Inversion therapy tables and chairs are used in the home or the chiropractic offices.
What is Inversion Therapy?
Patients are placed “upside down or at an inverted angle” during inversion therapy. The patient may hang by gravity boots, or they could perform the inversion using a special table or chair. This form of spinal decompression or spinal traction makes use of gravity to “decompress the joints of the body”.1 Inversion therapy is believed to alleviate back pain, improve a patient’s flexibility and joint health, provide tension or stress relief in the back and cervical (neck), and “improve fitness and build core strength”.2 The inversion therapy tables and chairs are devices that patients can use at home. Using the inversion therapy table typically requires that another person assists the patient. The chair, though, allows for the head to be positioned “below the feet while in a seated position”. Unlike the inversion table, the chair “does not go back all the way”, but it could still provide many similar benefits.3
Teeter is a company that offers a variety of inversion tables for inversion table therapy, including one type, called Teeter Hangups. The Premium Inversion Table includes some ankle locks that are easy for patients to reach, as well as traction handles, and handles that enhance stretching. There is also a tether to make inversion angles easier to pre-set.4 According to the Teeter website, the inversion therapy process is quite simple. The patient sets their table for their height, and then they secure their ankles. The patient can then choose their rotation angle, starting with 20 degrees as the minimum level required to achieve benefits. The patient can relax on their table. The maximum benefits are achieved at about 60 degrees, but will take the patient time work up to that degree of an angle.5
How Well Do the Inversion Tables Work?
Patients should consult with their healthcare providers before they engage in inversion therapy. This is especially true for pregnant women, for patients with eye diseases, for those with heart disease, and for high blood pressure patients.6 The inversion may lead to an elevation in blood pressure, combining it with a slower heartbeat, and potentially increasing health risks for patients with some medical conditions, including those with glaucoma. In fact, it is said that “you should not try inversion therapy if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma”.7 Teeter suggests engaging in regular inversion, and they note that the spine will decompress in minutes. For some patients, inversion therapy can be performed “several times a day to achieve maximum results”.8 Patients who benefit from this type of therapy have reported that their muscles and ligaments are stretched, and this leads to improved circulation and fewer muscle spasms. Inversion therapy might also relieve not only stress, but motion sickness, due to fact that it provides inner ear stimulation and the idea that the “body becomes more aware of its spatial orientation and balance”. It may not be critical to utilize the full inversion that antigravity boots and inversion racks provide. Inversion tables can be adjusted to an angle that is comfortable to the patient, so that they still receive some benefits.9
Inversion Therapy and Chiropractic
Inversion can be used in alternative treatments. Some yoga classes offer a swing and exercise program, with products such as the Gravotonics Yoga Swing & Exercise system.10 Inversion therapy has grown in popularity since the 1980s, but it has been around since Hippocrates, in 400 BC. Today, chiropractors may help their patients with inversion therapy. Studies have shown that inversion therapy is a useful clinical treatment for some musculoskeletal conditions, such as “bulging discs, sciatica, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, muscle spasm and even lymphedema”. In one particular study, of patients with sciatica, those who used inversion therapy, with physical therapy, were “70.5 per cent less likely to require surgery” than the patients who received physical therapy alone. Rather than taking medications, with side effects, or agreeing to surgery, with risks, patients should consider more conservative treatment options, such as inversion. This therapy can reduce pain while realigning vertebrae, improve posture, relax muscles, and rehydrate discs. The negative effects of gravity can be reduced, and patients can benefit from “overall general good health”. Inversion is a cost-effective treatment for chiropractors to offer in that the equipment is not expensive, it does not take up much space, and it requires little training for the staff.11 The EnergyCenter.com claims that this treatment could “reduce tension headaches by taking pressure off nerves, increase flexibility, promote lymphatic drainage and blood circulation, and improve mood”. For healthy people, this therapy is safe. According to the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, there was “no increase in heart rate or blood pressure with inversion therapy”. However, inversion therapy is contraindicated in patients who have certain medical conditions, as noted earlier, and for those who have suffered from “stroke, recent head injury, spinal injury or bone weakness” or “recent back surgery, glaucoma, herniated discs, high blood pressure, (and) hiatal hernia”.12