– Spinal decompression therapy is any physical therapy that relieves pressure on the spine.
– By eliminating spinal pressure, you can create more space between vertebrae, allowing spinal discs to rehydrate and heal.
– Spinal decompression stretches and exercises can be just as effective as inversion tables and other forms of inversion therapy.
Virtually everyone on Earth experiences spinal compression every day. With the force of gravity constantly tugging on your body, it’s impossible to avoid it.
Unfortunately, spinal compression often leads to back pain and conditions like ruptured or herniated discs.
Not to mention, it can also aggravate existing conditions like sciatica.
For many people, inversion therapy via a device called an inversion table is an effective source of relief for spinal compression.
However, inversion tables aren’t suitable for everyone, especially those with particular health concerns like eye problems or high blood pressure.
If you’ve ever wondered how to decompress your spine without an inversion table, you’ve come to the right place.
How Can Spinal Decompression Help You?
Even though spinal compression is inescapable, there are ways to counteract it. Spinal decompression therapy is any physical therapy that relieves pressure on the spine; without that constant force compressing your spinal discs, more space forms between your vertebrae.
In addition, it allows your spinal discs to rehydrate and heal themselves, relieving tension.
A typical example of spinal decompression is inversion therapy, which involves hanging upside down to reverse the effects of gravity on the spine.
However, if inversion therapy isn’t for you, there are plenty of other ways to decompress your spine.
Let’s explore some spinal decompression stretches, exercises, techniques, and gadgets you can use to start relieving your back pain today.
7 Home Exercises to Decompress Your Spine
Check out these simple spinal decompression exercises and stretches you can perform at home to alleviate your back pain without equipment!
1.) Dead Hang
Hang from a bar with your arms straight for 15 to 60 seconds. Do not move or twist your body while hanging. Step down rather than jumping down when time is up.
As you hang, the weight of your lower body pulls on your vertebrae, creating space between your discs and thus decompressing your spine.
2.) Overhead Stretch
Interlace your fingers and reach your arms above your head, keeping your elbows locked. Stretch up toward the ceiling and hold for 20 to 30 seconds, depending on your comfort.
This simple exercise stretches your spine and relieves the pressure placed on it by your shoulders and shoulder blades, allowing it to decompress slightly.
3.) Cat Camel or Cat-Cow Stretch
Get on your hands and knees with your hands aligned below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Round your back slowly (like a camel’s hump) while tipping your head toward the floor.
Then, gradually move back to the start position and do the opposite, pushing your torso downward and looking up toward the ceiling. Repeat a few times.
These slow, gentle movements can help loosen up your spine, increasing mobility in your lower back and relieving pain.
4.) Pull Ups
Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the bar. Exhale and use your back muscles to raise yourself until the bar is at chest level. Inhale as you slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
Pull-ups are one of the most effective ways to build strength in your back muscles. Stronger back muscles can help stabilize your spine and alleviate lower back pain.
5.) Standing Kitchen Sink Stretch
Grab onto a steady surface, like your kitchen sink. Lock your elbows as you lean your hips, keeping your legs straight. Breathe deeply and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
This stretch helps to lengthen and open up your spine. You can even transition into a low squat for an added stretch.
Pelvic Tilts & Lumbar Rolls
While lying on your back, keep your knees bent with your feet on the floor. Slowly move your knees back and forth from side to side for lumbar rolls.
Use your abdominal muscles to tilt your tailbone backward and forward for pelvic tilts.
Both exercises are designed to strengthen core muscles, helping your posture and alleviating back pain by keeping your spine aligned.
Lie on your back with your knees in the air and ankles crossed. Hold your thighs and allow your knees to relax outward. Gently rotate your knees in slow circles toward your chest.
This relaxing motion helps loosen your lower back muscles and create space between your vertebrae for them to rehydrate.
6 Simple Yoga Poses to Support Your Spine
If you’re familiar with yoga, you may be interested in trying some of these trusty poses to give your spine the stretch it needs.
1.) Child’s Pose or Prayer Stretch
Sit on the floor with your knees underneath you. Lean your body forward until you can comfortably lay your upper body on the floor. Stretch your arms above your head parallel with the line of your body and hold.
Enjoy the excellent stretch throughout your back as this position helps to elongate your spine and reduce compression.
2.) Downward Dog
Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders. Next, plant your feet and shift your body into an upside-down V position, straightening your legs.
Next, focus on lengthening your spine by pushing your backside toward the ceiling. Finally, to release, slowly lower your knees back to the ground.
This pose has a similar effect to inversion therapy, reversing gravity’s effects on your spine for a brief period and allowing it to decompress.
3.) Seated Spinal Twist
Begin seated on the floor. Bring your right leg across your left leg, so your right foot sits beside your left knee. Rest your left elbow on top of your right knee.
Then, gently twist your body and place your right hand on the floor behind you. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the other side.
This twist should produce a pleasant stretch for your spine and alleviate lower back aches.
4.) Cow Face Pose
Sit on the floor and cross one leg over the other so your knees are stacked on top of each other. Extend your right arm upward toward the ceiling before bending it to reach down your back between your shoulder blades.
Use your left hand to reach behind your back and grasp your right hand. Hold for a few seconds.
This stretch once again decompresses your spinal column while simultaneously promoting proper alignment.
5.) Cobra Pose
Lie flat on your stomach with your legs straight. Place your hands under your shoulders and slowly raise your chest, engaging your abdominal muscles.
Try to draw your shoulder blades down your back and straighten your arms as much as possible.
Cobra pose helps your spine by reversing the typical forward slouch we might do while sitting at a computer all day.
Begin on your hands and knees before lowering your upper body to rest on your elbows. Straighten your legs behind you one foot at a time to remain steady.
Engage your core muscles to keep your body straight without letting your hips raise or dip out of alignment.
Though it might not provide a stretch for your spine, the plank pose does strengthen the muscles of your core which help keep your spine stabilized. In addition, regularly practising planks may improve posture and back pain.
Easy Spinal Decompression Techniques
You can also try other decompression techniques to support your spine when you’re short on time or not in the mood for exercise.
Flexion refers to any movement that causes the bones of a joint to move closer to one another. In the case of the spine, bending forward is an example of flexion.
Studies have shown that practising spinal flexion exercises may reduce the severity of lower back pain (1).
While seated in a chair, you can bend your body forward to exert flexion on your spine. It will create space between your vertebrae, alleviating back pain associated with certain conditions.
Keep in mind, however, that some conditions may be aggravated by flexion and will benefit from extension exercises instead (2).
Practice Hanging Using Household Items
You don’t always need equipment to take pressure off your spine. Instead, simple household items can give you the right angle to encourage decompression.
Your sofa or chair’s armrest will do the trick! Lay your body over the armrest with your arms supporting your weight on the cushions. Allow your legs to dangle above the floor. You should feel relief on your spine as your body hangs for a moment.
You can also hang upright without a pull-up bar by using chairs. Place two chairs beside each other with the backs facing together and stand between them. Use the backs of the chairs to support your upper body as you push yourself upward, taking weight off your feet and relieving pressure on your spine by letting your legs relax.
Remember to choose stable chairs and ensure they won’t slide or break as you place weight on them.
And finally, even a towel can help alleviate some of that spinal pressure! Lie down on your back and place a rolled-up towel beneath your tailbone.
Straighten your legs and relax for a few seconds to encourage a gentle stretch in your lower back (3).
How to Decompress Your Spine While Seated
When you’re seated at work all day, it can be hard to find time to get up and stretch. However, there is a way to alleviate pressure on your spine without leaving your chair.
While seated upright in your chair, place your hands behind your back on the chair seat. Then, gently push down and straighten your arms without lifting yourself off the chair.
It should remove pressure from your spine. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat. You can perform this exercise as frequently as you need throughout the day (4).
Spinal Decompression Devices
If you’re looking for ways to decompress your spine without needing an inversion table, we’ve put together a small list of gadgets to help stretch your spine and relieve your lower back pain.
Gravity boots work much in the same way as an inversion table. They provide a safe way to suspend your body upside down, allowing the spine to lengthen and decompress.
One benefit of gravity boots over an inversion table is their mobility. While inversion tables are pretty stationary, you can take some types of boots with you on the go. For some models, a pull-up bar is all you need to safely hang upside down using your boots.
This form of spinal therapy is typically only performed by medical professionals. Patients will be attached to a machine via a harness when undergoing mechanical traction.
The device then exerts a gentle force to encourage spine decompression and alleviate pressure.
Mechanical traction can treat conditions such as sciatica, herniated discs, and pinched nerves. Remember to talk to your healthcare provider to ensure it’s the right choice.
Back Stretch Machine
There are several different kinds of back stretchers available. Some are simple, only requiring you to lie on a curved plastic or wood.
Others are more complex, allowing you to perform rolling motions or yoga poses with them. Survey your options carefully to find the best fit for your back.
Lumbar belts provide support to your back and spine. They can be handy for anyone with a previous back injury who needs to restrict their movement to prevent aggravating the injury.
However, they’re also handy for improving posture and reducing overall back pain. Some even offer heating or cooling technologies to soothe the muscles in your back and along your spine.
A foam roller is exactly what it sounds like, a cylinder made of foam that you can lie on to roll along the muscles of your back. This rolling motion can reduce pain and muscle soreness while improving your flexibility.
Better flexibility and an increased range of motion lowers your chances of a back-related injury and strengthens the muscles supporting your spine.
You probably already know that sitting on an exercise ball can improve your posture. Still, you can also use one to decompress your spine. You can perform spinal decompression with an exercise ball by draping your body over it, either face down or face up.
Either way, be sure to go slow and allow your body to relax, hanging freely in each position.
Does lying down decompress your spine?
Depending on the position you’re in, lying down may decompress your spine in some cases. For example, lying on your back with a pillow beneath your knees, creating a 30-degree angle, should alleviate some pressure on your spine and support your lower back.
How long does it take for your spine to decompress?
You can feel an almost immediate relief in your spine and lower back when you practice inversion therapy. However, session lengths may vary (anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes) depending on your unique needs, health conditions, and the type of spinal decompression therapy you’ve chosen.
Is it healthy to decompress the spine?
Spinal decompression therapy is a safe and effective way to alleviate back pain and support your spine. However, it is unsuitable for all patients, so check with your doctor before beginning therapy.
Can you decompress your spine while sleeping?
Depending on your position, it can decompress your spine while sleeping. However, the results may not be as effective as more intensive spinal decompression therapy.
- Elnaggar, I.M. et al. “Effects of Spinal Flexion and Extension Exercises on Low-Back Pain and Spinal Mobility in Chronic Mechanical Low-Back Pain Patients.” Spine, vol. 16, no. 8, 1991, pp. 967-72, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1835157.
- Asher, Anne. “Flexion Bias and Your Back Pain.” VeryWellHealth, 28 October 2022, https://www.verywellhealth.com/flexion-bias-296647.
- “Spinal Decompression At Home.” Posture Direct, 17 June 2020, https://www.posturedirect.com/spinal-decompression-at-home.
- Heller, Marc. “A Seated Exercise for Daily Decompression.” Dynamic Chiropractic, vol. 28, no. 17, 2010, https://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=54812.