Inversion therapy might sound trendy, but it has actually been around for centuries. The therapy entails inverting the body, sometimes up to 90 degrees, as a natural way to relieve back pain.
Inversion therapy is an efficient way to relieve lower back pain that results from a herniated vertebral disc, among other back-related problems. The treatment entails using an inversion table, which is a table that rotates to leave you upside down.
The inversion stretches the muscles and the soft tissues around your spine to offer relief and improve the quality of life. Angling the body downward for a few minutes employs gravity to decompress the spine.
The inversion stretches and elongates the spine by taking the pressure off the compressed or herniated discs. A herniated disc often places undue stress on the nerves between the vertebrae of your spine, causing you untold grief.
Inversion therapy is a proven way to relieve the radiating pain that results from a herniated disc. Here’s a complete guide detailing how to use an inversion table for herniated disc to relieve chronic back pain.
How to Use an Inversion Table for Herniated Disc: A Detailed Guide
Inversion tables come in various shapes and sizes to meet varied needs and budgets. You must do your due diligence when looking to buy an inversion table. You want a table that will help you overcome debilitating back pain and improve your life.
Set up the Inversion Table
Most inversion tables ship pre-assembled, which means you don’t need advanced engineering knowledge or special tools to set it up. In most cases, you only need to fix the table on the pivot mechanism, and you’re ready to go.
That said, you must ensure that all the straps, joints, and pivot points are well connected before using the table.
Be sure to read the owner’s manual thoroughly before attempting to assemble the table. The table is designed to support your body weight, but you must ensure all parts are well connected for it to function correctly. You certainly don’t want to endanger your back further by haphazardly fixing this crucial device.
Calibrate the Table to Your Height
You must calibrate the table to suit your height for it to operate effortlessly. The height setting affects the table’s balance and inversion speed.
Setting it too high makes it harder to invert while setting it too low will cause it to reverse far too quickly.
In the right setting, the table balances at the horizontal position, with you on it, effortlessly, and inverts the rest of the way in a steady, controlled motion.
Height adjustment tubes on both sides of the table let you achieve this feat quickly.
Pull out the height adjustment knob and slide the tube to match your height. Height markings are indicated on the tube, and you only need to push the knob into the hole that corresponds to your height. Ensure the pin adjustment locks securely on corresponding holes on each side of the table.
Choose a Comfortable Pair of Shoes
Inversion tables work by anchoring your feet to a clasp that keeps you in place when you’re in an inverted position, which makes footwear a crucial accessory. You should never attempt to use an inversion table while barefoot, as that might lead you to suffer some bruises or cause you to be uncomfortable. Try out a few pairs until you find the one that fits on the ankle cuffs snugly.
Set the Inversion Angle
Most inversion tables allow you to achieve different degrees of inversion, which can be anything from 30 to 90 degrees. Most units feature a tether strap to help you set the degree of inversion according to your needs and comfort level. The belt is calibrated at different lengths that correspond to various inversion angles. You only need to increase or shorten the length of the tether cable to achieve the desired inversion level.
You should start with an inversion level of 20 or 30 degrees and work your way up to steeper inversion levels or even a full inversion.
Get into Position
Once the table is set up, it’s time to ease the pressure off your spine. Make sure the end with the ankle cuffs is resting on the floor then step to the inversion table. Rest your back on the table then fit your feet into the ankle cuffs one at a time. Adjust the ankle comfort dial to fit your feet and ankles.
For the best results, wrap the ankle cuffs around the smallest part of your ankles. Aim for a snug fit as that not only keeps you comfortable but also ensures that you won’t slide off the table once you invert.
Most units feature a micro-adjustment lever to let you secure your feet safely to the table. Double-check to ensure that your legs are locked in. It’s best to err on the side of caution on this one.
Lower the Inversion Table Horizontally
At this point, half your body weight should be on one side of the pivot point while the other half is on the other. Leaning back against the table causes your feet to lift off the floor. If that happens, it indicates that your table is in perfect balance, and that makes inverting the table an effortless process.
Slowly lift one arm over your head to invert the table. Doing so causes the table to invert away from your feet. Lowering your hand will bring the table back into an upright position. Lifting your hand over your head will cause the table to invert before coming to a stop at the set maximum angle of inversion.
At this point, you can do some stretches and relax as you feel your spine decompress.
Most inversion tables feature traction handles that you can use to add manual traction to the inversion. Reach up and push against them to lengthen the spine. You can also wiggle your back from side to side to elongate your spine as you push off the traction handles.
For a beginner, you can hold the inverted position for one or two minutes at a time until your body gets used to the upside-down position.
Revert to an Upright Position
You have numerous options when you need to return to an upright position. Most inversion tables feature a rail that you can grab with your hands and use it to raise the inverted table.
Grab the handles and pull gently to initiate the upward swing of the table. Alternatively, you can lower your hands and let the table return to a horizontal and then upright position.
If your spine lengthens a little bit, as is bound to happen after an inversion, the table might not come to an upright position even with your arms by your side.
If this happens, bend your knees and pull your bum towards your knees. The weight shift that results is enough to bring the table back to the upright position.
Doing a Full Inversion
After you get comfortable with being upside down, you might want to try a complete inversion. At this point, you need to remove the tether strap that limits the angle at which the table stops. From there, you need to secure your feet and lean back into the table. Lift both your arms overhead to invert the table.
The table will pivot at a faster rate compared to when you’re doing a partial invert, but that is to be expected as it has a steeper range of descent.
Should the table stop a few degrees short of a vertical position, push off the bars until it locks out.
Once you are in an upside-down position, you can opt to relax or perform some exercises to add some extra decompression to the spine.
You can rotate your back from side to side, perform some stretches, sit-ups or squats. However, you shouldn’t attempt any exercise that will cause additional damage to your back.
Once you’re ready to return to an upright position, grab the back of the table with one hand and the A-Frame with the other hand.
Pulling your hands together will cause the table to swing up and out of the locked position. Putting your arms to the side and bending your knees will propel you into an upright position.
What You Need to Know About a Herniated Disc
A herniated disc, also known as a ruptured disc, refers to a problem with the soft rubbery discs that are nestled between each of the bones of your spine.
Each disc comprises of two parts – a tough, rubbery exterior casing, annulus, and a soft core, nucleus, made of jellylike material. When undue pressure is placed on the disc, it tears or ruptures, causing the nucleus to push through the gaps.
When the jellylike core pushes through the tears, it lies on the nerves radiating from the spinal column through the vertebrae. The added weight and pressure irritate the nerve endings which results in chronic pain, leg or arm weakness, or numbness.
The symptoms depend on the location of the raptured spine on your spinal column. Bulging discs are common in the lower back but can also affect the neck region.
A herniated disc in the lower back often manifests as a pain in the calf, thigh, buttocks, or foot. Shoulder and arm pain are typical of a bulging disc in the neck. Herniated discs are characterized by a burning or sharp pain that might radiate into your leg or arm after you make specific movements, sneeze, or cough.
Tingling, numbness, and weakness occur when the nerves that serve those regions are affected by the bulging disc. Sometimes, you may not experience any of these symptoms only to have a herniated disc show up on a spinal image.
Is Inversion Therapy Effective for a Herniated Disc Treatment?
When you’re turned upside down, the space between your vertebrae discs increases, and that removes the herniated disc from the nerves.
That additional space also encourages the nucleus to return into the disc, reducing the pinch on the nerves.
Since it eliminates the undue pressure in the nerves, inversion therapy is an effective way to deal with a herniated disc without resorting to surgery.
In a study carried out by Newcastle hospital, researchers found that using an inversion table reduced the need for spinal surgery by up to 70%.
In addition to treating herniated discs, inversion therapy provides relief from back pain, sciatica, muscle spasms, degenerative disc disease, and more.
Chronic back pain is often a symptom of a problem with the spine. When you have a spinal injury, the body tenses up the muscles around that area to protect the injured part from further damage.
It is recommended that you try inversion therapy for at least two weeks, but you need to clear it with your doctor first. Two sessions of 10 minutes every day spread across several months has been found effective in treating a herniated disc.
To harness the full benefits of inversion therapy when looking to treat a herniated disc or any back-related problem, you need to invert your body to 60 degrees.
However, it is not advisable to go for a full inversion during the initial stages as aggressive inversion may prove to be counterproductive. A total reversal with a torn disc may cause additional travel and further damage your spine.
Instead, keep the recline between 20 and 30 degrees to let your body adjust when starting inversion therapy. Even at these shallow angles, you will feel the effects of inversion therapy as the table eases the pressure off your spinal column.
Research shows that patients experience pain relief within 10 seconds of being in an inverted position.
When You Should not Use an Inversion Table
Inversion therapy is not ideal for everyone, as hanging upside down comes with a few risks. Inversion causes your heartbeat to slow down, which might raise your blood pressure.
Therefore, you should not attempt inversion therapy when suffering from a heart condition or circulation issues.
Inversion tables are also not recommended for people suffering from spinal fractures, for they are best suited for treating people with lower back pain only. Pregnant women, people who have osteoporosis or have hip and knee problems are advised against inversion table therapy.