The Benefits of Inversion Tables

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on

Inversion Table

You’ve probably seen the ads and infomercials extolling the benefits of using an inversion table. Inversion therapy is said to relieve back pain, let your joints decompress, allow more nutrients to reach your discs, and boost circulation. I own an inversion table and use it regularly, bottom line (and disclaimer): I am a fan. I can only speak for myself, but after a 10 or 15 minute session, I feel great. My back feels rejuvenated, my neck is limber, my circulation is humming, every muscle in my body feels like it just received a healthy stretch, and my well being is noticeably elevated.

Inversion Therapy Instead of Surgery?

Inversion therapy is used most often as a non-invasive answer to back disorders and sciatica, especially for people who want to avoid surgery. I suggest extreme caution when considering back surgery. Many people who have had surgical back procedures done will tell you that even if the acute problem was addressed, overall, they’re not “back to normal.” In my opinion, it’s worthwhile to exhaust non-surgical methods of relief first. Individual situations will always vary, but according to James Cook University Hospital, inversion therapy may reduce the need for surgery in some people. [1]

Inversion Therapy and Kidney Stones

If you or someone you know have had kidney stones, you probably have one word to describe the experience: hell. When they pass, the pain is excruciating and, in the case of large stones, may cause complications. What do kidney stones have to do with inversion therapy?

There is a procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy which, in short, delivers a targeted shock wave through your body. It’s done with the intent of breaking up kidney stones into small pieces so they pass more easily. Sometimes after the procedure, however, stone fragments remain. In these situations, it seems that inversion may actually help the body push out the kidney stone remnants and multiple studies have observed the effect. [2] [3] [4] [5]

The Effects of Inversion Therapy and Appropriate Warnings

Inversion therapy has been likened to using a sauna- it’s mostly great but there are a few cautions to be aware of. According to the Olive View Medical Center at UCLA School of Medicine, inversion increases pulse and blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or cardiovascular issues, you should avoid inversion therapy unless your own doctor personally tells you otherwise. [6]

A study evaluating the effects of traction on persons with chronic back pain noted low occurring instances of headache and temporary blurred vision following inversion. This should not be dismissed. Neither should the fact that the same study also reported that over 80% of the participants experienced improvement in their back symptoms. [7]

Inversion Therapy: Should You Try It?

It’s important to note that back problems have many causes and everyone is an individual who needs to be individually considered. Someone who has been in a car accident probably has an entirely different set of problems to contend with than someone who has a sports injury. Lumping it all into a general “back problems” category is not a reliable method of evaluation.

If you’ve been working with a healthcare provider to address your own back symptoms, it’s a good idea to discuss inversion therapy with them to determine if it’s appropriate for you. Additionally, if you have high blood pressure, heart issues, are overweight, or have other individual concerns, talk to your doctor first.

Have you used an inversion table? Was it beneficial? Leave a comment and share your experiences.

References (7)
  1. Prasad KS, Gregson BA, Hargreaves G, Byrnes T, Winburn P, Mendelow AD. Inversion therapy in patients with pure single level lumbar discogenic disease: a pilot randomized trial. Disabil Rehabil. 2012;34(17):1473-80. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.647231. Epub 2012 Jan 23.
  2. Yu X, Chen ZQ, Yang WM, Liu JH, Zhou XC, Wang SG, Guo H, Ye ZQ. [Application of inversion-table in the treatment of lower pole renal stones]. Zhonghua Wai Ke Za Zhi. 2009 Feb 15;47(4):255-7. Chinese.
  3. Chiong E, Hwee ST, Kay LM, Liang S, Kamaraj R, Esuvaranathan K. Randomized controlled study of mechanical percussion, diuresis, and inversion therapy to assist passage of lower pole renal calculi after shock wave lithotripsy. Urology. 2005 Jun;65(6):1070-4.
  4. Pace KT, Tariq N, Dyer SJ, Weir MJ, D'A Honey RJ. Mechanical percussion, inversion and diuresis for residual lower pole fragments after shock wave lithotripsy: a prospective, single blind, randomized controlled trial. J Urol. 2001 Dec;166(6):2065-71.
  5. Heng MK, Bai JX, Talian NJ, Vincent WJ, Reese SS, Shaw S, Holland GJ. Changes in cardiovascular function during inversion. Int J Sports Med. 1992 Jan;13(1):69-73.
  6. Brownlee N, Foster M, Griffith DP, Carlton CE Jr. Controlled inversion therapy: an adjunct to the elimination of gravity-dependent fragments following extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy. J Urol. 1990 Jun;143(6):1096-8.
  7. Gianakopoulos G, Waylonis GW, Grant PA, Tottle DO, Blazek JV. Inversion devices: their role in producing lumbar distraction. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1985 Feb;66(2):100-2.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • eckhart

    I am almost 58 years old and have had lower back issues for many years (on & off and getting worse with age). Jan 2013 I had a severe sciatica problem and ended up with a game left leg for a couple of months and the problem has been chronic since. That is until I got my inversion table approx 3 weeks ago. I have been pain free since I started using the table!!!!!!!!!!! OMG – how nice is that!!!! I am still working on stretching and strengthening my core as before – and I know that perhaps my back problems are not fixed – BUT WHAT A RELIEF TO BE PAIN FREE!!!!!!!
    I did not know what an inversion table was – until someone told me that they had suffered for 15 years with siatica…….until they got their table and all it takes is 2 minutes once or twice a day. It sounded too good to be true.
    I have to say that I asked my phsiotherapist and Doctor and they said the odds were low that this would help. Like a fool – it put up with the pain for many more months until I made my recent $200 purchase. Wow is that cheap compared to all of the time going to the Dr/Physio/Massage/etc
    My brother in law is 56 and he is a millwright and works hard. Back pain for years and chiropractor at least once a week. Lots of pain killers. He got his table approx a month before I did and has not been to chiro since he got it.
    I AM A BIG FAN!!!!!!!!! Why is the news not getting out via the health professionals??

  • ghc_health

    Thanks a lot for sharing. I’m a big fan of inversion therapy and was happy to hear of your positive experience.
    Inversion therapy isn’t unknown and there are many advocates but as for why it isn’t THE mainstream go-to for relief for back discomfort is probably a few things. First off, it’s not a pill that you have to take (and purchase) on a regular basis. As you said, spend your money once and you’re set. Few doctors and therapists are going to recommend something that will make their services not needed. Second, sometimes wellness and pain is hard to quantify… back pain especially. There are countless people with beautiful X-ray and MRI imagery that shows nothing wrong… yet they’re paralyzed with pain. When medical imaging doesn’t necessarily show a problem, it may also be hard to show that the solution is working. How you feel is, literally, totally subjective.

  • Daniel raju

    Hello guys,
    I got my Invt 350 table from a kind German lady & using it every week end. my timing Is 20-30mins presently.
    I heard many cracking sounds initially in my back, as if bone are settling down, great relaxation thereafter, feel like sleeping on. But now no more cracking, it is smooth movements.
    I wish to know from Dr. Edward, what diet changes will really hydrate & lubricate the discs..

  • ghc_health

    There are supplements out there that support joint health. In my estimation, the best thing you can do, however, is to stay very hydrated. If you don’t have a water bottle attached to your side all day long, you probably should start.

  • Daniel raju

    Ok,
    I am going for Homeo + mountain water

  • Danielle

    How do you feel about antigravity yoga?

  • I think it’s awesome. You’re combining the benefits of inversion with heavy duty stretching. If you’re physically up for it, it really allows you to enjoy gravitation pull on parts of your body that you’d never experience otherwise.

  • Derek Pead

    I was told by a surgeon over 20 years ago, when I had not one but two slipped discs (L4 and L5) that I would never play golf again unless I had an operation. I hesitated and, quite fortuitously, discovered this piece of apparatus called an inversion table. I decided to give it a try, haven’t had back problems since and play golf regularly. Can’t recommend it strongly enough.

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