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The Inversion Table – Can It Help Your Back Pain?

Updated on September 16, 2009

The spinal column is one of the most vital elements in the entire human body. Not only does it support our torso and allow for the tremendous amount of movement the human body is capable of, but it is the direct connection between the outer body and the world “out there” and our brain. This is because all of our nerves eventually pass through the spaces between the vertebrae (the building blocks that, stacked upon one another, make up our spine), connect with the spinal cord and travel on up to the brain. Whenever there are issues with those spaces between the vertebrae, whether it be alignment, compression, obstructions (like a bulging disc), or whatever, perhaps coming from an unusual movement or improper lifting, discomfort will be experienced to some degree or another. Very often, it is to a high degree.

Back pain is something that far too many people are far too familiar with. Estimates suggest that 8 out of 10 Americans will suffer from some degree of back pain during their lives. A small number of those people go on to develop chronic, long lasting, debilitating disorders that can make day to day life miserable.

Oftentimes when someone first experiences back pain, and after they do a bit of their own online research, they decide to have it looked at. The conservative medical approach is rest and anti-inflammatory agents such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Sometimes they will use an external electric stimulation machine similar to the Slendertone unit, which does work for some people. Fortunately for many people their experience of back pain is a fleeting one. For those fortunate folks, this treatment, or perhaps it is nothing more than time taking care of things, is enough. For others, it is a constant quest for pain relief.

One method of pain relief that many people are using with success today, the inversion table, is actually older than many people realize. The use of an inversion table to decompress the spine has been around since the time of Hippocrates, the father of Medicine and the man responsible for the Hippocratic Oath of, “First, do no harm.” In his time (400 BC), he used a system of ropes and pulleys to suspend a patient who was suffering from back pain.

Fortunately for us, things have come a long way since 400 BC!

In the 1960’s, a doctor in California named Robert Martin became widely recognized for a system he called the “Gravity Guidance System” which, as the name implies, used the forces of gravity to help everything from postural issues to back pain. In the 1970’s, Dr. Martin developed the Gravity Guidance Inversion Table which increased the popularity of his techniques. By the 1980’s, gravity boots came onto the scene along with a whole host of other gadgets and gizmos from a number of different manufacturers.

Despite all the growing popularity among the general public, the medical community remained skeptical of the whole concept. Their opinion seemed to waver back and forth as to the efficacy of such treatment for back pain. However, eventually they came to the conclusion that any fears or concerns about potential dangers of inversion therapy were greatly exaggerated.

In fact, they even recognized that while doing no harm to the body, it might actually be doing some good! (This came as no surprise to the thousands of back pain sufferers who achieved some pain relief from inversion therapy. True, it wasn’t always or necessarily permanent relief, but for anyone having had severe back pain, you understand what a miracle temporary relief can be). And when you consider the fact that often times medicine’s only alternative offering is surgical; cutting open a person’s back and messing around the spinal cord, many people did, and continue to give inversion therapy a chance. Along the line of thinking of that very old doctor who said, “First, do no harm.”

Once the medical community’s findings were clear and the relative safety of this kind of treatment was made public in the 1990’s, inversion therapy became a fairly popular health market with many products again popping up on the market and along with them, many people swearing by the efficacy of those products or treatment modality.

In the end, such a natural, non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical approach to back pain should be considered as a legitimate option. Is it the silver bullet for back pain? Unfortunately no, it is not. There is nothing that will help everyone, all the time. Believe me, I wish there was (I have had more than my fair share of significant back problems, including surgery). But considering the proliferation of various inversion table products on the market for reasonable prices, it is something that I would recommend considering before doing anything else that might be more drastic with long term consequences.


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      Shaji 2 years ago

      Teeter Tables may be expensive but you get what you pay for busceae on my friends cheap table the ankle restraints hurt me after 2min. On the Teeter table im up to 10 min and can comfortably meditate and do my stretches. Though it only relieves my chronic pain for a few hours, those few hours are almost magical.Anyone who fully inverts right away should expect a rush of blood to their head busceae you need to work up to it.I love my EP 950

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      Cindy 2 years ago

      For the love of God, keep writing these arcsilet.

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      Rob 8 years ago

      It's always best to do any surgery as a last resort. I agree with you.