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Inversion Tables For Back Pain – We Explain How They Work

An inversion table may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re dealing with a backache. You may consider options like pain-relief ointments or massage in most cases, or even surgery if your pain is more severe. However, using a device that flips your body upside down is typically not at the top of the list when it comes to treating this issue and most people are completely in the dark on what exactly inversion therapy is.

Here, we’ll discuss what you need to know about inversion tables and explain how inversion therapy is a viable option for most people who struggle with minor cases of back pain. We’ll review several studies that have proven that the use of inversion tables can help with issues like sciatica and bulging discs as well as explain how to use an inversion table successfully.

Why Do People Use Inversion Tables For Back Pain?

People use inversion tables for various reasons, ranging from fitness and recovery to pain relief. However, the most common use of an inversion table is to treat back pain. 

Inversion therapy is a non-surgical form of treatment that’s relatively affordable and can alleviate, if not eliminate, back pain after just a few sessions. Inversion therapy involves the use of inversion tables to relieve pressure on the bones, joints, and areas of the back by flipping the body upside down.

Rather than go to a clinic for specialized treatment that can oftentimes be quite expensive, inversion tables allow patients to improve their condition within the comfort of their own homes in a more affordable and convenient manner.

Read our full-length guide to using inversion tables in our article What Are Inversion Tables Good For?

How Do Inversion Tables Help Your Back?

Inversion tables stretch the muscles and soft tissues around the spine and provide a gentle pull from gravity to relieve pressure on the nerves and discs between the bones and spine. Some people use it as a temporary solution for lower back pain or compressed disk pain.

One study found that after using inversion therapy, nearly 77% of subjects who were candidates for spine surgery no longer required surgery, while only 22% of subjects who did not use therapy avoided surgery.

Another study investigated the physiological effects of inversion therapy in which researchers analyzed physiological parameters including cardiovascular, biomechanical, and radiographic factors using the Inverchair, one of the earliest forms of an inversion table. The results show that it reduced paraspinal EMG activity that’s commonly found in back problems. It also increased disc spaces significantly without affecting heart rate or blood pressure.

These findings validated the use of inversion therapy in clinical settings.

Do Inversion Tables Help Sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by several spinal conditions that affect the nerves that run down the back. It can also result from falls, back injuries, and spinal or sciatic nerve tumors. The condition can be severe or mild, depending on how long you’re experiencing it. The longer it goes untreated, the more critical it gets.

Curing sciatic nerve tumors will require extensive medications. However, a 2021 study discovered that inversion therapy relieves back pain and symptoms in sciatica patients and may even allow them to avoid surgery entirely. 

This case-controlled study evaluated the effects of regular inversion therapy on the symptoms of sciatica patients who were about to have surgery. Researchers discovered that sciatica patients who were regularly inverted with a Teeter inversion table were 50% less likely to require surgery than matched individuals who did not use inversion therapy, even two years after the initial trial period.

Are Inversion Tables Good For Bulging Discs?

Bulging discs occur when a lower back disc bulges between the vertebrae. The bulge can cause lower back and leg pain, which is exacerbated by constant movement. It is not as severe as herniated discs, but more symptoms may occur, necessitating surgery in some cases.

In the same 2021 study, researchers explored the effect of the inversion table on patients with lumbar discs disease who were at risk of surgery. The researchers aimed to measure the symptoms and compare the surgery rate of three different control groups, one of which utilized inversion therapy.

Their findings suggested that inversion therapy relieved the symptoms of bulging discs and reduced the need for surgery. It was significantly lower than in the two control groups, hence providing support that inversion therapy can be an excellent option for relieving bulging disc symptoms while avoiding surgery.

Are Inversion Tables Good For Scoliosis?

Scoliosis compresses the spine and its surrounding muscles, blood vessels, and nerves which impairs normal body functions. Using an inversion table relieves spinal compression by reducing pressure on the spine.

However, inversion tables only provide temporary relief from compressive pain, and once the body is no longer inverted, gravity causes the spine to revert back to its original position.

Thus, inversion tables are only effective for short-term pain relief in people with scoliosis and medical experts prefer chiropractic care as a long-term solution.

How To Use An Inversion Table For Back Pain

Using an inversion table is easier than you think. However, you must first decide whether you want to set a specific height and angle supported by a strap for precision balancing or rely on inverting yourself manually.

You should start by lying on your back and then strap yourself onto the inversion table. Then, you can tip over until your head is lower than your heart. Shorter, more frequent sessions are the best way to begin because they help the body adapt to traction. Start with a modest angle (20-30 degrees) for the first few weeks, and then slowly increase the angle.

It’s best to begin with one to two-minute sessions to allow your body to adjust to the inversion. Gradually increase the duration to enable your muscles to relax and release fully, allowing the back to decompress. There are inversion tables with traction handles that you can manually push to adjust the angle and even go completely inverted. It is especially useful for those who want to experiment with different degrees of stretching.

What Is The Best Inversion Table For Back Pain?

Teeter Inversion Tables are currently one of the market’s most unique and trusted inversion tables. They have a curved plastic backrest , rather than a flat backrest, with thick pads which reduces the weight of the inversion table and allows air to flow freely through its openings. It may not be as soft as other brands, but it surely cools your back after a sweaty stretch.

What’s unique about Teeter’s Inversion Tables is their acupressure nodes that are designed to target pain points. Their prices are reasonable for their features, allowing you to try their one-of-a-kind products at a low cost.

There are numerous other inversion tables available with different features and the same functionality, so do thorough research about each piece of equipment.

Can Inversion Tables Hurt Your Back?

You should make sure to limit the time spent on inversion tables in order to prevent back injuries or worsening your pain. Staying in an inverse position for too long can pose additional risks, such as raising your blood pressure. This is one of the reasons why people who suffer from hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or infections should avoid using inversion tables.

You should limit your inversion table sessions to twice a day for five minutes each, preferably once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Looking To Buy An Inversion Table? Read Our Teeter Inversion Tables Review.


Studies You Can Read About Inversion Table Therapy For Back Pain 


Editor’s note: we are regularly updating this review. If you see any problems, weird interpretations of the data, or just want to say hi, please reach out to hello@the-unwinder.com.

About the author

Vella is a freelance content writer specializing in health and wellness, fitness, lifestyle, and CBD, among others. She worked as a journalist for a radio station before venturing into freelance writing. In her free time, she travels and explores nature and beaches. She can be reached via email at vellagonzaga@gmail.com.

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