INVERSION THERAPY: A NATURAL APPROACH TO CORRECTING BACK PROBLEMS
So you think hanging upside down to relieve back pain is some wacky, new-age idea? Think again. Itís believed that inversion was used as early as 400 B.C., when Hippocrates, the father of medicine, first watched a patient have his knees and ankles tied to a ladder to be hoisted upside down for a dose of whatís come to be known as spinal traction.
The Greek theories on inversion are still valid, but today there is a much easier way to relieve the back pains most people experience from time to time. The process is called inversion therapy, and it can be the natural way to a better back and a better body.
Back pain is one of the most common physical complaints in the world. Every day, itís estimated that some eleven million Americans struggle to get through a day complicated by an aching back. In the United States alone, some 93 million workdays are lost each year due to back problems. There is overwhelming evidence that spending a few minutes each day hanging upside down can be beneficial to your back, and to your general health, by simply counteracting the continuous downward pull of gravity. Hang Ups inversion equipment offers a safe and comfortable way for anyone to benefit from the soothing sensation of inversion.
The concept of turning the body upside down for better health has been around for centuries. In yoga, the ìShirsonanaî headstand position has been used by yoga practitioners as a rather painful form of ìpostural exchangeî (reversing the direction of gravity). However, not everyone wants to do headstands, and that created the market for Hang Ups inversion tables, gravity boots, and racks.
Over time, the compressive force of gravity is particularly harsh on the spine because of the flattening effect on the spinal discs. The intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebra, and consist of a cartilage covering which surrounds a gelatin-like center. Combine the compressive effect of gravity with stress, weak back and stomach muscles, or an exercise program, and you have all of the ingredients for back pain.
There are a minimum of 32 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure on each spinal disc, even when a person is lying down. When we stand up, the pressure triples to about 100 psi. And when you sit down, spinal disc pressure rises to a whopping 225 pounds per square inch! Inverting the body is the only way to completely reverse the negative effects of gravity.
Of course, itís impossible to offset the ìpostural debtî of a lifetime just by jumping on an inversion table. But by spending a few minutes inverted each day, two or three times a day, people begin to feel results by the end of the first week. After a month of inversion, most people donít know how they ever got along without it.
Both physicians and chiropractors report positive results from using natural gravity-inversion traction with patients. A neurosurgeon in San Francisco says, ìIt [inversion] seems to get people over the acute phase quicker than other forms of therapy. We believe that inversion can benefit the discs, strengthen ligaments and soft tissues, and relieve muscle spasms. Weíve also had success with patients suffering from herniated discs.
Besides providing relief from back pain, a daily dose of inversion can help to promote good health by correcting common spinal alignment problems, eliminating tension headaches, reducing hemorrhoids, alleviating the discomfort of varicose veins, and stimulating mental alertness.
Inversion was popularized by Dr. Robert Martin, a Pasadena orthopedic specialist. Dr. Martin encouraged his patients to pursue an inversion-therapy program as a first-round alternative to back surgery. He provided relief to hundreds of patients through inversion, and patented his own brand of inversion equipment in 1963.
In 1982, Dr. Martin told The Wall Street Journal, ìItís very simple why inversion works. All day long weíre either standing or sitting, with gravity pressing down on us. Hanging by the feet allows our bodies to decompress, our spines to be realigned, and our joints to separate. A little inversion goes a long way, and the relief it brings is often almost instantaneous.
Quite simply, inversion allows gravity to help the body to naturally correct and align itself. You stretch out and elongate your spine, get blood to the brain, invert and reposition internal organs, and take stress off of the heart, which usually has to pump blood ìuphillî to the brain.
As with any new exercise program, if someone is in doubt about their level of fitness, or if they are over the age of 40, consult a physician before starting an inversion program. Inversion is not recommended for people with extreme weight problems, those with a history of stroke, acute back injuries, or high blood pressure, and it is very important that people with these conditions consult with their doctor before trying inversion. Also, individuals who have bone disease, retinal detachment, or any other serious eye disorders would be advised to avoid inversion without their doctors permission.
For someone with a back problem about to begin a program of inversion therapy, Hang Ups has a few helpful suggestions.
Begin slowly: Invert only 15 to 20 degrees at first, and stay inverted only as long as it feels comfortable, which may only be a few seconds at first. Remarkably, you can gain all of the benefits of inversion without ever fully inverting yourself. Most people find 20 to 60 degrees of decline adequate and very comfortable.
Make changes gradually: Increase the angle of decline only if it is comfortable, and only increase the angle a few degrees at a time. The Hang Ups F5000III inversion table has a tether strap to help people stay within their inversion range. People can add rocking back and forth (rhythmic traction) to their inversion program once they feel comfortable.
Pay attention to your body: Youíre unique, and your body will tell you whatís good for it. You determine the pace when adapting to the inverted world.
Keep moving while inverted: Use intermittent traction (pull and release) or rhythmic traction to encourage blood, lymph, and spinal fluid circulation. Moving, twisting, stretching, and light exercise while inverted aids in the alignment of bones and organs while minimizing any increase in blood pressure, but strenuous exercise is not recommended while inverted. Just relax and enjoy!
Do it regularly: There are a variety of inversion programs and exercises. Trust yourself to find the approach thatís best for you, and then do it every day. Two or three short sessions a day seem to work best for most people.
Based on years of research and the testimonials of hundreds of people who have found relief from back pain, inversion is a powerful, natural option for people who want to relieve lower back pain. Sometimes thereís an explanation for why inversion works, and sometimes there isnít - it works for some and not for others. We only know that, for many people, literally ìturning their world upside downî through inversion therapy can provide an alternative to drugs and surgery in a life filled with daily pain.