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What is inversion therapy?

Inversion therapy is a technique where you are suspended from a few degrees from horizontal to upside down to stretch the spine and relieve back pain. The theory is that by shifting the body’s gravity, pressure eases off the back while also providing traction for the spine.

Does research support the benefits of inversion therapy?

Those who support inversion therapy claim that the technique can resolve and prevent back problems. They also believe the stretching and circulatory benefits can help prevent future related health issues. But studies are inconclusive about if inversion therapy works.

In theory, inversion exercises should help the spine by:

  • creating more protective fluid around spinal discs

  • removing waste from the spine

  • decreasing inflammation

  • increasing blood circulation through surrounding muscles

Here’s what the research says about four potential benefits of inversion therapy.

1. Reduced back pain

One study looked at 47 people with chronic low back pain and inversion therapy. They practiced inversion therapy in 3 three-minute sets at different angles. The study found that inversion therapy at 60 degrees reduced back pain after eight weeks. It also improved torso flexibility and strength.

2. Improved spinal health

In theory, inversion therapy can improve the space between your spinal discs and relieve pressure. Activities such as sitting, running, and bending can put pressure on these discs. The pressure increases the risk for back pain, a collapsed vertebra, and other complications.

3. Increased flexibility

Practicing inversion therapy may also translate to better flexibility. Small movements in the spine over time may help make the body stronger. You may find it easier to bend and reach. Inversion therapy is also thought to improve posture. This might be especially helpful if you have a desk job.

4. Reduced need for surgery

One 2014 study suggests that the zero-gravity nature of inversion can reduce compression. The authors of the study also noted that inversion may potentially prevent disability from back problems. This could also reduce the need for spinal surgery.

Another 2012 study from Disability and Rehabilitation found that people with lumbar disease reduced their need for surgery six weeks after using inversion therapy.

Despite these findings, it’s important to note that back problems are complex. Inversion therapy is not a guarantee against surgery nor should it be an alternative treatment for back pain. Talk to your doctor before trying inversion therapy as a treatment or form of exercise.

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