Bunchgrasser’s World

My unique filter on life

A nod to inversion therapy for back pain

Posted by bunchgrasser on April 27, 2008

Ok, so let’s talk about back pain for minute. I’m a 41 year old desk jockey who has been coping with chronic back problems for years. I do try to keep a positive attitude about it, but at times the pain rules my life and takes the fun out of certain activities.

Over the years I’ve found limited relief through diligent stretching, back strengthening exercises, chiropractic adjustment, electro-stimulation (TENS), accupuncture, massage, etc. These treatments tend to provide temporary results for me, but haven’t solved the root problem that is causing my back pain. I’m not really open to a surgical or chemical treatment.  

I recently replaced my desk chair in the office with a fitness ball, which is definitely helping to strengthen weak muscles in my back. For any who doubt that sitting in an office chair for a couple of decades leads to atrophied back muscles – try sitting on a fitness ball at the office for one week. I can assure you of two things: One, it will test your resolve. Two, it will reintroduce you to several muscles in your back that haven’t seen action for awhile.

Ok, let’s move on to the reason I’m writing this post. A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a website advertising inversion tables. Claims were made that inversion therapy can be an effective treatment for chronic back pain. In a nutshell the claim is this: over the years gravity compresses the spine, which puts pressure on spinal nerves, which causes pain. Further, the only way to reverse this is to undo the effects of gravity by flipping your world upside down, thereby decompressing your spine. This logic made sense to me, and since it was one of the few options I hadn’t tried – I decided to get one.

I shopped around and found a used inversion table on Craigslist. I ended up buying the Teeter Hangups F5000 partly based on positive reviews, but also because others described it as “very well built” and “very sturdy”. I decided that if I was going to invert myself, I wanted to do so on a safe, stable piece of equipment. The F5000 is definitely stable.

 I setup the table in my living room, adjusted it for my height and secured my feet in the padded ankle clamps. Slowly lifting my arms over my head shifted the balance point and I began to invert. I started feeling the “traction-like” effect on my spine long before reaching full inversion. In fact, it is recommended that you not fully invert right away, opting to gradually work up to that point if necessary.

The first time I inverted, the pressure on my spine was uncomfortable enough that I only lasted for a couple of minutes before returning to an upright position. I took a break and came back for another try about 30 minutes later, and this is when the “magic” happened for me. As I inverted, I felt a lengthening pressure on my spine, and without any warning I heard (and felt) a small pop in my middle back. A very strange sensation to say the least – but ultimately I realized that a specific pain in my middle back that had been plaguing me for months – simply vanished. Needless to say I’m very pleased with the results.

Since that day I’ve been using my table once or twice daily for 5-10 minutes. I am able to fully invert and actually find it very relaxing and peaceful to just hang there, especially if I put on my Ipod and listen to some relaxing music. I do find the padded ankle clamps to be uncomfortable at times and I always wear shoes when inverting. The manufacturer does sell a gravity boot conversion kit as an add-on, but I’m usually okay if I limit my time to 10 minutes or less. I would recommend this for people with back pain. After all, you won’t know if it works until you try. With that said, I’m not a physician and can’t give medical advice, so check with your doctor before doing this.


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