Sometimes we need a change in perspective to be able to see chronic pain in a different light. Fortunately, inversion tables are just the thing to do that. Not only do they spin the world upside down (along with you!), but they also help relieve certain types of chronic pain. Inversion tables are a type of therapeutic equipment that works specifically to help stretch the lumbar spine and reduce the amount of pressure each vertebrae exerts on its neighbor.
Our spine holds up the weight of our bodies no matter what position we are in. Even when we are lying down, the pressure on each vertebrae acting to keep our spine stable can be tremendous. Over time, this pressure and compression can result in chronic back pain in the lumbar spine. An inversion table can take that pressure and cut it in half.
Inversion tables can be utilized in a doctor or therapist’s office. There are also affordable versions for home use. For patients who want to utilize an inversion table under their doctor’s supervision, there are a few guidelines to follow.
1. Do not ignore pain
Some chronic pain treatments for the back can be, in and of themselves, a little painful. There is a big difference, though, between normal pain that may be associated with healing and other pain that can damage the spine even further. It is imperative that you speak with your doctor to use your inversion table safely, but a key point is to back off if you experience pain that is sharp and stabbing. This is not a time to push through it.
2. Invert at a safe angle
If you have experience with an inversion table in your doctor’s office and she approves a steep angle, then follow your doctor’s guidelines. If you have only had a few inversion sessions at your doctor’s office, your goal is to unload the pressure of approximately half of your body weight. If 60-70% of your bodyweight is in your upper body, then a 45-degree angle will unload 50% of that weight, resulting in spinal decompression.
3. Start slowly
While under a doctor’s care for lumbar back pain, you can use your inversion table daily, five to seven times for one or two minutes at a time (with a break between inversions). It is important to not overdo it and to come out of inversion slowly. Take short breaks if you need to, and if five sessions is too much, start with just one or two and work up from there.
4. Invert when there is someone else around
Another safety guideline would be to make sure that someone is in the house to assist you if you need help coming out of the inversion. If you are not able to wait for someone, at least keep your phone at hand so you can call for assistance if you need it.
Inversion tables are definitely not safe for everyone. Because you are upside down, the blood will flow towards your head. Those with a history of stroke or high blood pressure should not use inversion tables at home. Anyone with history of eye conditions should also only invert under a doctor’s supervision.
Additionally, inversion tables can put tremendous pressure on your hips and knees. Any patients with hip or knee replacements should consult with their doctors before using an inversion table.
Side effects in patients without the above heart, head, and eye pathologies are usually minimal and include things like short-lived muscle spasm and potential soreness where the body is clasped to the table.
To purchase an at-home inversion table, keep the following things in mind.
- Is the table adjustable? Inversion tables should be fully adjustable to allow for shallow angles, all the way up to 90 degrees.
- Is it easy to get into? Most inversion tables have a platform to step onto, with clamps that grip the ankles. If you have a hard time getting the hang of the straps and clamps, look for something a little simpler.
- Is it big enough for you? Inversion tables are varying lengths and can support varying weights. If you are on a weight loss journey, buy the table for the weight you are now. There is no sense in buying a table that you cannot use immediately.
- Is it comfortable? This is supposed to be a therapeutic tool, and in order to focus on the therapy, the inversion table needs to be comfortable. Look for thick pads on the table. These pads can be removable for more options. Other tables are a mesh sling with no pads (like a hammock), and still others have a removable section near the head so that you can use the table lying face down. This is largely a matter of personal preference, so choose what is most supportive for you.
- Do you want to invest in a motor? Higher priced inversion tables are powered by a motor. More economic tables are adjusted by the user. Which you choose depends on your ability to adjust the table yourself, as well as your budget. Many insurance companies now cover therapeutic devices, so check and see. That may give you more options.
- Are there any extras that you like? Some inversion tables come with vibrating pads on the table itself. This offers the user the luxury of a massage while inverting. Not necessary, but certainly can be welcome!
Have you used an inversion table for chronic lower back pain?