Are you looking for relief from your upper body pain?
Or you want to spice up your workout routine with a new exercise method. Inversion tables are the perfect all-in-one health and fitness solution, helping relieve various forms of back, neck, and shoulder pain, all while strengthening muscles throughout your body.
Keep reading to learn more about inversion therapy and the different types of inversion table exercises that fit your health routine.
What Is Inversion Therapy?
Inversion therapy involves hanging upside down for short intervals of time. It can be performed with various devices, though the most common gadget tends to be an inversion table.
This form of physical therapy aims to reverse the pull of gravity on the spine, thus relieving spinal pressure and any pain that comes with it. It may be a practical part of treatment plans for herniated discs, sciatica, scoliosis, etc.
Suppose you practice inversion therapy with a consistent routine. In that case, you may expect to experience some or all of the following benefits (1):
- Relieve back, neck, and shoulder pain.
- Release tension in muscles.
- Promote better posture.
- Rehydrate spinal discs.
- Lessen nerve pressure.
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Placing your body in an inverted position can be dangerous for some, especially those with specific health problems. For example, as your upper body hangs upside down, your blood pressure will increase, and your heart rate will decrease. Therefore, it may risk those with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular issues.
Do not attempt inversion therapy if any of these pre-existing conditions apply to you (2):
- High blood pressure.
- Eye diseases like glaucoma.
- Heart disease.
- Ear problems.
- Past stroke.
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Examples of Inversion Table Exercises
Depending on why you need an inversion table and how accustomed you are to using one, you may find that different exercises suit your needs more than others.
Look at these examples of inversion exercises to help you envision the perfect exercise routine to add to your physical therapy sessions.
If you’re using an inversion table, you may want to stick with more straightforward exercises that don’t require much movement. Stretches may be the perfect starting point. For example, a simple overhead stretch helps release tension in your spine.
To perform an overhead stretch, extend one arm above your head and reach upward gently until you feel a stretch (3). Hold for a few seconds, then perform the same action with your other arm to stretch your opposite side.
Sciatica involves pain associated with the sciatic nerve. This pain usually occurs when the nerve is pinched or compressed by a herniated disc or a bone overgrowth (4).
Inversion tables can be great for relieving sciatica pain. The sciatic nerve is located along your spine, so decompressing your spine helps alleviate the pressure pinching the nerve and causing you pain.
To perform a more intense decompression exercise, you can hold onto the top of your inversion table (many have a bar near the top for this purpose) and carefully pull upward. It provides extra decompression for your lower back, where most sciatica pain typically occurs.
Herniated discs are one of the most common causes of back pain. A herniated disc is a condition in which a piece of one of your spinal discs bulges through a weakened part of your spine (5). It places extra pressure on nearby nerves, resulting in lower back pain.
Inversion tables can help alleviate back pain associated with herniated discs by, once again, reducing pressure on the spine. As you widen the space between your vertebrae, the disc no longer puts pressure on your nerves, allowing you to experience pain relief.
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Since herniated discs often cause pain in the lower region of your back, adding a lower back stretch to your physical therapy session may be helpful. To stretch the lower back:
- Begin with one arm raised above your head while the other holds the inversion table.
- Use the hand anchored on the table to push to the other side while rotating your hips gently.
- Hold for a few seconds, then repeat facing the other direction.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that usually forms during adolescence (6). Severe scoliosis can result in deformities or affect your posture. At the same time, mild cases may be accompanied by bouts of back pain.
Inversion tables cannot correct scoliosis, but they can relieve back pain associated with curvature of the spine. They can also strengthen your core muscles, which may help correct your posture.
Inverted crunches or sit-ups can give an extra workout to your core muscles while practicing inversion therapy. To perform inverted crunches, cross your arms on your chest and carefully crunch forward. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat.
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Exercises like inverted crunches require extra movement and agility, so don’t try them unless you have permission from your doctor. Also, use extra caution while practicing inversion table exercises if you have pre-existing conditions like scoliosis, as you could injure yourself further.
According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common causes of neck pain include nerve compression and worn joints (7). Depending on the precise cause of your neck pain, an inversion table may provide some relief.
One relatively simple inversion exercise to alleviate neck pain is the neck stretch. To perform a neck stretch while inverted, place one hand on the opposite side of your head and gently guide your head toward your shoulder. Hold this position for a few seconds, then release and make the same motion on the other side.
Your back is a rather large and complex area of your body. As a result, you may experience pain in the upper back, mid back, lower back, or entire region. Depending on where you experience pain and the cause of your pain, an inversion table could help you feel better.
Most inversion exercises are designed to alleviate lower back pain. However, some can relieve upper back pain as well. For example, a rotation exercise can stretch the muscles in your upper back and relieve the tension built up in that area.
To do a rotation exercise on your inversion table, cross one arm over your torso and hold onto the other side of the table. Following in the same direction, carefully rotate your torso and hips and place your other arm on top of your head. Make sure your body remains centered on the table for the duration of the exercise. Then, hold a few seconds, release, and perform the same motion on the other side.
Shoulder pain often accompanies neck or back pain when pain in other areas significantly impacts your posture or creates extra tension. Though inversion tables are mainly designed to relieve pain in the back, some exercises can also be good for your shoulders.
Side arches are an excellent inversion exercise for stretching your shoulders. To perform a side arch, start with both arms above your head. Then, gently move your body into a “C” shape by beginning at the waist and curving so your hip and shoulder move toward each other.
Hold this position for a few seconds, then release and do the same movement on the other side of your body.
How long should you lay back on an inversion table?
First, it would help if you began with short sessions, anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes, and slowly worked your way upward once your body adjusted to being upside down.
Some people may eventually be able to stay inverted for up to 10 to 20 minutes per day.
Remember that staying inverted for too long can be dangerous and could even aggravate your pre-existing conditions.
Follow the instructions of your physician carefully to ensure you practice physical therapy in the safest way possible for you.
Does an inversion table strengthen your core?
Inverted squats and inverted crunches are great for veteran inversion table users.
Beginners should start slow and mainly focus on stretching exercises.
Anyone with pre-existing health conditions or intense neck, back, or shoulder pain should exercise caution on their inversion table.
Talk to your doctor first to ensure inversion exercises are safe for you.
How do I get the best results from an inversion table?
Customize your inversion routine to fit your needs by inverting at a comfortable angle and performing stretches or exercises geared toward relieving your specific type of pain.
To see results, you also need to practice consistently. Use your table daily or at least as often as your physician has instructed.
If you need help planning an inversion table routine, visit a physical therapy clinic.
- Teeter. “The Benefits of Inversion.” Teeter, 18 September 2016, https://teeter.com/blog/benefits-of-inversion.
- Bernstein, Susan. “What Are Inversion Tables?” WebMD, 23 August 2021, https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/what-are-inversion-tables.
- “TEETER EP-960 Inversion Table User Guide.” Teeter, 28 July 2022, https://manuals.plus/teeter/ep-960-inversion-table-manual.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sciatica.” Mayo Clinic, 13 September 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sciatica/symptoms-causes/syc-20377435.
- “Herniated Disc Disorders.” Penn Medicine, 2022, https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/herniated-disc-disorders.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Scoliosis.” Mayo Clinic, 4 May 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scoliosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350716.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Neck Pain.” Mayo Clinic, 25 August 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/neck-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20375581.