Inversion Tables: What they are and why you should buy one
There are a lot of equipment that promise miraculous results. From abdominal equipment that promise rip abs in two weeks, to running equipment that promise a running session without impact on the knees.
Some of them accomplish what they state; others don’t. But I am not here to judge the merits of these products. I am here to talk about something called Inversion Table.
What is an Inversion Table?
The Inversion Table is a tool that is used by practitioners of the Inversion Therapy to allow the use of the relaxation techniques provided by the therapy.
The equipment works by tilting a table where the user lays down, changing the orientation angle of the person by 135° to 180°, depending on whether the user wants to hang in an inclined angle or totally upside down.
To achieve this tilting, the equipment is made using two swivel joints in the middle of the table, one at each side. These swivel joints are then inserted into the frame into which its axis will tilt.
The table where the user sits has a safety belt or a series of bars that allow the users to secure themselves, by either fastening the belt around their ankles or putting their feet between the bars.
To tilt the table, there are usually either handles or bars on the sides of the frame that you can easily grab from either position, enabling you to tilt between both inverted and normal angles.
The table itself is usually covered with a slim mattress to provide comfort to the user, but not always as it is the case of those tables made of plastics. These models have the advantage of being lighter and this, more portable. It also may include dedicated pads for the head, but it is usually not the case.
How the Inversion Table works
The main goal of the Inversion Table is to let the user rotate his or her axis, to take advantage of the gravity, relieving the pressure imposed by the body weight on the spine, cervical discs, and all muscles.
The Inversion Table differs from hanging yourself from your arms with a bar because the lower part of your body is lighter than the upper one.
While most of you weight are on the upper side, even if you hung yourself in an above-mentioned way, the gravity would still pull your legs more than the upper part.
By reversing the orientation of your Y axis, that is, turning upside down, the acting of the gravity is shifted. When upside down, the gravity pulls your upper part (I’m talking about your torso here) more than your lower part (your legs).
This is due to how gravity works. The closer something is from the center of the Earth, the more gravity pulls (or pushes, depends on your point of view) it towards the planet’s core.
This effect escalates with the mass that such object has and the torso is having more mass than your legs, is thus pulled with more intensity by the gravity. This is why different objects fall at different speeds while under the same gravitational constant (9.78 m/s² here on Earth).
With this shift in how the body is oriented, all the pressure that would be put atop the vertebrae by the body weight, compressing and stressing them acts oppositely, pulling them apart from each other, releasing the tension.
How to use the Inversion Table
The use the Inversion table is quite simple, and I will describe the steps below:
Step 01: Make sure that the table is in its resting position, that is, the tip where the safety belt or the bar are located is near the ground.
Step 02: Approach the Inversion Table and place yourself in front of the side that has the safety belt/bars. Insert your feet in the devices. Either fasten the belts or make sure your feet are secured in between the bars and will not slip.
Step 03: If your Inversion Table has a security lock, such as a valve, unlock it.
Step 04: If your Inversion Table has a degree selector (most of the have), select the angle you want to tilt to.
Step 05: After you have secured yourself in the table, locate where the handles are.
Step 06: Lean back slowly in order to prevent any accidents.
Step 07: If your Inversion Table has a security lock, it is a good idea to relock it.
Step 08: Take a deep breath to relax.
Step 09: Stretch your arms and reach the ground, allowing your spine to be aligned.
Step 10: To go back to the normal angle, repeat the processes 3 to 7 in an inverted order.
Note that you should only stay inverted for as long as you feel comfortable. Beginners should feel themselves uncomfortable after 3 or 4 minutes. Start slow and keep improving.
Using the Inversion Table alone is not recommended for beginners.
The Inversion Therapy
The origins of the Inversion Therapy can be traced to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. It is said that he used Inversion Therapy on his patients using a ladder, hanging them upside down and realigning their spine. He believed it would heal the injuries of the patient.
In the ’60s, the Dr. Robert Martin published his study “The Gravity Guidance System,” where he introduced the practice to the general public. He wrote that the gravity is the most natural way to decompress our spines. The demonstrated his findings through the use of gravity boots and a bar that was wedged in a door frame. A decade later, his son, Dr. Robert Martin Jr. wrote the book about Inversion Therapy, which became very popular not only in the US but in the rest of the world as well.
Since then, the Inversion Tables have been used around the world to treat spinal injuries and help to alleviate the pains caused by other illnesses that affect the column and the surrounding nerves.
In the year of 2007, the Newcastle University, in the United Kingdom, published a study that proved that the use of Inversion Therapy reduced in 78% the spinal surgery need in the group of subjects of the study, who suffered from sciatica.
The Gravity Boots
The gravity boots that was mentioned above is a pair of boots that are attached to your ankles, to help you to suspend yourself with a bar. Here is an image of it.
Though it is a recommended practice and has several benefits to our health, there are some risks involved when you invert.
The Inversion Therapy is not recommended for people who have bone and joint disorders, like fractured bones, osteoporosis, and a herniated disk.
It is also not recommended to people who suffer from cardiovascular problems, like heart disease, high blood pressure or that had a stroke.
Infections such as conjunctivitis or ear otitis or illnesses such as glaucoma or cerebral sclerosis should also avoid the practice.
Other factors like pregnancy and obesity should look for medical assistance before submitting to therapy with Inversion Tables;
Notice that doing Inversion Therapy alone is not a good idea in the first sessions, as your body may not be adjusted to the practice and side effects may occur. To avoid this situation, you should always have the company of someone.
The side effects may include the reflux of gastric acid, nausea vomit and much more.
Conjunctivitis and Glaucoma
The use of Inversion Tables is not recommended to people affected by these illnesses as the inverted position increases the concentration of blood in the head, raising the blood pressure.
People who have glaucoma or conjunctivitis already have a problem with blood pressure in their eyes. The therapy can cause blindness in patients that have those conditions. Therefore medical advice is always recommended.
Vertigo and Otitis
If you have Vertigo or Otitis or any other condition that causes the individual to get disoriented, you should not attempt the Inversion Therapy.
As mentioned above, the concentration of blood in the head is not good for the heart, as it stresses the heart due to the amount of blood that it has to pump through the veins and has the additional factor of the gravity.
If you have a heart murmur, a bypass or any other heart-related problem, you should first consult with a doctor before practicing inversion.
The problem related to pregnancy has to do with the stage of the development of the baby. The later in the pregnancy, the less indicated it becomes.
Broken bones and Osteoporosis
If you recently had a broken bone, had any tendon problems, knee problem or another kind of problem in the legs or if you suffer from Osteoporosis, you should not
Attempt the Inversion Table, as it will put these areas under stress, as they will be what holds your body in place. Consulting your medic before trying the Inversion Table is advised.
Diaphragmatic dysfunction and respiratory illness
If you have any kind of respiratory illness, do not try the Inversion Table, as it will make your diaphragm to be atop your lungs, compressing them.
Besides the risks mentioned above, the benefits are more than enough to balance the scale.
In the following paragraphs, I will try to summarize benefits of the Inversion Table to our health.
With the increased blood influx that passes through your head, the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands, as well as the thyroid receive more oxygen, producing more hormones than usual. These hormones, like oxytocin, also known as the hormone of love, shift the balance in the organism and have a relaxing effect.
The relaxation of the muscles also contributes to the overall stress reduction.
In his book “The Gravity Guiding System,” Dr. Robert Martin Jr. states that “the brain operates 14% more accurately when your body is in an inverted or inclined plane.”. This is due to the additional blood influx mentioned above, that also carries additional glucose to the brain, feeding it more energy and thus increasing the awareness of the person as the brain is able to focus more on things.
The same effect that reduces stress, that is, the influx of blood to the brain and subsequent increase in hormones produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland also helps the recovery of patients with depressive disorders, such as Major Depressive Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and other forms of depressive episodes.
Decreases the effects of varicose
Varicose if a physical condition in which your veins in the determined area of your body become enlarged by the excess of blood on them. With time, this excessive blood weakens the veins’ walls, making it to enlarge and become protuberant.
They usually appear in the legs due to the pull of gravity in your blood and the continuous decrease of the heart’s performance with the aging process. The older you are, the harder it is to the heart to push the blood through all of your body.
The Inversion Table prevents the appearance of the varicose because it alleviates the effect of gravity in the legs, because they will be farther from the ground level than your head, therefore making the excess blood to flux on the circulatory system normally again.
Heart function and circulatory improvement
As the gravity pulls the blood from the extremities of your body, your hearth does not have to beat as much to pump it and make it circulate, thus relieving the cardiac stress and reducing the number of beats per minute of your heart. There are reports of users that allegedly had a reduction in heart arrhythmia.
When practicing the Inversion Therapy, the intestines get upside down, making the ileocecal valve to have less work to pull the feces to the large intestine.
This valve, responsible for closing the passage from the small intestine to the large intestine sits in an elevated position compared to the beginning of the large intestine.
This cavity accumulates feces, and the valve needs to pull the feces forwards while at the same time not letting the already pulled feces to come back.
When you are upside down, the feces pulled to the large intestine already fall due to the gravity.
The effect is that the feces move faster through the digestive system, not only aided by the gravity, but also pushed by the peristalsis (the gut snake-like movement). When this happens, the feces that usually are at the bottom and that may get behind is thrown to the opposite wall, making it go forward.
The lymphatic system is another part of our bodies that benefit from the Inversion Table due to the fact that the lymphatic fluid is not pumped by the heart, but moves through mechanical movements and gravity.
The Lymphatic System is responsible for the generation of white blood cells, our disease fighting the army., as it is not pumped by the heart, but moves through mechanical movements and gravity.
As suggested by Dr. David Coulter in his book “Anatomy of Hatha Yoga,” the combination of exercising and inverted positions, the Inverted Table can help the body to move the lymphatic fluid from our cells to the blood.
There are three ways that the Inversion Table can benefit the respiratory system:
- Through the redistribution of the accumulated blood in the lower lungs to the rest of it;
- Clearing your sinuses, thus improving the intake of oxygen
- Strengthening your diaphragm, making you to breath better.
The benefits of the Inversion Table to the spine are several.
- It relieves the stress accumulated in your neck and upper back vertebrae, due to the continuous bad posture we usually have.
- It realigns the spine after exercising sessions
- Helps you to stretch your ligaments, leading to better movement reach and flexibility. This means that your joints become more resistant to torsions and distensions.
- Can increase your height, for with the passing of the years we lose height due to the compression of our cervical discs. Therefore, with the decompression of said discs, your height is restored to what it originally was.
To relieve the pain, the Inversion Table helps your body by relaxing the muscles and spreading the vertebrae.
The relaxation felt comes from the release of tension that was being put cervical discs by your weight.
These discs, as well as always tensioned muscles on the region of the neck and shoulder blades that may be compressing the sciatic nerve and causing excruciating pain.
In both cases, the relaxation caused by the Inversion Table alleviates such compressing.
The pain may also be caused by cervical spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal cord inside the neck vertebrae. This narrowing can cause severe pain that can spread to the other parts of the body. With the Inversion Table, the effects can be alleviated or in some cases reverted, as it relaxes the ligaments, making them to become more flexible and therefore not pressing too much on the spinal cord
Also, the Inversion Tables can also be used in the treatment of scoliosis, that is, the abnormal curvatures in the spine caused by malformation or by bad posture or to reduce the pain caused by osteoarthritis (the disease where the affected people have little to no cartilage in their joints, causing the bones to strap onto one another, when you move). The latter is reported to significantly reduce the pain felt by the affected, slow down the progress of osteoarthritis and in some cases even reverse it.
There are also reports that Inversion Table may help with cases of fibromyalgia, but it lacks studies to be confirmed.
Getting the best one for you
Now that we have discussed what is the Inversion Therapy and its risks and benefits to our bodies, it is time to choose an Inversion Table that fits your needs. To do that, you will need to know what are those needs.
What is important
When it comes to the right Inversion Table for you, there are some relevant questions that you must ask yourself, and that will help you determine whether the Inversion Table you are considering buying is the right one for you.
Does it support your weight?
As something that will hold your body upside down, a position that is risky to the neck and the head in case a fatality occurs, it is very important to know how much weight it will hold. Purchasing an Inversion Table that can hold at least 15% more than your weight is a good start. Never purchase an Inversion Table that supports your exact weight, as you might gain a bit of weight and end up putting yourself at (an unnecessary) risk.
Most of the best Inversion Tables on the market though, are able to hold from 250lbs. to 350lbs., therefore, you should not have a problem finding one.
Can you fit in it?
Before buying, it is worth knowing whether you can fit in the table or not. That seems stupid, but buying a table that will not enable you to stretch your arms to align your spine will be useless for you.
While some Inversion Tables let you regulate the height of the user, others do not. Depending on your needs, you should consider buying the one that changes its height. For instance, if you live with more than one relative or friend that will also use the Inversion Table, the adjustable one would be better.
The maximum height of the Inversion Table depends on the manufacturer, but is usually 6’ 8”.
Is it comfortable?
This one is subjective, and it will be chosen at your discretion.
I personally recommend getting one cushioned, as it is a tool for relaxation, but the plastic ones may be better to you for its lightweight.
Are the supports safe?
Again, when talking about the Inversion Table, one needs to keep in mind that being upside down is particularly dangerous to the head bones and the neck. Therefore, every care with safety is advised.
Before purchasing an Inversion Table, is recommended that you investigate the cases of accidents regarding the brand you are considering buying, as well as other users reviews, paying particular attention to this section and the one about weight.
Is it easy to use?
When it comes to usability, is it hard or easy to manipulate the controls?
Could you easily turn upside down and back in case of an emergency?
You should ask questions like this about the mechanisms used to tilt the Inversion Table back and forth.
Is the Inversion Table stable?
As it is an exercising equipment where you are going to be upside down, you should buy the one that is the most stable, to prevent it from tumbling or sliding.
Is it portable? Can you store it?
One of the questions that you should ask is that how much is its weight.
This will let you know how easy it will be to move it in case you need. The storability is also a factor, as it is a big equipment and unless you have a specific area for it, it will consume a lot of space in your home.
Does it come with any add-on or special feature?
There are models that have acupressure nodules to put on the table where you lay to stimulate the points of pressure on your back, while others have a way for you to do abdominals.
There are also Inversion Tables that fold in half, enabling you to stay at an ∩ position.
How much is it and how much you are willing to pay
Naturally, the price would be one of the main concerns, but it is also a subjective matter. What is pricey for one may not be to another, thus this answer is up to you, but the general price of a good Inversion Table by the time of this writing was around 200 USD.
In this article, we review the concepts of the Inversion Table, an overview of its use, as well as a glance at the Inversion Therapy throughout the history, its techniques, risks, and benefits.
The Inversion Table, as we saw in this post is capable of improving the quality of life of those who used it with a proven record of studies and results, that range from the most obvious benefits, such as posture, cervical disc decompression and muscular relaxation to the less obvious, like blood pressure, varicose and immunologic system, when used correctly and with the medical orientation.
To finalize this post, the recommendation of the writer is that you should acquire one Inversion Table if it suits your needs as a relaxation device and if your medical conditions allow it, as well as if the opinion of your physician is not contrary to it.