Back pain can be a result of chronic stress, poor posture while sitting and working, or injury. Inversion tables are traction therapy. The Mayo Clinic states, "some people find traction temporarily helpful as part of a more comprehensive treatment program for lower back pain caused by spinal disk compression."
Inversion tables provide therapeutic traction between compressed discs. They are one tool that can be used for a pain-relief strategy. Add diet, exercise, stress management and good postural habits, too.
What Causes Back Pain?
The spine has three curves: at the neck (cervical), upper mid-back (thoracic) and low back (lumbar). The neck and low back are most mobile, and it is easier to slouch with the head hanging forward or to round the low back, both of which can create compression in the spinal discs. The most vulnerable areas of the back are the neck and low back (cervical and lumbar spine), as these areas are most flexible and prone to injury. Over time, poor postural habits can even lead to dowager's hump, a pronounced hunchback shape. Back pain is best assessed by a doctor. She might suggest physical therapy or activities such as gentle yoga, appropriate stretching and swimming to rehabilitate the spine.
What are Inversion Tables?
On an inversion table, you slip your ankles behind a bar, sometimes inside special padded ankle cuffs, and lie back on a surface that allows your head to be lower than your heart. It is not necessary to be fully inverted; the idea is to create traction along the spine. This is inversion therapy. Lying on the floor with your legs on a chair also qualifies as inversion therapy.
When the head is below the chest, gravity allows the head and pelvis (the heaviest bone in the body) to drop and tug on the spine, creating therapeutic traction that can reduce back pain.
How Do I Know if It's Appropriate for Me?
Always have a medical professional assess any chronic or severe back pain. People who have whiplash from a car accident, for example, often get a medical exam to determine what treatment is needed to reduce pain.
Physical therapy clinics may have inversion beds as one part of their treatment plan for their clients. If you have minor back pain, you might experiment carefully with using inversion therapy. In most gyms you can find an incline bench. Hook your feet behind the anchor and slowly lie back on the incline. You will immediately notice if this creates traction or compression in your spine.