If you’re suffering from chronic back pain, you probably feel as though you’re suffering alone. You may be surprised to know that, according to the American Chiropractic Association, around 31 million Americans deal with back pain. In other words, there are a lot of people around you who are probably suffering in silence. In fact, back pain is a huge cause of disability and one of the main reasons people miss work. Although chronic pain always causes people to worry about a serious cause such as a fracture, some sort of inflammatory disease, or cancer, most back pain is not caused by a serious condition.
Back pain is a serious business, though, costing Americans $50 billion each year on treatment and medications to combat it. That doesn’t include the cost of lost time at work. Next to upper respiratory infections, back pain the second most-cited reason for people to call in sick to work. Relief is hard to come by, though; although it’s impossible to sit through intense back pain at the office, it’s equally hard to find rest and relief at home when your back is tormenting you.
Because the spine, as well as the nerves, muscles, and tissues in the back make up a very complicated system, back pain can be caused from a variety of issues. Often, excess weight and too little exercise contribute to back pain issues. Our sedentary lifestyles which put us working at desks and driving long distances can also cause problems. Add in injuries caused by over-exertion in exercise or overly aggressive weekend adventures while out hiking, biking, or skiing, and back pain can have many root causes.
Inversion Table Might Be The Answer for Back Pain
Because so many back problems originate from the spine, many people have begun to rely on using an inversion table for back pain. What is the best inversion table, you ask? For those who have never seen or used such a device, it may look bizarre. During inversion therapy, you strap your feet into a table-like device on which you start out upright before moving yourself flat…and then inverting yourself with your feet above your head. You can invert at a slight angle or hang nearly upside down.
Why on earth would people hang around upside down? How on earth does that help back problems?
Although using an inversion table for back pain seems like an unlikely answer to those who are unfamiliar with the therapy, its effectiveness lies in science and a force we all deal with on a daily basis: gravity. You see, gravity presses down on your spine every moment of every day. You get some relief by laying down horizontally to rest, but this doesn’t do much to undo the stress and damage that gravity does to your back all throughout the hours of the day.
Stress? Damage? Isn’t that a bit extreme? Actually, no—it isn’t. Let’s say you’re having excruciating back pain due to a herniated spinal disc. Your spinal discs are affected by gravity, which presses them down into one another as you go about your day. If one gets out of alignment or if there is a rupture that allows the jellylike fluid inside to leak out, imagine how much gravity exacerbates the issue. Because the discs are constantly being jammed down into one another, there is no chance for a slipped disc to shift back into its normal place. The herniated disc cannot repair itself, as the pressure of the other discs continue to force the fluid out, irritating surrounding nerves and creating inflammation and pain.
How Inversion Therapy Heals
During inversion therapy, the force of gravity isn’t just removed from your back, spinal discs, and surrounding tissues—it’s actually reversed. Here are some of the ways that using inversion therapy for back pain can be the answer you’ve been looking for.
- Instant Relief
When you lay or hang at an inverted angle, your back feels instantly better. This is because inversion allows your spinal discs to stretch apart. It relieves and reverses the pressure created by the discs being forced against one another. Any nerves that are being impinged upon by wayward discs are instantly released. Inversion also provides a healing stretch to the ligaments, muscles, and other tissues that surround your spine.
- Increased Blood Flow
In addition to giving our spines a good stretch, inversion therapy helps with blood flow. It does this in two ways. First of all, it helps move blood from areas in our bodies that might have poor circulation. When this blood is shifted from these areas of the body and brought back towards the heart, it can better collect the oxygen and nutrients that are necessary for muscle and tissue repair.
Next, inversion therapy helps get that oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to damaged tissues that are in desperate need of repair. If you have discs (or even weight-bearing joints such as the knees) that are being forced together by weight and gravity, lubrication and blood are being forced out of the areas in between those discs and joints. This means that the cartilage in between suffers from malnourishment. When the pressure is released and those discs or joints are stretched away from each other, blood can suddenly flow back in, nourishing and helping to repair injured and irritated tissues.
- Better Flexibility
A sedentary lifestyle, weight, injury, or tension from chronic pain can really take a toll on our muscles. They become sore, swollen, inflamed, and tense. This can pull on and affect ligaments and tendons, resulting in pain or injury. Exercises such as yoga and tai chi can help gently stretch muscles and tendons. It can be hard, though, to maintain a sustained stretch while doing those exercises. Through inversion therapy, you can give your muscles a wonderful stretch, in addition to increasing blood flow that will help heal them.
- More EnergyMany people who practice inversion therapy report that they feel more energized and relaxed. This is due to many factors. First, a reduction in pain and inflammation helps them feel less tense and tired, resulting in more energy and an improved mood. Second, increased blood flow means that their muscles, tissues, and organs are receiving the oxygen and nutrients they need to better function. Another reason people report feeling more energized is because of something that we haven’t discussed yet: inversion therapy can help rid your body of toxins.• Less Toxins
When we move our muscles, they help squeeze out lymph fluid and move it through our bodies. This fluid is important in removing toxins from our bodies. When our lymphatic systems aren’t working properly, we feel tired and sluggish. Our bodies struggle to repair themselves. We get sick. Although moving helps our lymph drain, we don’t feel much like moving when our bodies are filled with toxins. For some people, this problem can turn into a buildup of lymphatic fluid that causes swelling in the extremities. Inversion therapy helps drain this fluid from areas of the body where it tends to collect, pushing it back into the lymphatic flow and moving toxins out. This contributes to our energy level and our overall health.
- Healing Over Time
Some people are dismayed when they first start inversion therapy and find that their pain returns shortly after resuming their normal upright position. This is because our bodies can’t instantly heal the injuries and damage that has been done to our spines, nerves, and tissues that connect everything together. Unlike pain medication or steroid injections, using an inversion table for back pain isn’t simply a bandage that temporarily covers up the problem. Rather, it’s a solution for long term healing. You must stick with it long enough to allow the healing process to complete.
Is Inversion Therapy for Everyone?
Ah, the medical disclaimer! As with any exercise regime or medical treatment, you should always talk with your doctor to be sure that inversion therapy for back pain is a good idea for you. Because inversion therapy affects blood flow and circulation, people with hypertension, heart disease, and glaucoma should get approval from their doctors before starting this therapy.
As for everyone else, if you’ve been dealing with back pain and have been unable to get any relief, inversion therapy is worth a try. Many chiropractors offer inversion therapy in their offices. This is a great way to give it a try under the guidance and supervision of a healthcare professional before you give it a go at home.
Remember to start slow and work your way up. People who are new to inversion therapy shouldn’t invert for more than a few minutes at a time. If you feel stressed at first or don’t achieve permanent results right away, don’t despair! It can take a while for your body to relax into this new routine. It also takes time for your body to repair itself. With time and patience, inversion therapy can help your aching back get back to normal—and get you back to feeling great again.