Benefits of Inversion Therapy
So you think hanging
upside down to relieve back pain is some wacky, new-age idea? Think again. It's
documented that Inversion was used as early as 400 B.C., when Hippocrates, the
father of medicine, first watched a patient have his knees bound and ankles tied
to a ladder to be hoisted upside down for a dose of what's 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. Not only can
inversion therapy be used to treat back pain, but it also can be used as a
method to reverse other negative effects that gravity has on your body.
Inversion represents the Quiet Side of Fitness, helping your body to recover
from the compressive effects of gravity and daily activities.
therapists and sports trainers recognize inversion as a safe and effective form
of therapy for the spine and weight-bearing joints. In fact, the US Army is
writing Inversion into its worldwide physical training manual that will be
adopted for the new millennium.
Whatever your reason for
inverting, Teeter Hang Ups® Inversion Equipment provides a safe and
easy method to turn your world upside down.
Inversion Can Help to Relieve Many Forms of Back Pain
There are many causes of
back pain, including poor posture, weak back and stomach muscles, and muscles
spasms to name a few. Many of these causes can actually be attributed to one
force we must all battle: gravity.
So how can Inversion help
you to relieve your back pain? Quite simply, inversion therapy puts gravity to
work for you by placing your body in line with the downward force of gravity.
Inversion elongates the spine, increasing the space between the vertebrae, which
relieves the pressure on discs, ligaments and nerve roots. Less pressure means
less back pain.
Every nerve root leaves
the spine through an opening between the vertebrae-the size of this opening is
largely controlled by the height of the intravertebral disc. Discs that are
plump and contained in their ligament "wrappers" are necessary to keep the nerve
roots free of pressure and your body free from pain.
Stress and tension can
cause muscle spasms in the back, neck and shoulders, as well as headaches and
other problems. Tense muscles produce spasms and pain by reducing the supply of
oxygen and by reducing blood and lymph flow, allowing the accumulation of waste
chemicals in the muscles.
Inverting yourself to as
little as 25° for even a few minutes can help relax tense muscles and speed the
flow of lymphatic fluids which flush out the body's wastes and carry them to the
blood stream. The faster this waste is cleared, and fresh supplies of oxygen are
introduced, the faster stiffness and pain in the muscles can disappear. A study
conducted by physiotherapist L.J. Nosse found that, "EMG (electromyographic)
activity, an indicator of muscle pain, declined over 35% within ten seconds of
assuming the inverted position.
Inversion can also help to
encourage good posture. When inverted, your body is in line with gravity. Your
spine wants to naturally go to its proper form (a gentle "s" curve). A regular
program of inversion can help you to maintain proper posture and keep your body
in balance. Let's face it-poor posture is not only unhealthy, it's unattractive.
Inversion Helps Provide Care
and Feeding for the Discs
Your discs have three
jobs: to separate the vertebrae, provide flexibility to the spine and to act as
shock absorbers. Disc separation is especially important since all communication
between the brain and the body is via nerves that pass between each vertebra.
Insufficient distance between the vertebrae can result in nerve root pressure
The inner core of your
discs is made of jelly-like material that provides the flexibility and
"cushioning" in your back. When you are sitting, standing, or exercising, which
I'll term "weight-bearing activities", fluid is squeezed out of your discs and
into adjacent soft tissue (just as you would squeeze moisture out of a sponge).
As a result, your discs lose some of their moisture and height. To prove this
fact, measure yourself in the morning and then again at night. You will lose
1/2" to 3/4" in height by the end of the day. This lost fluid translates into
your discs loosing some of their cushioning effect.
When you are sleeping, "a
non-weight bearing activity", your discs (or "intravertebral sponges") expand as
they soak up fluid and nutrients and increase the length of your spine by as
much as 3/4". But you don't gain the full height back, accumulating to a total
of 1/2" to 2" in height throughout your lifetime.
When your discs are
compressed and thinned, your vertebrae potentially place more pressure on these
nerve roots. More pressure equals more pain. As you relax, your spine begins to
stretch. The space between each vertebra will increase, thus decreasing the
pressure on the discs between each vertebra. This encourages fluid movement back
into the disc, helping to keep your discs plump and happy and decreasing the
pain in your back.
In fact, the only time in
your life when you are giving your discs a break is when you are inverting. See
graph. The medical study that generated this graph measured the pressure inside
the 3rd lumbar disc-it was assigned a baseline pressure while standing of 100%.
The study reported that even when you are lying down, the disc pressure remained
at 25%. The hundreds of ligaments and muscles that encase and mobilize the spine
act like a bunch of rubber bands holding the spine in compression equal to 25%
of standing body weight. Inverting to 60° is necessary to reduce the disc
pressure to zero2.
Inverting is the most effective posture that allows your discs to recover from
the constant pressure placed on them during your daily activities.
Inversion Helps to Relieve
Your body will let you
know when you are stressed out - back and neck pain, headaches and muscle
tension is your body's way of protesting against stress and forcing you to slow
If nothing else, Inversion
is a great way to take a break and relax. The full body stretch can be
rejuvenating and can also help to reduce muscle tension. A study conducted by
physiotherapist LJ Nose found that EMG activity (a measure of muscle tension)
declined over 35% within ten seconds of inverting. Inversion, therefore, is
helpful in relieving tension and pain in your muscles that may have been caused
In fact, for centuries
yoga practitioners have recognized the concept of turning the body upside down
to find relaxation. The head stand position is a form of "postural exchange"
(reversing the direction of gravity). Not everyone wants to do headstands, so
inversion on Hang Ups equipment creates an easier alternative with the added
benefit of joint decompression.
Inversion Helps Improve
Circulation and Accelerates the Cleansing of Blood and Lymph Fluids
The cardiovascular system
is made up of the heart, veins, arteries, and capillaries. It is your body's
transportation system, carrying food and oxygen to your body's cells. Your heart
pumps blood through the system: oxygen-rich blood from the lungs goes out
through the arteries and waste-filled blood comes back through the veins to be
cleansed and recharged with oxygen. The cardiovascular system also retrieves
blood from your legs and lower torso, carrying it upwards against the force of
gravity. Inversion allows your body to work with gravity to ease the circulation
Unlike the cardiovascular
system, the lymphatic system has no pump. Only the alternate contraction and
relaxation of muscles moves lymphatic fluid "uphill" through capillaries and
one-way valves to the upper chest for cleansing. Inverting the body so that
gravity works with, not against, these one-way valves helps to push the lactic
fluid up to the chest. The faster the lymphatic system is cleared the faster the
ache and pain of stiff muscles disappears.
Helps Increase Oxygen Flow to the Brain
Your heart must work
against gravity to pump blood up to your brain, which is the body's largest
consumer of oxygen. Although it is only three percent of the body's total
weight, the brain consumes 25 percent of the body's oxygen intake.
Win Wenger, in How to
Increase Your Intelligence, noted that "only those brain cells which are close
to an ample capillary blood supply are thoroughly developed. Away from such
source of supply, brain cells remain undeveloped and useless." Wenger describes
"upside down activities" to increase oxygen supply to the brain. He states, "In
short, you can much improve the physical state of your entire brain." A brain
that is better nourished simply works better.
Some people claim that
increasing the circulation of blood to the head through inversion may also
improve the color and tone of your skin, stimulate mental alertness, and improve
hearing and vision. In addition, some claim that hair will be healthier, and may
even grow again, if the scalp is well supplied with blood.
Helps Reduce the Effects of Aging Caused by the Force of Gravity
Most people will lose from 1/2" - 2" (1-5 cm) in height during their
lifetime due to thinning discs. As a baby, your discs are 90% water. However,
the water content in the discs decreases to 70% by age 70. An active inversion
program can help maintain more of your original height.
"Decongests" Internal Organs
As the body ages, internal organs (kidneys, stomach, intestines) begin to
prolapse as a result of the constant downward force of gravity. "Middle-age
spread" (that spare tire around the waste), apart from weight gain, is due to
the relocation of internal organs. Digestion and waste elimination problems are
also common symptoms of organs going south. Inversion helps prolapsed organs
resume their normal shape and place in the body.
Increases Oxygen to
Peter Russell notes in The Brain Book that the deterioration of the brain is not
directly linked to age alone. Rather, this deterioration is caused by hardening
arteries and high blood pressure, both of which decrease the supply of oxygen to
the brain. Thus a major step in reducing mental deterioration (or senility) over
time may simply be increasing the oxygen supply to the brain. Keeping the brain
active and well supplied with oxygen may help maintain your brain function and
mental sharpness throughout your entire life. (NOTE: If you have high blood
pressure, consult your physician before starting an inversion program.)
When inverting, you are helping your heart to clear the blood from your feet,
legs, and lower body. This allows the blood in your limbs to circulate more
easily, which may help to drain blood from varicose veins.
Benefits for the Athlete:
Inversion Enables the
Body to Stretch and Re-Align
Nearly every physical
activity involves some form of compression of the spine. The compressive effect
of gravity is compounded by activities such as running, weightlifting, aerobics,
skiing, biking, and golf, which can exact an incredible toll on the spine,
discs, and back muscles.
If we perform our daily
activities in the wrong way we can create skeletal misalignments. Most often
these misalignments are nominal and will readily correct themselves given the
opportunity. Inversion with movement (such as side-to-side bends, back arches,
and a partial sit-up or two) provides that opportunity.
One-sided activities can
be particularly troublesome for the athlete for two reasons: The body will tend
to over compensate for the strong-side muscle groups, pulling the spine out of
alignment, and one-sided activities usually involve rotation of the spine, often
under incredible loads. Examples of these activities are golf, water skiing,
tennis, bowling, racquetball, and baseball. Inversion after physical activity
may help to realign the spine and keep athletes performing at higher levels for
longer periods of time.
Still other physical
activities tend to create tension in the muscles due to a contraction of the
major muscle groups for long periods of time. In-line skating, swimming,
bicycling, windsurfing and rowing are examples of activities which tend to
create a great deal of lower back strain. Athletes in these sports can receive a
tremendous boost from daily inversion therapy.
Inversion Reduces Pain
in Overworked Muscles
Athletes prone to stiffness
or muscle spasms after a workout can benefit from the lymphatic wash provided by
inversion. Intense muscle activities cause muscles to become sore. This is due
to the build up of large amounts of lactic acid and cellular debris in the
muscles. The faster this waste is cleared, the faster the stiffness in the
Balance and Orientation Training
The performance of inverted
activities can be enhanced through inversion training. Inversion helps to
develop balance awareness, which occurs when the upper regions of the inner ear
are stimulated. Skydivers, gymnasts, springboard divers, and scuba divers find
that inversion therapy fine-tunes the body and inner ear to the inverted world.
Inversion therapy has also been used to normalize the ear canal as a treatment
for motion sickness.
LigamentsLigaments are the fibrous strips that hold your bones together.
Ligaments are flexible but not very elastic, and can tear when they are
stretched too much. The gentle reverse loading and movement that occurs while
you invert strengthens ligaments and connective tissue, and helps to protect the
athlete from serious injury. Ligaments that are not moved regularly in the right
way become stiff, inelastic and more easily torn.
The constant pull of
gravity is the most powerful force your body will see during your lifetime.
Inversion offers a system of stretching and light exercise that helps to slow or
reverse the harmful, compression of the body by gravity. Used sensibly,
inversion is extremely beneficial, and no more dangerous than many other popular
and widely practiced fitness activities. Sometimes there's an explanation for
why inversion works and sometimes there isn't.
The experience of
thousands of people who invert regularly is that it gives them the relief from
back pain they've been looking for. Just as important, they gain the
rejuvenating effects of inversion on the entire body, providing health benefits
far beyond the relief of back pain.