Not only can inversion therapy help to treat low back pain, it can also be used as a means to relieve the negative effects that gravity has on the body.

What are the merits of inversion therapy?

The inversion table has become more and more popular as individuals are in search of self-help and self treatment approaches. It has become widely accepted that at least 80 percent of Americans will experience an incapacitating form of lower back pain.

Not only can inversion therapy help to treat low back pain, it can also be used as a means to relieve the negative effects that gravity has on the body.

Gravity can effect circulation, height loss and organ prolapse. Regular use of inversion can help maintain overall health by stretching and relaxing muscle, reduce stress and tension and provide healthy movement for ligaments. Along with the negative effects of gravity, many who are stuck behind a work desk or under-exercised become weak in the core, lending to strain on the back.

Additionally, sitting places higher loads on the lumbar discs (150-250% of one's body weight). Inversion therapy can reverse those loads by elongating the spine, increasing the space between the vertebra to relieve pressure is on the discs, ligaments and nerve roots. Less pressure generally means less back pain. Inverting to 60 degrees is necessary to reduce disc pressure to zero.

We can lose up to .5-.75 inches in overall height during our waking hours which reduces the moisture and flexibility of our discs. Inverting to 60 degrees allows the disc to  rehydrate and become nourished. A well-hydrated disc allows for better separation of the vertebra and more room for the exiting nerve roots. If the discs do not provide adequate separation between the vertebra, nerve roots may become affected.

Compressed nerve roots can lead to inflammation, pain, loss of sensation, and loss of strength. Inverting to as little as 25 degrees for a few minutes can help relax tense muscles and aid in the flow of lymphatic fluids. The faster lymphatic fluids move, the faster the body's wastes are flushed and the faster stiffness and soreness in the muscle can disappear. Since the lymphatic system has no pump, it requires alternating contraction and relaxation of muscles to move the lymphatic fluid uphill through one-way valves. Inverting, using gravity as an assist, allows for better lymph fluid to travel through these valves.

There are many indications and goals of inversion therapy:

  • Disc herniation - Decreasing internal disc pressure pulls the herniated disc material back in reducing nerve compression and pain. Stretching the long ligament behind the disc may also help to push the herniation back into place.
  • Degenerative disc/joint disease - Stimulates nutrition, improves spinal function and decreases nerve compression.
  • Soft tissue stiffness, muscle spasm, myofascial restrictions - Sustained stretch inhibits and relaxes the muscles; separation of painful joints decreases pain and relaxes the muscles.
  • Facet (joint) impingement - Unlocks the facets, increases range of motion and decreases pain.
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing) - Increases temporarily the opening of the exiting nerve root to decrease nerve root compression.
  • Cervical headaches - Decreases muscle tension in the neck reducing referred pain.


About the Author

Holly Becker is a licensed physical therapist who has specialized in orthopedic rehabilitation since 1987 and joined Sentara Healthcare in 1989. She acquired her certification in mechanical diagnostic therapy in 2000, and currently subspecializes in mechanical spine disorders.