Over half of people who invert on a regular basis do so to relieve back pain. But to discount inversion as simply a back pain remedy would be to ignore a wide range of benefits that can be easily achieved by a passive, or more active, inversion session.
Inversion represents the Quiet Side of Fitness, helping your body to recover from the compressive effects of gravity and daily activities. Doctors, physical 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, TeeterTM Inversion Equipment provides a comfortable and easy method to turn your world upside down.
Inversion Can Help to Relieve Many Forms of Back and Neck Pain
There are many causes of back pain, including poor posture, weak back and stomach muscles, and misalignments to name a few. Many of these causes can actually be attributed to one force we must all battle: gravity.
Inversion therapy puts gravity to work for you by placing your body in line with the downward force of gravity. Using your own body weight as a natural form of traction, inversion elongates the spine by increasing the space between the vertebrae, relieving 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 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."2
Inversion can also help to encourage good posture. When inverted, your body is in line with gravity. Your spine wants to naturally go to it proper form (a gentle "s" curve). A regular program of inversion can help you to maintain proper posture and keep your body in balance. 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 and pain.
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 (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.
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 degrees is necessary to reduce the disc pressure to zero.3Inverting is the most effective posture that allows your discs to recover from the constant pressure placed on them during your daily activities.
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.
Grapes and Raisins
Discs are soft, rubbery pads between the hard bones (vertebrae) of the spinal column. When they are young and healthy, discs are plump with water, which keeps them hydrated and they have the perfect consistency to work as shock absorbers for the vertebrae. They also act to maintain the space between the vertebrae so the nerves are not impinged upon. Over time the daily stress of gravity, sitting, twisting and the process of aging may dry them out like grapes turned into raisins. This is called desiccation. This disc desiccation or drying out can be reversed and the disc can be rehydrated.
As discs deteriorate, their tough outer shell weakens. One swing on the tennis court or lifting in the wrong way can burst the interior gel through the caseing, like jelly squishing out of a doughnut.
vertebrae are separated allowing the discs to regain their form and function. After the pressure is taken off the nerve there can be a rocking motion added to the inversion therapy.
The rocking motion creates an accordion like pumping action that helps to hydrate and increase the fluid circulation to the discs. It creates a compression and expansion. One of the reasons discs degenerate and don't regenerate well is due to the passive nature of the fluid flow to the discs. They are not vasuclarized like a kidney. The fluid flow to and from the disc is based on body movement such as walking and breathing. The rocking motion on the table facilitates this fluid flow as good or better than perhaps any other activity.
The result is the infamous herniated disc (also referred to as ruptured or slipped disc).
When a disc bulges against one of the two sciatic nerves, which run from the spinal cord down the legs, the pain can be excruciating. This bulge can also take place in the cervical area which affects the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
Inversion therapy addresses the duel function of the discs, their ability to act as shock absorber and spacer. With mild inversion the
Disc Desiccation and Diuretics for High Blood Pressure - Water Pills
We have no way to verify this scientifically, however, we have been working in the field of back problems and inversion therapy since 1980 and in the medical field before that and it has been our observation that there may be a correlation between diuretic therapy and disc problems. Long term use of diuretics to help control high blood pressure may contribute to disc desiccation which is described above. Most people who have disc problems may have one or two compressed, herniated or ruptured discs. We have found people who have disc problems and who are on diuretics seem to be more likely to have 3-4 or even more compressed discs than the person who is not on diuretics. Also when we hear someone has sciatica on both sides, this is often a sign to us they maybe on diuretics. When people tell us they have 5 compressed discs and we ask if they are on diuretics, we are not surprised to hear that they are. They are surprised when we ask them the question because they had never made the correlation before. We have even spoken with nephrologists (kidney and blood pressure specialist) and they had never made the correlation either but believe there maybe be a causal relationship.
To our knowledge we are the first people in the world to make this observation.
Inversion Helps to Achieve Functional Fitness
A person can only achieve functional fitness (the ability to remain flexible and active throughout a lifetime) by incorporating every element of fitness into their lifestyle: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. Inversion can be utilized as an simple, effective method to achieve each essential element of fitness:
Cardiovascular: The simple act of inverting the body can actually help to stimulate circulation, resulting in a mild, even relaxing, cardiovascular workout. Strength: More active inversion allows people to add strength training (crunches, sit-ups, extensions, etc) with no loads to the spine. Flexibility: Passive inversion can help to maintain flexibility of the joints and spine, encouraging good posture and properly hydrating the discs between each vertebrae. This element of fitness is rarely addressed with the equipment offered at most gyms, and is often overlooked as an important part of a complete workout.
Train Core Muscle Groups without Loading the Spine
Core muscles - the muscles providing support for the torso (abdominals, internal and external obliques, and lower back muscles) - are responsible for the maintenance of posture, efficiency in movement and transfer of power in the body.
Weak abdominal muscles allow you to slump forward, making you more vulnerable to misalignments and injury. Well-developed core muscles improve performance in athletic activities as well as with day-to-day activities, supporting the spine in proper alignment to avoid injury. Strong abdominal muscles support the spine by increasing internal pressure (similar to using a back support when lifting heavy objects) to help relieve the load on the discs in the spinal column.
Unfortunately, most exercises designed to build core muscles must be performed with great technical accuracy or they can cause injury to the lumbar spine. Inverting on TeeterTM equipment actually helps users to focus on building core strength without loading the spine. When performed from full inversion, exercises such as crunches, sit-ups and back extensions can build strength in the core with minimal risk of hyperextension or loading the spine improperly.
Recover from High Impact Workouts
Nearly every 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 the relaxing stretch of 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.
Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no pump. Only the alternate contraction and relaxation of muscles move 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.
Inversion Helps to Strengthen Ligaments
Ligaments 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.
Inversion Helps to Relieve Stress
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 down.
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 by stress.
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 Teeter TM equipment creates an easier alternative with the added benefit of joint decompression.
Inversion Helps to Stimulate Circulation
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 process.
Inversion Provides 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.
Inversion Helps to Age Gracefully
Height Maintenance: 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. See Care and Feeding for Discs.
"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 the Brain: 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.)
Relieves Varicose Veins: 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.
Inversion Therapy and Depression
One of the surprising results of inversion therapy is an overall sense of well being many people feel. Usually this is in conjunction with the reduction of pain, disability and an improvement in the quality of life. However, just as exercise will produce endorphins (opium like compounds in the brain) inversion therapy may have a similar effect. Since most people report feeling better as it directly relates to the reduction of the pain they purchased the inversion table for initially we are dealing with back pain sufferers primarily. Once this primary pain issue is ameliorated many people report continued use of the table for other reasons. We have found after being on their feet and feeling fatigued people will hang at a 45 degree angle for 15-20 minutes for a "recharge" when they come home from work. This increased sense of energy and relaxation many people feel may be part of the reason inversion therapy is being used more and more as part of a program to reduce depression and improve the general quality of a person's life.
Considering the circulatory and lymphatic stimulation, oxygenation of the brain, stretching of the muscles, ligaments and tendons and the multitude of other benefits it is easy to see how inversion therapy may have a positive effect on one's outlook on life. If you would like to read a one page explaination of why inversion therapy is so good for the body and mind please click here:
A Final Thought
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 and neck 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.
1 The Johns Hopkins White Papers, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD, 2000.
2 Nosse, L: Inverted Spinal Traction. Arch Phys Med Rehab 59: 367-370, Aug 78.
3 Nachemson, A and Elfstrom, G; Intravital Dynamic Pressure Measurements in Lumbar Discs. Scandinavian Journal of Rehab Medicine, supplement, 1970)