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How Do Inversion Tables Work?
and Can They Help My Back Pain?

How do inversion tables work? A back pain inversion table is used to place traction or stretch on the spine.

Traction is a well known and accepted treatment for relief of back pain and sciatica. It can rehabilitate the intervertebral discs and make more room for the nerves as they exit the lumbar spine.

"treatment for back pain for over 2000 years"

Inversion therapy, or hanging upside down, has been used as a treatment for back pain for over 2000 years. Hippocrates understood, "How do inversion tables work?". There are reports of him securing patients to ladders, then using ropes and pulleys to raise one end of the ladder, inverting the patient.

Modern day back pain inversion tables consist of a small pad or a cot that you lie on with your feet held in place by gravity boots. You then slowly pivot into an inverted position. You can control the angle of the bed to find an angle that you are comfortable with.

"start slowly and proceed with caution"

When using a back pain inversion table, it is important to start slowly and proceed with caution. This is important, especially for the first few treatments, until you understand, "How do inversion tables work?" There are some conditions that may be made worse, so if you have any increased pain or other undesirable side effects, inversion therapy may not be for you.

A back pain inversion table works by reversing the forces of gravity and uses the weight of your body to stretch the lumbar spine. This can be effective in treating back pain caused by lumbar disc problems, or sciatica, or poor posture.

 "like a shock absorber between the vertebrae"

The intervertebral lumbar disc is composed of two parts, a tough ligament around the outer edge called the annulus, and a softer jelly-like center called the nucleus pulposis. 

The disc functions like a shock absorber between the vertebrae. A disc herniation occurs, when the annulus develops a crack or split and allows part of the nucleus to herniate out of the disc. 


How do inversion tables work?
Gently stretching the spine pulls the annulus taut, and creates a negative pressure within the disc, which pulls water into the disc.

This can reduce a bulging disc, or improve a herniated disc. When the disc takes in more water, it can also make the disc taller, opening up the space for the nerves.

The neural foramen or the opening where the nerves exit the spinal canal is between the vertebrae. Half of the opening is in the upper vertebra and half of the opening is in the lower vertebra.


How do inversion tables work?
When the disc that separates the vertebra, is a little fuller or taller, it makes more room for the nerves as they exit the canal.

Foraminal stenosis is a narrowing of the foramen, or opening, this may put pressure on the nerve as it passes through the foramen. If you have sciatica, or buttock and leg pain caused by foraminal stenosis, inversion therapy may be a very effective treatment.

If you are having back pain caused by poor posture, such as sitting all day hunched over a desk, your muscles and ligaments become short and tight putting pressure on sensitive structures such as the disc.


How do inversion tables work?
Inversion therapy can reduce your pain by stretching tight muscles and ligaments and relieving the pressure on the intervertebral discs.

Of course, you must also correct your environment at the desk. Get a chair without arms that you can move in close to the desk. Get a small towel to use as a lumbar roll, place it in the small of your back.

"so that you can sit in an upright position"

Pay attention to the position of your body; sit up straight, with your head up, and your forearms lying on the desk. Adjust the position of your monitor, your keyboard, and your chair, so that you can sit in an upright position.

Exercises to improve your posture can also be useful to strengthen the important muscle groups that can hold you in a better position.

Learn More: 
Do Inversion Tables Work? 
Ch2 More Information About Lumbar Traction

Maybe these can also help:

Return from How Do Inversion Tables Work? to Back Pain Treatments

Return to Living with Back Pain

Low Back Pain Exercises

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