How to Use An Inversion Table For Lower Back Pain

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If you are in your thirties, you have likely experienced throbbing pain in the lower part of your back. Perhaps, you have been frustrated by the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of the phenomenon’s occurrence.

How to Use An Inversion Table For Lower Back Pain

The pain comes suddenly, and you feel helpless and unable to do anything then. However, if it makes you feel better, then you should know that you are not the only young, agile, and virile individual who has experienced this unpleasant situation.

What is Lower Back Pain?

This particular type of pain is known as lower back pain. It can also be sometimes referred to as lumbar spine pain. As a matter of fact, lower back pain takes several forms. It could be a niggling pain developed due to an injury.

Conversely, it could just be spontaneous, without any obvious cause. Still, the lower back pain you are experiencing could be the outward manifestation of a different medical condition. Furthermore, the pain you feel could be a sharp twinge that occurs very briefly.

On the other hand, you can experience back pain over a long time continuously. However, one thing that is quite certain is that lower back pain is both painful and unwanted.

Several ways of dealing with lower back pain have been evolved over the years. While most of these methods have not been medically or scientifically proven beneficial, clear and practical improvements have been noticed among people who have opted for these methods.

Due to the prevalence of lower back pain, we have decided to provide you with a detailed post that deals with one of the most effective methods of treating lower back pain – the use of an inversion table.

We’ll explain just how to use an inversion table for lower back pain. However, before we get to that, let us take a closer look at how lower back pain happens.

Why Do You Experience Lower Back Pain?

To really understand how lower back pain develops in the spine, it might be necessary to delve into a little bit of anatomy. The human vertebral column has thirty-three short bones known as vertebrae. Of these thirty-three vertebrae, the upper 24 are unfused.

This is because they are separated from each other by a thin layer known as an intervertebral disc. The nine vertebrae at the lower part are, however, fused into each other directly.

The spinal cord, which we are more interested in, comprises only the 24 upper segments. It is essential to the body and plays a vital role as the main pathway through which nerve signals are transmitted from the brain to other parts of the body.

Furthermore, it also provides support for the body. The 24 unfused upper vertebrae are classified into three areas based on their location in the spine.

The seven vertebrae at the top are collectively referred to as cervical vertebrae, and the next 12 vertebrae are known as the thoracic vertebrae. At the same time, the remaining five that are found at the tail end of the spine are called lumbar vertebrae.

It is important to know that each vertebra in the column bears the weight of all the vertebrae stacked up on top of it. This then implies that vertebrae located in the lower area bear more weight than those located in the upper part.

This means that the lowest vertebra carries the weight of all the other vertebrae in the spine, while the uppermost vertebra only bears the head’s weight.

This overlying weight exerts pressure on the underlying vertebra. The more the weight, the more the pressure exerted. Consequently, it is normal that the lower vertebrae are more susceptible to wear, tear, and degradation.

Once the lower spine suffers any deformity or sees a significant change in the level pressure, it makes an outward manifestation in the form of back spasms and pain. This is the reason behind the persistence of lower back pain

Inversion Tables for Back Pain

Any mechanism geared towards relieving the pressure on the spine or ameliorating back pain is classified as traction therapy. Nowadays, many different approaches can be used to tackle lower back pain.

However, one of the most popular methods is the use of an inversion table. Inversion therapy is traction therapy in which the individual undertaking the therapy must be ‘inverted.’

By being inverted, you lie at a downward angle so that the head is at a lower level than your legs. It does not necessarily imply that you should turn completely upside down. It is based on the principle of reverse gravity.

If you are in an inverted position, your lower spine will be above the cervical and thoracic vertebrae. This will reduce the weight on your lower spine and, as a result, ease the pain you feel there.

An inversion table itself is a rotating board (switch) that is attached to a metal casing. This enables your body to play out a flip-flop development securely. An astute framework safely keeps your lower legs up.

Thanks to this system, you do not need much effort to put yourself in an inclined or totally inverted position. You will also not feel any distress in your feet and shins while making use of an inversion table.

Essentially, it is a fitness and bodybuilding tool. However, it can also be used to treat back pain or to unwind at night following full-time work. Its advantages are various.

Using an Inversion Table for Lower Back Pain

It is important to know the basic parts of an inversion table to understand how to safely and effectively use it. Below are the basic features of a typical inversion table.

  • Headrest – The headrest is not a constant feature of inversion tables. This is because most inversion tables do not necessarily require one. These inversion tables have cushioned backrests that extend as far as your head. Usually, headrests are extensions of the backrests. Therefore you can have an inversion table that does not come with a headrest.
  • Backrest – A backrest is a guaranteed feature on every inversion table. A backrest is a bed-like part on an inversion table that you lie on when inverting. There are different types and designs of backrests available. You can have an inversion table with a plastic backrest or one with just a durable fabric sewn around the frame. It is also possible to get padded backrests for enhanced comfort. It depends on your desires and budget.
  • Side Handles – A pair of side handles may also be present on either side of an inversion table. You can hold onto them for support and balance when inverting or coming back upright. If you are a newcomer, you will find this useful. People who are experienced in the art of inverting do not really need them.
  • Inversion Angle Limitation System – This is another feature you will find on every inversion table. It allows you to set a maximum angle of inversion if you do not want to invert completely upside down.
  • Inversion Table Frame – The frame holds the backrest. It is usually sturdy and has plastic caps fitted to its base to prevent it from damaging the floor. You should check the weight capacity of an inversion table frame before buying one. This will enable you to know whether it can carry your weight or not.
  • Ankle Securing Lever – This enables you to fasten your ankles in place. It is a spring device that you can adjust to fit your ankles’ size so that you can keep them in place, regardless of their size.
  • Ankle Holders – Ankle holders are a pair of padded rollers or plastic holders shaped like a cup.
  • Footrest– This is where you put your feet when you step onto the table. It is a metal piece that is located just below the ankle holders.

Essentially, aside from additional ostentatious features, these are the basic features of an inversion table. Now that you are familiar with these parts, you can proceed to learn how to use the table. We provide you with a step-by-step guide in the following section.

  1. Assemble the Table

    Assemble The Inversion Table

    Inversion tables, by default, come unassembled from the factory. Therefore, the first thing you need to do when your inversion table arrives is to assemble it into one piece.

    Most manufacturers include a manual/guide which details how to assemble their inversion tables. Therefore, if you follow the manual’s instructions, assembling the inversion table should not be a particularly challenging task.

  2. Adjust the Height of the Inversion Table

    Adjust Height of The Inversion Table

    Once you assemble the inversion table, you can start using it. It is, however, necessary for you to adjust the height to suit your own height. Again, just like the assembling, this is also a simple process.

    Every inversion table has a scale that is located directly below the bed. This scale has the heights that are available for that inversion table listed on it. On the side of the bar, some holes correspond to each marked height.

    You can then adjust the inversion table’s height by allowing the height adjustment tube to slide either up or down, depending on your height, until it gets to your required height.

    All you have to do is pull the adjustment knob that is located on the side of the bar. Do ensure to lock the inversion table to that height by releasing the spring on the adjustment knob.

    Adjusting the height of the table is very important to maintain balance. It enables you to carry on with your inversion in a steady and controllable manner. For example, if you set the table’s height too low for your height, the rate of inversion will be faster than you want.

    Conversely, putting the height too high will make it difficult for you to invert. Hence, it is always recommended that you adjust the height of the table.

  3. Set the Inversion Angle Limit

    Set The Angle of The Inversion Table

    It is not advised that you go all the way down at once when inverting. If you are new to the art of inversion, you should take things gradually and go from low angles before slowly going steeper.

    Thus, manufacturers of inversion tables have a feature that allows you to limit the angle of inversion. Your inversion table will definitely have either a tether strap, a spring pin system, or an iControl brake.

    These devices are included to help you restrict the maximum angle of tilt of inversion. The table will not tilt beyond the preset angle. They are quite easy to use.

    Tether Strap: To use the tether strap as your tilt angle limiting device, adjust its length to suit your preference. This is done the same way you would adjust the adjustable strap on your backpack. The shorter the strap is, the smaller the angle of inversion. In the same vein, a longer strap will allow a steeper angle of inversion.

    Spring Pin System: There are graduated holes that indicate tilt angles of the inversion table. To set a maximum angle of inversion, you only need to put the pin into the hole, which corresponds to your desired angle. There is no hole for 900. Remove the pin completely if you want to go at full tilt.

    iControl Disk Brake System: Some inversion tables make use of a system known as the iControl brake. It is a lever that you can pull to lock the table in place at any angle of your choice.

  4. Inspect the Inversion Table

    Inspect The Inversion Table

    Your safety must come first. Hence, it is always wise to double-check your arrangements and settings to ensure that everything is in order. Check that you have properly carried out the above-mentioned procedure.

    Tilt the table to see the extent of the tilt angle when you are on it. Once you are sure that everything is in the right place, you can step onto the inversion table.

  5. Step Onto the Inversion Table

    Step Onto The Inversion Table

    Once the ankle supports are securely around your legs, you can lower the spring pin into the nearest selector hole to lock the ankle supports in place. Lie firmly on the backrest and make sure you are comfortable.
    You can then put the backrest in motion by simply raising an arm. You are about to begin your journey. So, please relax and enjoy it!


Making use of an inversion table is a cheap and effective way of treating lower back pain. If you plan to obtain one, do so quickly and remember all the steps involved in using an inversion table for lower back pain. You will be glad you did.

Prasad KS, Gregson BA, Hargreaves G, Byrnes T, Winburn P, Mendelow AD. Inversion therapy in patients with pure single-level lumbar discogenic disease: A pilot randomized trial [Abstract]. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2012;34(17):1473-80. Accessed April 12, 2019.

Dr. Lucas Carrera is a board certified physiatrist. He graduated from University of New Hampshire. Dr. Carrera received his medical education from Boston University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Harvard Medical School.