Hanging upside down is fast becoming the exercise trend du jour for good reason. It releases pressure on the spine allowing discs to regain plumpness lost to gravity everyday; it improves circulation around the body; it promotes well-being with devotees attributing better skin, relaxation as well as dramatic improvements to neck and back pain.
While those who regularly practice yoga or pilates may prefer inverted yoga (also known as aerial yoga) – a physical inversion exercise class combining the flexibility of yoga with circus arts – newcomers to inversion techniques will receive the essential benefits, and enjoyment, from inversion tables.
Lying horizontally in bed each night is the closest most of us come to decompressing our spines. However, it is unusual for people to sleep in the same flat back horizontal position all night. We twist, turn, lay on our sides and while none of this is necessarily bad, it still is not giving our backs the full benefits available on an inversion table. In the best case scenario, we only decompress our spines by about 75 per cent by sleeping. Inversion therapy can provide up to 100% release.
Interest in inversion therapy has reached the medical profession who are impressed with the potential capabilities of the practice. One doctor in the UK, “Professor David Mendelow, Head of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, estimates inversion therapy could save £80 million a year in unnecessary surgeries”. Newcastle University hosted a pilot study on inversion therapy to see how patients lined up for surgery would benefit. The patients all had intense pain or disease with sciatica, muscle tension and injured discs.
Of the people who practiced inversion therapy in the trial, 77 per cent avoided surgery, compared to only 22 per cent of the control group who only received traditional physiotherapy. While these results are very promising, because the study involved just 26 patients in total, the results warrant another scaled-up study.
Inversion tables are safe to use, allowing exercisers to adjust the angle they invert at until they are strong and comfortable enough to reach 180 degrees. When trying inversion tables for the first time, the rush of blood to the head might feel quite unusual. For many people, it is a sensation you haven’t experienced since playing on childhood monkey bars. Yet, after the initial and mild discomfort you can relax into the inverted position and pay attention to your back and neck. The absence of pressure on the spine brings relief and spinal realignment, even to people who are not suffering from back pain. After a session that may last from 20 minutes to an hour, people report feeling even a little taller with enhanced confidence because the body’s improved posture affects how the mind feels.
For people who find the thought of just laying there for up to an hour, albeit upside-down, a little boring, core strength workouts can be incorporated to make it more interesting and beneficial to the body. Not everyone will be able to go from upside down to touching their toes with crunches but it is a goal for the fit to work towards.
Next time you notice an inversion table at a physiotherapists or a gym, give it a go. If you find it suits your lifestyle, you can even purchase one for the home with prices starting at the $400 mark. You’ll be joining the company of famous early adopters including Eva Mendes, who focuses on the relaxation and circulation benefits, and Bradley Cooper who used inversion tables to decompress after each physically demanding performance as the elephant man on Broadway. Hanging upside down with inversion tables can give you a new perspective on the world, and provide the back pain relief you’ve been searching for.