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Inversion Table – Should You Use It For Low Back Pain

Should You Use Inversion Tables For Lower Back Pain?

After countless cases of lower back pain, disc herniation’s, disc degeneration, arthritis, facet syndromes, etc, you would think that there would be a definitive answer to solve lower back pain.  Well, there isn’t, but what question does arise often in my experience is whether or not inversion tables work?

So what is an inversion table? Do they work and should you use them?  Here we will dive a little into some questions and answers surrounding inversion tables so that you can be a little more informed.  Of course I will rant on and give you my opinion at the end.

Okay, what is an inversion table? 

An inversion table is essentially a table that you strap yourself into and allow yourself to flip over (inverting your body) so that your head is now facing the ground and the feet pointing to the sky.  The table is approximately $200 to 500 dollars and may also allow you stop at different angles so that you are not hanging completely upside down.

What does it do?

The theory behind inversion is that it decompresses the spine, disc and joints by applying a traction force. By hanging upside down or on an inverted angle the body decompresses by the weight of gravity.  It is supposed to separate the surfaces of the joint, thus taking pressure away or off of he spine.

Some studies show that inversion has helped to decompress the spine by 3mm during the treatment, and yes, this is enough to take compression off a nerve, disc or other structure that may be inflicting pain.

Is it safe? 

Well, that can be a question within a question… Do you have blood pressure issues? Glaucoma? Cardiovascular disease? Severe low back pain?  Inversion can cause some of these conditions to intensify and many not be recommended in these cases.

Its hard to determine if you are going to have adverse effects of inversion but most common side affects include dizzy or disorientation due to blood rushing to the head while inverted.

Most people do not have increased lower back pain but it is possible for you to have an ache or discomfort after standing due to the effects of gravity being reintroduced on the spine.

Does my opinion even matter?

I believe that the inversion tables have some benefits.  It may also be a total waste of time and money. So which one is it?

Most of the patients that I have seen had used a inversion table with some success.  Now this is a rough estimate but I would say about 60% state that its beneficial while the remainder state that it had no affect.  Well, what about the risks?  After countless owners and experimenters with the inversion table, I have had many patients also report an increase in pain or other problems due to the inversion table.  Based on anecdotal evidence I say its safe to go but there are definitely some risk factors involved.

Just remember that an inversion table is not going to cure you or fix your problem although it may help.  You need to combat it with proper treatment and some sort of rehabilitation to stabilize the spine.  In addition, you will need to improve core strength and hip/pelvic mobility.   While inversion has its benefits, hanging upside down on an inversion table is more of a temporary fix and for about $200-$500 I do not think its worth it.  For that price, you could see a good therapist 3-10 times (depending on cost) while learning about YOUR exact condition while walking away with tangible exercises that will help you.

Final verdict:  An inversion table to help lower back pain can help you in the short run but it should not be your go to move to fix lower back pain.