How To Use An Inversion Table

Back pain affects as many as 80% of adults and can range from mildly annoying to completely debilitating. There are lots of potential causes of back pain, including accidents, sports injuries, poor posture, pregnancy, inactivity, and congenital spinal defects.

In a lot of cases, back pain can be prevented or reduced with some simple lifestyle changes. Losing weight often helps, as does increasing core strength and adopting a better posture.

However, even then, back pain is a widespread problem.

One of the most common causes of back pain is compression of the intervertebral discs. Intervertebral discs are pads of fibrous cartilage that fill and cushion the spaces between the bones of the spine – the vertebrae.

Gravity, high-impact activities like running and jumping, sedentarism, and aging can cause these discs to compress and bulge, putting pressure on the nerves of the spine.

This can cause pain to radiate up and down the body. Sciatica, which causes pain in the lower back, hips, and legs, is caused by this very issue.

Decompression often helps relieve the source of some types of back pain. In this article, we explain how to use an inversion table to alleviate compressed intervertebral discs and stretch your back muscles.

How To Use An Inversion Table

What Is an Inversion Table?

back painInversion tables are designed to hang you upside down by your ankles. Most can be adjusted to control the angle of inversion and the amount of decompression.

Beginners may find full inversion uncomfortable or intimidating, but a shallower angle will still help gently decompress your spine and provide pain relief.

Most inversion tables are designed so that the pivot point lines up with your center of gravity. This means that moving your arms is all that’s needed to move from the right way up to upside down and back again.

Inversion tables have padded ankle cuffs for comfort and involve lying on a flat mesh table for support. However, when fully inverted, you will hang from just your ankles.

There are lots of different inversion table designs, but they all work on the same principle – they hang you upside down to reverse the effect of gravity and decompress your spine. Because designs differ, you should always use an inversion table according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Failure to do so could result in serious injury.

Do Inversion Tables Really Work?

Hanging upside down from your ankles may seem like an extreme way to alleviate back pain, but research suggests that inversion therapy can work. The documented benefits of inversion include:

  • Less pressure on the intervertebral discs
  • Increased protective fluid around the discs
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Increased circulation through the surrounding muscles
  • Removal of waste products around the spine
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Reduced back pain
  • Increased spinal flexibility
  • Reduced need for sugary

However, it’s important to note that some types of back pain could be made worse by inversion therapy, so you should speak to your doctor before trying this type of spinal therapy.

Inversion therapy is not suitable for people with herniated (ruptured) discs or who are obese, pregnant, have high blood pressure, suffer from certain eye conditions, or who have osteoporosis. If in doubt, speak to your doctor before using an inversion table.

How Many Times A Day Should You Use an Inversion Table?

In simple terms, inversion therapy is a form of exercise, albeit one that’s quite gentle. To avoid making your back pain worse, it’s best to start off with a shallow angle (not more than 60 degrees) and use your inversion table every other day for a week or so to see how your body responds.

If all goes well, you can start using your inversion table every day.

There is no perfect time to use an inversion table, although it’s worth noting that, after a night’s sleep, your spine is already decompressed, and inversion may not be as beneficial as it would be later in the day.

If you find that inversion provides you with relief from back pain, it may be worth considering using your inversion table twice a day, such as midmorning and midafternoon. However, if your back pain keeps coming back or getting worse, more inversion is probably not the solution.

How Long Should You Use an Inversion Table?

inversion tableHanging upside down for extended periods may not be good for you and can even be fatal.

While blood flow initially increases, blood will soon start to pool in your head, which could cause serious problems, including eye injuries and stroke.

Most people should start off with 30-60 seconds and increase gradually after that. If you feel okay, you can then increase it to 2-3 minutes.

Over several months, you may be able to work up to using your inversion table for 10-20 minutes at a time.

However, if you want to “hang out” for longer, it’s worth using a shallower angle. Hanging completely upside is not comfortable as all your weight will be supported by your ankles.

A slanted inversion table will still decompress your spine, but your weight is spread and supported over a greater area, leading to a more comfortable inversion.

Ultimately, you need to listen to your body and respond accordingly. Also, if you are new to inversion therapy, you should avoid using your inversion table alone so that, if you get stuck, there is someone who can help you return to upright.

Only use your inversion table on your own when you are completely familiar with how it works and are confident that you can re-right yourself unaided.

Bottom Line

Back pain is very prevalent and affects four out of every five adults. In a lot of cases, the causes of back pain are the activities of modern living, such are long periods spent sitting, being overweight, and sedentarism. Eliminating or minimizing these behaviors often provides relief from back pain.

However, it’s not always possible to sit less or move more, and simply being under the weight of gravity all day long can cause back pain for some people. While you can’t escape gravity, you can temporarily reverse it, which may help alleviate some types of back pain.

Inversion tables are popular, and studies suggest that they can provide relief from back pain. They’re easy to use, and there are inversion tables designed specifically for home use.

Operating an inversion table is straightforward, and they are mostly safe to use. However, if you are new to inversion therapy, you should start off with a shallow angle for just a minute or two, increasing both the gradient and duration gradually as you get used to hanging upside down. Like any exercise, doing too much too soon could cause problems and even make your back pain worse.

Not all types of back pain can be treated with inversion therapy, so speak to your doctor before buying an inversion table.


Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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