Inversion therapy helps alleviate back, neck, and even shoulder pain. But what effect does it have on your joints, mainly your knees? Learn about using an inversion table for knee pain.
How Inversion Tables Help Your Body
Inversion therapy is a method of physical therapy that involves hanging upside down for short intervals to reverse gravity’s harsh effects on the spine. Studies have shown that it is an effective form of spinal traction, creating space between vertebrae, stretching the spine, and allowing spinal discs to heal (1).
An inversion table is one of several devices used to accomplish this method of spinal traction. Strap your feet into one of these cushiony tables and either raise your arms or take advantage of handrails to invert your body to the angle of your choice. Once inverted, you should feel your spine gently elongate and decompress.
Inversion tables are designed to relieve the lower back, neck, and spine. However, when incorporated into your daily workout routine, they can also help users develop better flexibility by stretching various muscle groups and building core strength by performing different exercises while inverted (2). If you exercise on your inversion table, do so safely and cautiously.
Treating Chronic Pain With Inversion Therapy
For patients suffering from chronic pain, especially in the back or neck, inversion therapy gives nearly instant relief as soon as they reach their ideal inversion angle.
Though this method will not permanently eliminate chronic pain, it can drastically reduce its intensity and frequency without requiring surgeries or medicines.
It’s essential to remember that inversion therapy only works when practiced safely and consistently. The name of the game is not to invert your body to an extreme degree for an hour once per month and expect pain relief.
Practicing inversion therapy in this way is dangerous and could worsen your pain. Instead, it would help if you aimed for short sessions and gradually increased your inversion angle over time, following your doctor’s or physical therapist’s instructions.
Potential Risks for Knees
Those suffering from knee and back or neck pain should use caution when practicing inversion therapy. As your spine stretches during inversion, supporting it falls to your joints. The added stress from hanging upside down may negatively impact your knees, other joints, and nerves. Thus, your knee pain might worsen, or the pain could even spread to another area.
What Could Be Causing Your Knee Pain?
Knee pain is a chore to handle, especially because pinpointing the source of your pain is often tricky. You should consult a medical professional for an official diagnosis, but here are some common causes of knee pain according to the Mayo Clinic (3):
- Rheumatoid arthritis. A chronic autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its joints, including the knees.
- Pseudogout. Calcium crystal deposits form in the knee, causing pain and swelling.
- Osteoarthritis. The most common type of arthritis is the everyday wear and tear that your knees endure.
- Dislocated kneecap. The patella slides outside of its place in the knee.
- Fracture. The patella and other bones in the knee can be broken, especially in osteoporosis patients.
- Knee bursitis. The bursae, sacs of fluid that provide padding to the knee joint, may become inflamed after an injury.
Inversion Table for Knee Pain
When using an inversion table with knee pain, here are a few general tips to keep in mind to ensure you don’t further aggravate these crucial joints:
- Find an inversion angle that does not place too much extra stress on your knees and other joints. Start small and increase the angle gradually. Those with knee problems may want to avoid full inversion.
- Use safety straps. Everyone should utilize the safety straps when practicing therapy with an inversion table. Still, it can be beneficial for knee pain sufferers to have a quick way to bring themselves back upright if they begin to experience pain or stress.
- Stay inverted for a maximum of a few minutes per session. The shorter your session duration, the less time your knees will be subjected to extra stress.
Stretches for Knee Pain
Here are a few easy stretches you can do to alleviate knee pain with or without an inversion table:
- Hamstring stretch. Lie flat on your back with your legs straight. Raise one leg, placing your hands behind your thigh, and gently pull your knee toward your chest. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat with the other leg.
- Quad stretch. Stand near a chair or wall for support. Bend one knee, grab your ankle and gently pull it toward your backside. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat on the other leg.
- 5 Best Inversion Exercises That Can Change Your Life
- Inversion Table Exercises for Back Pain, Strength, & Muscles
Bring a Buddy – Why You Shouldn’t Invert Alone
The last thing anyone wants is to wind up upside down with no way to correct themselves. Even with safety mechanisms like straps in place, getting stuck on an inversion table is still possible. For this reason, you should always have someone around who can help you during your sessions should something go wrong.
For those with extra health concerns, doing at least your first few sessions with a physical therapist may be a good idea. They can help you get comfortable with inversion and find your perfect angle for pain relief.
General Risks of Inversion Therapy
Using an inversion table can be more risky for some people than others. For example, those with heart problems may want to avoid inversion therapy. When your body is inverted, your blood pressure and heart rate increase (4). It can cause problems for anyone with health concerns related to the circulatory system.
If you have any of the following health issues, you should not attempt inversion therapy without instructions from your doctor (5):
- Circulation disorders
- Other eye problems, such as retinal detachments
Talk to Your Physician
You should consult a medical professional before starting inversion therapy or routine physical therapy. They can help you ensure that this treatment is safe for you and the right choice to give you maximum pain relief.
Is it okay to use an inversion table with a knee replacement?
Since the cause of the knee replacement will differ from person to person, it is best to ask your doctor if inversion therapy is safe for you.
What pressure point relieves knee pain?
Three pressure points may relieve knee pain: ST-36, SP-9, and BL-40.
What is the best position for knee pain?
When sleeping, lie on your back or side with a pillow between your knees or beneath them for extra support.
How can I fix my knee pain without surgery?
Aside from the prominent pain medications, you may find relief by wearing a knee brace or trying physical therapy that includes stretching and light exercise.
- Kane, M.D. et al. “Effects of Gravity-Facilitated Traction on Intervertebral Dimensions of the Lumbar Spine.” The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 6, no. 5, 1985, pp. 281-8, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18802302.
- Vernon, Howard et al. “Inversion Therapy: A Study of Physiological Effects.” The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 135-40, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2484360.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Knee Pain.” Mayo Clinic, 11 May 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/knee-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20350849.
- Heng, M.K. et al. “Changes in Cardiovascular Function During Inversion.” International Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 69-73, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1544738.
- Domangue, Meegan. “Inversion Tables…Good or Bad?” The Spine Center, 2022, https://spinecenterbr.com/inversion-tablesgood-or-bad.