Inversion therapy is a technique where you are suspended upside down to stretch the spine and relieve back pain. The theory is that by shifting the body’s gravity, pressure eases off the back while also providing traction for the spine.
Inversion therapy can resolve and prevent back problems. The stretching and circulatory benefits can help prevent future related health issues. But studies are inconclusive about whether inversion therapy works.
Reduced back pain
One study looked at 47 people with chronic low back pain. They practiced inversion therapy in three 3-minute sets at different angles. The study found that inversion therapy at 60 degrees reduced back pain after eight weeks. It also improved torso flexibility and strength.
Improved spinal health
In theory, inversion therapy can improve the space between your spinal discs and relieve pressure. Activities such as sitting, running, and bending can put pressure on these discs. The pressure increases the risk for back pain, a collapsed vertebra, and other complications.
Practicing inversion therapy may also translate to better flexibility. Micromovements in the spine over time may help make the body stronger. You may find it easier to bend and reach. Inversion therapy is also thought to improve posture. This might be especially helpful if you work at a desk.
Reduced need for surgery
One 2014 study suggests that the zero-gravity nature of inversion can reduce compression. The authors of the study also noted that inversion may potentially prevent disability from back problems. This could also reduce the need for spinal surgery.
A 2012 study Trusted Source from Disability and Rehabilitation found that people with lumbar disease reduced their need for surgery six weeks after using inversion therapy. Despite these findings, it’s important to note that back problems are complex. Inversion therapy is not a guarantee against surgery, nor should it be an alternative treatment for back pain. Talk to your doctor before trying inversion therapy as a treatment or form of exercise.
The most common risks associated with inversion tables are an unsafe rise in blood pressure, a rise in pressure in the eyes (glaucoma), or a rise in heart rate. It is therefore recommended that if you have glaucoma, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease you check with your doctor before attempting inversion therapy. Falling off the inversion table while getting on or off it is another small risk, so if you try inversion, be careful.