Do you experience chronic back pain? Do you regularly miss out on activities with your loved ones because of your pain?
You’re not alone. According to a study performed by Georgetown University, up to 16 million Americans report suffering from chronic back pain, with many finding it difficult to carry out daily tasks (1).
Locating a solution to your back pain that fits neatly into your lifestyle can be daunting. Popping pain medications provides temporary relief, of course.
But surely there must be another non-surgical way to treat pain quickly, right? If you’re interested in a simple, holistic approach to relieving your back pain, you may want to consider inversion therapy.
Read on to discover more about the ins and outs of inversion therapy and how to use an inversion table for herniated discs and lower back pain.
- Inversion tables may help reduce symptoms and surgery rates in patients with lumbar disc disease and sciatica.
- The study showed that patients who inverted regularly were 50% less likely to need surgery than those who did not invert.
- Teeter inversion tables relieve back pain by decompressing the spine and reducing pressure on the discs and nerves.
- A herniated disc in the L4-L5 spine segment may benefit from an inversion table that allows for mobility, such as performing small exercises while suspended.
- L5-S1 herniated discs may benefit from an inversion table that offers lumbar support or heating functions for increased pain relief.
Understanding the Risks & Benefits of Inversion Therapy for Herniated Disc
An inversion table is a device that allows you to suspend yourself upside down. By hanging upside down, the theory goes, you can decompress your spine and take pressure off a ruptured disc.
Inversion therapy can help improve blood circulation and relieve pain associated with a slipped disc.
A study from Newcastle Hospital shows that using an inversion table may help people who need back surgery.
In the study, some patients did inversion therapy combined with physical therapy, while others only did physical therapy. The results showed that the patients who did inversion therapy were less likely to need surgery.
Here are some of the benefits of using inversion tables:
- It can help with muscle spasms by reducing the amount of tension in the muscles.
- It can help degenerative disc disease by relieving pressure on the discs and nerves and improving blood circulation.
- Decompress and stretch the spine.
- Create space between spinal discs to relieve ruptured disc pain.
While some evidence supports the use of inversion therapy for treating a herniated disc, it’s essential to understand the risks involved.
Inversion therapy can cause an increase in blood pressure and may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions.
Keep these risks in mind as well before you begin using an inversion table:
- Those who have arthritis may be at risk of joint injury.
- Due to increased blood pressure, those with high blood pressure, heart disease, inner ear problems, glaucoma, or other eye troubles may be at risk (2).
If you’re considering using an inversion table for a herniated disc, it’s essential to understand both the risks and benefits.
This information can help you make an informed decision about whether or not this type of treatment is right for you.
Do You Think You Have Herniated Disc?
If you think you may have a herniated disc, you must see a doctor as soon as possible. A herniated disc can be very painful and, if left untreated, can lead to severe complications.
Our spinal discs are a lot like jelly-filled donuts, sporting a firm outer shell that protects their squishy interiors.
A herniated disc occurs when a small portion of a spinal disc’s soft center makes its way through its exterior (3). As a result, it puts extra pressure on the spinal nerves, often resulting in uncomfortable symptoms.
Although herniated discs can happen anywhere along the spinal column, approximately 90% of them occur in the lumbar spine region, most often in the lower back.
Herniated discs are a widespread source of lower back pain, especially in older adults. As you age, the constant tug of gravity may take a tremendous toll on your spine, putting those in their 30s and beyond at increased risk of forming a herniated disc (4).
Causes may include:
- Lifting with the back muscles instead of the leg muscles.
- Straining or twisting movements.
- Natural wear and tear over time.
Symptoms may include:
- Back, arm, leg, or neck pain.
- Muscle weakness.
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the surrounding area.
How to Use an Inversion Table for Herniated Disc
If you’re doing physical therapy, it may be a good idea to begin by using one in your sessions so you can get accustomed to it.
Your physical therapist can help you find the right angle to achieve maximum comfort. They might even suggest exercises to do on the table once you have adjusted.
No matter what, start small and know your limits. Your body needs time to adjust to being upside down, so begin with stretches in short increments and work your way up.
You may not need to go full tilt, either. Anywhere from 20 to 60 degrees can be effective. Test things out slowly and find your sweet spot.
It’s also important to remember that if you’re using any inversion device at home, you should always have a spotter with you. After all, the last thing you want is to somehow wind up stranded upside down.
Finding the Right Inversion Table for You
Not all inversion tables are built the same. The market is full of various models with unique sporting features that set them apart.
Keeping that in mind, there is not necessarily one inversion table that can be called the best for slipped disc treatment. Instead, looking for one that suits your price range and showcases essential features would be best.
However, a recent study by Newcastle University found that inversion therapy using a Teeter inversion table may help reduce symptoms and surgery rates in patients with lumbar disc disease and sciatica.
The study showed that patients who inverted regularly were 50% less likely to need surgery than those who did not invert.
Teeter inversion tables relieve back pain by decompressing the spine and reducing pressure on the discs and nerves.
Let’s take a brief look at how an inversion table may be helpful for those dealing with different areas of slipped discs:
- Inversion table for L4-L5 herniated disc. The L4-L5 spine segment is located near the beltline. A slipped disc in this area may benefit from an inversion table that allows for mobility, such as performing small exercises while suspended.
- Inversion table for L5-S1 herniated disc. The connecting point between two different spinal segments is a particularly vulnerable spine area. Therefore, a ruptured disc in this area may benefit from an inversion table that offers lumbar support or heating functions for increased pain relief.
The Rundown: Are Inversion Tables a Solid Solution for Herniated Discs?
Inversion tables can be an effective natural way to treat a herniated or bulging disc under the right circumstances. In addition, when used safely, their ability to alleviate spinal pressure is excellent for lessening the lower back pain that comes from certain types of slipped discs.
There are many treatments for herniated discs, from medications and surgery to different forms of physical therapy.
We know that finding a way to resolve your herniated disc pain successfully can be a difficult journey full of questions.
This section will address several frequently asked questions about the safety and effectiveness of using inversion tables to treat slipped discs.
Can Inversion Tables Help Herniated Discs?
Inversion tables reverse gravity’s effect on your body to stretch the muscles, joints, and ligaments of your spine.
As a result, it creates space between your vertebrae and eliminates the compression between your spinal discs.
Free from that gravitational pressure, the spinal discs may then be able to heal more effectively. Some soft centers may even be pulled back into the disc, alleviating uncomfortable symptoms (5).
Are Inversion Tables Safe for Herniated Discs?
In most cases, yes! However, as mentioned above, certain factors may put you at risk of injury or stroke when using an inversion table, so exercise caution.
Typically, those with any lumbar instability or experiencing pain outside of the lower back area should not use an inversion table for relief.
Can an Inversion Table Worsen Back Pain?
If you use your inversion table safely, your symptoms should not worsen. Try to start slowly with slight inclines before working your way up.
Inverting too much can be harmful, especially when done quickly, so be careful and ask someone to spot you.
Do Chiropractors Recommend Inversion Tables?
A chiropractor may recommend an inversion table for treating a herniated disc, depending on a patient’s unique circumstances.
Health risks, the injury’s severity, and the discomfort’s location can all factor into the decision.
- “Chronic Back Pain.” Georgetown University, 2022, https://hpi.georgetown.edu/backpain.
- Vernon H, Meschino J, Naiman J. Inversion therapy: a study of physiological effects. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 1985 Sep;29(3):135–40. PMCID: PMC2484360.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Herniated Disk.” Mayo Clinic, 8 February 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/symptoms-causes/syc-20354095.
- Dydyk, Alexander M. et al. “Disc Herniation.” StatPearls Publishing, 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441822.
- Prasad, Manjunath, Gregson, Barbara, Hargreaves, Gerard, Byrnes, Tiernan, Winburn, Philip and Mendelow, Alexander David (2012) Inversion therapy in patients with pure single level lumbar discogenic disease: a randomized pilot trial. Disability and Rehabilitation, 34 (17). pp. 1473-1480. ISSN 0963-8288.
- Hirayama K, Tsushima E, Arihara H, Omi Y. Developing a clinical prediction rule to identify patients with lumbar disc herniation who demonstrate short-term improvement with mechanical lumbar traction. Phys Ther Res. 2019 Apr 20;22(1):9-16. doi: 10.1298/ptr.E9973. PMID: 31289707; PMCID: PMC6599759.