and determined that you still want to try an inversion table, you should research all of the available models to choose the one that’s right for you.
Look out for the height and weight limits of inversion tables. Most tables don't work well for people shorter than 4'9" or taller than 6'6", and the standard weight limit is between 300 and 350 pounds. There are tables with higher limits; you just need to look around for them.
Different types of inversion tables use different mechanisms for holding your ankles in place. Some methods are less secure than others, which scares some people. Other customers hate having their ankles strapped into the chair because it makes them feel trapped, so they prefer models that use roller bars to keep your ankles secure.
Make sure the inversion table you buy comes with a warranty. Unless you’ve tested out the table before buying it, you won’t know how comfortable it’s going to be or how well it will work for you. Some customers feel nauseous after just a minute or two of inversion therapy, so you don’t want to be stuck with the cost of the table if that happens to you.
Some models of inversion tables are designed to treat specific conditions. If you have sciatica, slipped discs, or muscle spasms, you can find inversion tables that are engineered to improve your exact symptoms.
How to Use an Inversion Table
Every inversion table should come with an instruction manual, which you should read thoroughly. Every model is different, so our instructions just provide a general guide for inversion therapy and don't take into account the specific design of your inversion table.
Always assemble and use your inversion table on a flat surface. A hard floor is preferable over carpet, though some people prefer to have the extra cushioning in case they fall.
Never use an inversion table with bare feet. We suggest wearing comfortable athletic shoes that won’t slip off.
As you use your inversion table, we recommend keeping a pain journal, so you can keep track of how the inversion table is helping (or hurting) your symptoms. You can refer to your pain journal over time to determine how you need to adjust your routine.
Here are the basic steps for using an inversion table.
We suggest increasing the angle of your inversion table by 10 degrees every week until you get to the highest angle your doctor recommends. Most people see the most relief between 60 degrees and 90 degrees. Your body is unique though, so you shouldn't push yourself past the point where you feel comfortable.
You should aim to spend between one and five minutes on your inversion table at each session. One minute is more than enough for a newbie—don't make the same mistake many customers do and injure yourself by staying inverted for too long on your first try. You can slowly increase the amount of time you spend on the inversion table as you get used to it.
Inversion tables only provide temporary pain relief, so you’ll need to use your table any time you’re feeling intense back pain. Most people use their inversion table three or more times per day, but you should follow the recommendation of your doctor.
Inversion Table Routines
Beyond simple inversion, there are specific routines you can follow on your inversion table to increase their effectiveness. Here are some easy exercises to try once you’ve gotten the hang of inversion.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable using your inversion table at higher angles, you can use the following exercise to stretch your lower back muscles and relieve lower back pain.
Once you’re inverted, raise your right arm above your head, and grip the left handle with your left hand.
Push away from the handle with your left hand, and rotate your hips to the right at the same time.
You should feel your lower-left back muscles stretching out.
Remain in this position for as long as it feels comfortable, up to five minutes.
Switch to the other side, with your left arm above your head and your right hand on the right handle.
Push off with your right hand and rotate your hips to the left until you feel your lower-right back muscles stretch.
Stay like this for as long as it feels comfortable, up to five minutes.
Complete Spinal Decompression
This exercise works well for people with muscle spasms or spinal pain, as it will completely stretch out your body from neck to ankles.
Invert to your desired angle—lower for beginners, and higher for experts.
Raise both arms above your head, with your hands hanging down or gripping the headrest, whichever feels more comfortable
Allow your muscles to relax completely while breathing deeply and exhaling fully.
The first time you try this exercise, remain in this position for one minute before returning to horizontal.
After you get used to this position, you can add one minute at a time until you reach your limit. Never push yourself beyond what you feel comfortable doing.
If you have upper-back pain, this exercise can be a good way to stretch those muscles and reduce your pain levels.
Invert to your desired angle.
Use your left hand to grip the right handle or the right side of the table.
Rotate the upper half of your body to the right, keeping your legs and hips as still as possible.
Use your left arm to pull until you’ve stretched out your torso muscles to a comfortable degree.
Stay in this position for up to one minute the first few times, then increase up to five minutes or until you start to feel uncomfortable.
Repeat on the other side.
If you’re using your inversion table for neck pain, you can use this exercise to stretch those muscles and relieve your neck pain.
Invert to your desired angle.
Using your left hand, hold the right side of your head, and gently pull your head to the left, towards your left shoulder.
Stay in this position for one to five minutes, depending on how comfortable you feel.
Make sure you relax your muscles and breathe deeply during the stretch.
When you’re ready, switch to the other side and repeat.
The following exercise can help to relieve pain from the sciatic nerve, which runs from your back down through the side of your hips and buttocks.
Invert to your desired angle.
Raise your arms over your head.
Curve your upper body towards the right, as if you’re making a “C” shape, bringing your shoulder as close to your hip as you can without moving your lower half.
You should feel the side of your ab muscles stretching, as well as your shoulder.
Relax into this position for a minute or so, until you start to feel uncomfortable.
Switch sides, repeating the stretches on your left side.
Now that you’ve read everything you need to know about inversion tables, you can make an informed decision about whether or not they’re right for you.