What You Need to Know About Inversion Tables & Back Pain

Updated: Jan 5

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in August of 2016. For the original video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GUW4psHJ0k&t=10s

Bob: Today, we’re going to talk about how to use an inversion table safely.

Brad: Inversion tables are typically used for low back and mid back pain management, to get rid of it.

Bob: Of the spine.

Brad: Right, of the spine. There may be some controversy in that, but I don’t want to talk about that. I do want to talk about, if you have one or want to buy one, you want to know how to use it safely. I’ve had one for 2 years.

Bob: So, you’re a good person to comment on this.

Brad: Right. I’ve watched the video and read on how they instructed to use it and in general, I think I disagree. Not totally, but I want to go through it in general here.

Bob: This is our opinion.

Brad: Right.

Bob: And first off, we should talk about the people who absolutely shouldn’t use it at all. Someone who has retinal detachment or glaucoma because you’re going to have increased pressure on your eyes when your being inverted.

Brad: Exactly. Pressure on the inner ear.

Bob: If you have inner ear problems, this may not be a good one for you.

Brad: Blood pressure conditions.

Bob: Yeah, increased blood pressure or have a heart condition, I’d be reluctant because your blood pressure is going to increase when you’re in that position. You could pull a muscle when you’re in that position and it does sometimes cause headaches.

Brad: Right. When I first used mine, initially, I tested it in the store because they had one set up. This is what I would do if you’re going to buy one is go into the store, have one that’s set up and use it and invert and see if you have some results as far as decrease in pain.

Bob: Or does it make things worse in some way.

Brad: Exactly. So, when you invert, you should feel some immediate relief and that’s my opinion. If you do not, I don’t think it’s for you. Now, the big question I want to get to is if you look at an inversion table, I have three scenarios. You start flat, then go to a partial inversion (60-70 degrees) and then a full inversion (vertical).

Brad: So, you must adjust properly, so when you lay down on the table, you should build a balance that you’re in a horizontal position, so you balance well. Then to invert, on the one I had, you lift your arms up and you would slowly go back, and you could go into a full inversion. Now, I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, what if the device for the ankle that holds you upside down fails, and you fall on your head and you break your neck? I’m thinking this is not healthy. So, I didn’t even go there, and I still think that this is not necessary at all. What I did with mine was, there was an adjustment on mine that went to 60-70 degrees, there was a strap that could stop you there and you would not go any farther.

Bob: Okay, so, you can set it for that.

Brad: Yeah. I found I had plenty of traction because that’s all this does to your back. It’s a form of traction and it pulls your back apart. It can help the disc and your muscles to relax.

Bob: Using your body weight.

Brad: So, that’s where I would set mine at. I would not recommend going more than 60-70 degrees. You will feel the effects. Now, the next big warning I’m going to have to say, when you get on one of these, and you invert, start out at 15-30 seconds, and then go back to the horizontal position and see how your body reacts.

Bob: Okay, so, you may be surprised at the results if you go longer.

Brad: Yeah. You might feel nauseous, you might feel like you had a headache. I inverted and I stay there for about three minutes because I time myself. It felt good, my back immediately felt better. I thought , this is good, I’m going to hang there for a while and really fix my back. Well, I got up and my back still felt better but I had a headache. It lasted all that night until bed. So, I went too much, too fast. So, start off with 15-30 seconds, come up and if you feel normal you can go back down, but I would not go more than that three or four times in a row the first time you use it.

Bob: Were you able to build up to longer times then?

Brad: Oh yeah. Eventually I would go no more than two minutes because my head would feel like there’s too much pressure.

Bob: But you would be able to go up to two minutes eventually.

Brad: Yeah, and it felt fine. I know people that go longer than that because I’ve talked to several patients that use these and they do go longer. I just had a patient who said she totally inverts. I still don’t think that necessary. It may be in certain circumstances, but I’m going to get that out of my head.

Bob: It’s the risk, reward thing.

Brad: Right, I think you can get the same results with just going the 60-70 degrees. Maybe not, but that’s my opinion, of course. Anyways, I would hang for 2-3 minutes, my back would feel better, I would get off it and my back would continue to feel better when I went upright and weight-bearing. You want to go all the way through that process. You could feel better when it’s inverted, but when you get up and stand up, what if it starts feeling bad and you get a bad reaction to it.

Bob: Right.

Brad: Obviously, you’re not going to buy one then. That’s why I think testing it in the store is a good idea.

Bob: Absolutely.

Brad: I use mine for two years and eventually the effects weren’t helping anymore so I sold it.

Bob: Well, good tips Brad, from someone who used it.

Brad: Yeah, and I hope that if you want to buy one, go ahead. There around $100-$200, you get what you pay for. Mine was over $200 but it was built well, and I really liked it.

Bob: Thanks!

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