Back Pain: Have You Tried Inversion Therapy?

 | Fitness, Health  | 12 Comments


Millions of people suffer from back pain. I’ve personally experienced it myself, having a herniated disc. I’ve written about it before, but I’ve found that the most relief comes from my postural therapy practice. If you’ve never heard of postural therapy, check out my video series that guides you through exercises for reducing pain throughout the body. It really works.

Basically, the Egoscue method is a way to treat pain through a series of gentle stretches and exercises that are designed to restore alignment to the body. In fact, I’m so passionate about the method that I’ve been certified through the Egoscue University as a Postural Alignment Specialist. It’s helped me to understand how crucial alignment is to your body’s health, function and prevention of injury.

In that same regard for healing the body through non-medicated and non-invasive methods, I’ve also become really interested in inversion therapy. Have you heard of it? Inversion therapy involves a table or a chair that tilts your body until you’re in an inverted position (head down, legs up). There are also boots you can mount to a doorway to strap yourself in and hang completely upside down, but that’s a pretty agressive form of inversion therapy. The table and chair are much more gentle. The idea is that this head-below-feet position not only takes all the pressure off of your spine and gives it a break, but will actually stretch the vertebrae apart and allow each joint to become decompressed.

When I heard about the health benefits of inversion therapy, I really wanted to try it for myself as an addition to my postural therapy. So I got a table! My inversion table is a Teeter Contour L5 and I’ve really been enjoying it.

The benefits to being inverted are really interesting to me. According to the Teeter website, “inverted decompression creates an ideal stretch that improves spinal health and targets back pain by helping to 1) rehydrate discs, 2) reduce nerve pressure, 3) realign the spine and 4) relax tense muscles”. And one of the reasons I like this brand is because they have several published medical studies that back up their claims.

So, what do all those claims mean? Well, imagine that your spine is like a slinky. When you invert your body your spine gently stretches creating spaces between each vertebrae, like pulling a slinky apart. In between each vertebrae there is a small vertebral disc (like a little pad) which acts like a shock absorber, holds the spine together, and allows for spinal mobility.

When you’re sitting, standing, or active, the vertebrae and discs are compressed by your body weight and gravity. This daily pressure squeezes fluid out of the discs. Over time the discs in your spine become flatter and dryer. When you’re in an inverted position the extra space between the vertebrae allows the discs to reabsorb fluid and become rehydrated and plump.

When discs become dehydrated and compressed the space between the vertebrae is much smaller. This can cause pressure or pinching of the nerves and subsequent pain, often the kind that radiates down into your limbs. Tilting your body into the inverted position takes all the pressure off of those nerves, often allowing for immediate relief from pain.

Being in an inverted position also allows for the spine to realign itself. As I said above, misalignment is the source of most injuries and pain. It’s especially important to realign your spine periodically in today’s world where many people have poor posture from hunching over screens and general inactivity.

Finally, it just feels really good! In an inverted position you feel every muscle in your body being gently stretched without having to move yourself (i.e. passive stretching). Blood rushes toward your head and increases circulation. I personally find it invigorating, calming, and centering. Plus I get some really good idea while I’m hanging around down there!

You can get an inversion table like I have but they also have inversion chairs. The seated inversion position is a more supported position without as much pressure on the leg joints and can be a good option for people who don’t want extra stress on their legs.

I think that the risks associated with this kind of therapy are low, but the Mayo Clinic says inversion therapy causes an increase in blood pressure and therefore, doesn’t recommend it for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, or glaucoma (because of the increased pressure in your eyeballs). As always, you should check with your doctor before starting any kind of program or therapy.

So, have you tried inversion therapy? If so, did you try boots, a table, or chair? Have you successfully treated your back pain in another way? Have you tried my postural therapy series? As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

In good health,


P.S. This is not a sponsored post to promote any product. I genuinely like my inversion table.

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12 comments on “Back Pain: Have You Tried Inversion Therapy?”

  1. private avatar image

    Private  |  Jura, France

    I do have a feetup trainer for inversions, but since the gravity will still act I totally see the added-value from being hung by the ankles.
    I would love also to see the overall benefit of inversions on blood pressure/veins/ abdominal pressure (incl. pelvic floor).
    For the latter I used the low pressure or hypopressive therapy exercises (no equipment needed)

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    Private  |  Seattle, Washington

    One of my clients has a teeter just like yours. My sister also has one. It seems to work for them.

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    Private  | 

    Zuzka, where is your table from?

  4. private avatar image

    Private  |  Michigan, USA

    Good information. Thanks zuzka. I like to hang inverted from my pole sometimes to stretch out. 😁 Don’t know if that has the same effect though. 🙃

    • private avatar image

      Private  |  Los Angeles, CA, USA

      When you’re hanging from the pole, your legs are crossed and the muscles in your legs are engaged. You still get a lot of benefits from hanging upside down on the pole, but if you want to realign your posture, your load bearing joints should be lined up (no crossing legs).

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    Private  | 

    I own an inversion table, but it’s been collecting dust in the garage for some time. I used to use it when I was experiencing a lot of back pain, but I’m happy to say that that is way less of an issue since I began working out with you! But I would highly recommend it to anyone suffering from alignment issues. I’m glad I have mine just in case!

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    Private  |  EAST FREETOWN, Massachusetts, United States

    I have a table and my husband uses it whenever he has back pain, I personally don’t like it because of the pressure in my head but he loves it, swears by it.

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    Private  | 

    I have the same Teeter! I also have a history of back issues and had surgery for a herniated disc 15 years ago and was great until I tore my SI joint out of alignment a few years ago. That injury took about 9 months to fully recover and I try to limit time sitting as much as possible. I was getting massage therapy for awhile and about 6 months ago, she recommended going to a local back store and gave me a discount card/referral. That really helped reduce the price. My table was not cheap, but it’s made a world of difference for me! Another thing that is helpful is hanging from your pull up bar. I always do that before and after I exercise, because the bar is in my home gym (Teeter is in another part of the house). For those with kids, when you’re at the playground, hang from the monkey bars-great stretch! I use my Teeter 2-4 times a day for only 2-3 minutes at a time. I go fully inverted, which takes a little time to transition to and get used to. I highly recommend the Teeter!

    • private avatar image

      Private  |  Minnesota, USA

      My kid is beyond playground age, but hanging from monkey bars was my first thought! I used to do that- knees over a bar, feet hooked below the next bar. That allowed me to hang in a relaxed way, and felt good.

      The Teeter looks really good, but I don’t have space in my house for it (I downsized a lot and I’m still getting rid of stuff).

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    Private  | 

    Hi Zuzka, thanks for sharing! I almost got the inversion table but I ended up getting the ankle holder instead for two reasons: first it takes up less space and second, it was super affordable. I have been doing the inversion therapy every other day, just for about 2-3 min. I really like it ! Also, I got an acupressure mat & pillow from Prosource. I use every other day and I rest for 30 to 40 min. In the very beginning it’s a bit intense but you get used to it. Right now, I even fall asleep because it really relaxes me. I recommend it! 👍

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    Private  |  Perth, WA, Australia

    Thinking about it, inversion therapy was a daily practice as a kid on monkey bars :p ..and I remember how awesome hanging upside down was… might take it up again 😉

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    Private  | 

    Zuzka you should try a yoga trapeze! You can do inversions plus yoga and strength training. It’s amazing! I bought mine from yoga body naturals, but you can get them off Amazon too.

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