How does Inversion Therapy help Relieve Back Pain?

by Garreth Myers


Inversion therapy is a type of back pain treatment. It is known to work by reducing the impact of gravity and decreasing the compression of the spine. This enables relaxation of the muscles and ligaments that surround the spine. Inversion therapy is performed on a special table known as an inversion table. The individual is made to lie down on the back in an inverted position. This helps to reduce or eliminate the spinal compression caused by gravity. The degree to which gravitational compression is reduced depends on how far back the individual is positioned on the table. Inversion therapy is believed to alleviate back pain and professionals in the field recommend adding it to a more holistic treatment plan, which will address specific back problems.

The body is constantly subjected to a gravitational pull and this exerts stress on the muscles, joints, ligaments and bones. The spine undergoes the most exertion due to gravity. Muscle problems in the spinal area and the pull of gravity causes the vertebrae to get pushed together and this exerts pressure on the spinal discs. There is a jelly-like substance present in the inner core of the discs, which provides cushioning and helps in shock absorption. It also provides flexibility and this enables an individual to sit, stand or perform other movements properly. Due to daily wear and tear, this fluid is pressed out from the discs due to the effect of gravity. The fluid is squeezed into the surrounding soft tissue. This reduces the space between the discs and the individual loses some height. Some of the fluid enters back into the discs during sleep. One can lose up to ¾ inch of height on a regular day. Since the recovery of fluid at night is only partial, an individual can stand to lose half an inch to two inches by the time they grow old. The reduced space between the vertebrae also exerts pressure on the nerve roots and this leads to pain. The pressure is also not uniformly distributed among the discs and this aggravates the problem. As the strain increases, the discs may bulge out and results in damage to the spinal cord. This is the cause of chronic back pain in many individuals. Discomfort from a compressed spinal nerve can be alleviated even with a small increase in space between the discs. This can also enable a herniated disc to move back into place.

Individuals who undergo a regular program of inversion therapy outline certain benefits of the treatment. Apart from pain relief, inversion therapy is also believed to maintain the height of an individual as it prevents the loss of height due to the discs pressing together. It is also known to enhance circulation since blood flow takes place without the effect of gravity. Due to the increased inverted blood flow, aches and pains in the muscles are relieved and the lymphatic system is also cleared. Stretching exercises are greatly beneficial in alleviating stress. Inversion therapy involves a full body stretch and hence is able to provide a greater degree of rejuvenation and relaxation. Many individuals who undergo inversion therapy report that they are able to sleep better. Inversion increases blood flow to the brain and this improves mental facilities. The joints also stay flexible and this enables a person to stay active. Stretching the spine is even beneficial in improving posture. Physical workouts may lead to compression of the spine. Inversion therapy helps to realign the spine after such activity.

Although some individuals have benefits from inversion therapy, there are experts who outline some of the risks associated with it. This type of treatment is not safe for everybody as it involves being in a head-down position. Individuals with high blood pressure, glaucoma and heart disease could face a risk while undergoing such therapy. The inverted position slows down heartbeat and elevates blood pressure. It also considerably increases the pressure in the eye balls. Therefore individuals with such conditions should avoid inversion therapy. Even those with conditions such as circulatory problems, pregnancy, conjunctivitis, swollen joints, osteoporosis, fractures, obesity and ear infections should avoid the treatment. Inversion therapy is also not believed to be a lasting solution to back pain. Studies have shown that the method of spinal traction or stretching of the spine is not effective in the long run. Spinal traction may help to some degree when it is part of a well rounded treatment for back pain. There is also the danger of inverting at a severe angle. Beginners at inversion therapy should start out with an angle that is very mild. Those who are starting inversion therapy should also have someone to assist them as it may cause dizziness in the initial stages. It is advisable to consult a doctor before beginning inversion therapy.


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