What’s the hang up with inversion tables?

A common home therapy for low back pain is an inversion table. Frequently, I’m asked if I recommend this treatment. And my response is most often “maybe.” I don’t like to recommend inversion therapy to everyone and the reason is, “it’s not for everyone.”

I believe that inversion tables should not be seen as therapeutic device but more like exercise equipment. There are a lot of things to consider before using an inversion table, if you have any of the following conditions/problems, I recommend that you do not use an inversion table.

  1. Patient’s with high blood pressure or heart problems.
  2. If you have a strong family history of stroke or had a prior stroke.
  3. Eye problems such as glaucoma.
  4. Bone weakness such as osteoporosis or osteopenia.
  5. Hernias.
  6. History of vertigo, dizziness or inner ear conditions.
  7. Pregnant
  8. Severe low back pain, disc herniation, radiating pain or low back muscle spasms.
  9. Weak ligaments/joints in the ankles, knees or hips.

If you have any of these conditions inversion therapy is not for you. Inversion is best used, as I stated before, as an exercise to aid with stretching or relieving mild pressure on the back. Inversion therapy helps to stretch the deep muscles of the back.

You should limit your time and the angle of the inversion table based on your age, weight and general overall health. The table should never exceed a 70 degree angle when you are in good health and not over weight. If you are not in good shape the angle of the table should be less.

If you met the requirements for an inversion table it is a very nice piece of equipment to have at home to help stretch the back and relieve mild stiffness and soreness and you will most likely really enjoy it.

The purpose of the inversion table was to simulate a very common and effective low back treatment call “traction, distraction or spinal decompression.” However, distraction or spinal decompression therapy has a controlled pull to the vertebra through the use of a machine that helps to induce decompression on the low back. This gentle pulling technique has been shown to reduce disc herniation, relieve radiating pain and improve the outcome of conditions such as stenosis of the spine and alleviate low back pain or neck pain. Distraction helps to reduce adhesions, mobilize joints, restore ligament elasticity, reduce hydrostatic pressure and strengthen the area of involvement. Distraction or spinal decompression does not have the same concerns that are found with inversion tables and is a highly effective treatment. Inversion tables generally have very little effect on the neck, however distraction or spinal decompression can easily be used on the neck for cervical herniation, radiculopathy (radiating pain), thoracic outlet syndrome and a number of conditions that induce neck pain.

If you are interested in trying distraction therapy, call to set up an appointment at our office. Distraction is a procedure that is covered under most all major insurances.

Dr. Nathan T. Eldredge

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