Inversion Therapy

Inversion Therapy

For individuals suffering a chronic back condition or a severe injury, the pain can be excruciating. But when surgery isn’t an option, either due to financial circumstances or a psychological reluctance, other treatment options are available.

One such treatment, known as inversion therapy, claims to be beneficial for anything from a mild ache to a herniated disk. The therapy consists of, appropriate to its namesake, inverting the body—either by engaging in a careful handstand, hanging upside down or using a specially designed inversion table that functions as a comfortable means to achieve inversion, without necessitating great physical strength.

Purported Health Benefits

Inversion therapy claims a number of positive physiological benefits for those who use it properly. Its main claim is that when the body is inverted (through any means), gravity’s pull will have a reverse effect and decompress the body’s joints.

This functions partly as a temporary pain relief system, and partly as a long-term therapy. Proponents of inversion therapy claim that regular use can provide much-needed rest to joints and bones, especially those of the back, and reduce the overall stress upon them.

Possible Risks Of Inversion Therapy

Hanging upside down can be dangerous for anyone if done improperly, without safety considerations in mind, and even more so for individuals who are at risk of worsening a pre-existing condition. When engaging in inversion therapy, especially without tested, reliable equipment, it is imperative that you fully understand what you are doing and take all proper precautions—including having a spotter present to assist you, if you are unable to bring yourself back to a normal position.

Individuals who have a heart condition or high blood pressure are at a much higher risk of injury when engaging in inversion therapy, and should consult with a medical professional before engaging in any form of it. Additionally, those with glaucoma or other eye diseases may also be negatively affected by using inversion therapy, and women who are pregnant should avoid it altogether. If an episode of acid reflux occurs during an inverted therapy session, stomach acid can creep into the esophagus and cause massive amounts of pain and nausea.

Status In The Scientific Community

Inversion therapy emerged as a trend in the 1980's, with minimal scientific data to support its claims, and consequently is often questioned, criticized or treated as an ineffective gimmick. However, more recent studies have suggested that the benefits it purports are quite achievable. Participants of one study displayed a greater range of flexibility, diminished paraspinal EMG actions and higher distractions between disc spaces—with no negative repercussions.

Of course, not every kind of back injury is identical, and some forms of treatment may be naturally better or worse than others depending on your specific condition—so be sure to always contact a professional before engaging in any form of therapeutic exercise. If you are dealing with a severe injury or worsening condition, it is highly recommended that you do not rely solely on inversion therapy as a direct means of relief. 

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