Upside Down ---Top 10 Health Benefits
of  Inversion Therapy
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December 17, 2012, last updated May 15, 2014


By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist






Want to see the world, and your health, from a different
perspective? Some people hang upside down to prevent
swollen legs and varicose veins. Many claim that the blood
rushing to their head improves concentration and mood. Others
swear a short stint upside down cures
back pain.  Should you
make like a bat and improve your well-being through inversion
therapy? How does having your head below your feet help
your health?

What is Inversion Therapy?

Inversion therapy has been around a long time  – inversion has
been talked about since 400 BC when Hippocrates, the father
of modern medicine, monitored patients being hung from a
ladder in the interests of their health.

Inversion therapy means hanging upside down on a specially
manufactured table or equipment designed to hold you the
wrong way round. Inversion therapy applies gentle traction –
pulling power – to your spine through the action of gravity.

Why is Upside Down Therapy Beneficial?

Those that swear by inversion and its benefits say that
inversion therapy helps correct the imbalances effected by
gravity. Because we spend most of our life sitting or standing,
blood is pulled down into our lower body and our circulation
grows progressively sluggish. Hanging upside down reverses
the blood flow temporarily, which allows more blood and
oxygen to reach the brain. Inversion therapy is also said to be
great for your spine. Gravity, and day-to-day stresses like
running or walking, can also affect your back, reducing the
space between your vertebrae which leads to pressure on the
discs and to pain and discomfort.

If you suffer from back pain you may be paying close attention
to the possibility of an inversion therapy cure. How effective is
inversion for treating back pain? And can being upside down
on a table or in a yoga pose help treat other health conditions?
We looked at the available scientific evidence to see how being
upside down can bring health benefits.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Inversion Therapy




























1. Inversion Therapy for Back Pain

The best-known use for inversion therapy is treating back pain.
In theory, the act of being upside down for a short period of
time takes away gravity’s pressure on the spongy discs and the
nerves in your spine.

Inversion therapy, proponents say, increases the space
between each of your vertebrae which results in less back pain.
Inversion therapy may even help realign the spine and improve
the posture. A 1998 study from Yüzüncü Yil University, Van,
Turkey showed inversion therapy successfully widened the
space between vertebrae to approximately 3mm for each disc.
The researchers looked at 30 patients who suffered from lower
back pain as a result of disc hernia and degeneration.

2.
Inversion Therapy Helps You Avoid Lumbar Disc Surgery

Hanging upside down on a special inversion device significantly
reduces the need for lumbar disc surgery, according to the
authors of a 2012 study from James Cook University Hospital,
Middleborough, UK. Researchers treated 26 patients with
sciatica awaiting surgery for pure lumbar discogenic disease
with inversion therapy and physiotherapy, or physiotherapy
alone. Surgery was avoided in 76.9 percent of the inversion
group, but was averted in only 22.2 percent of the
physiotherapy-only group.

3.
Upside Down Therapy can Increase Spine Length

Acting like a bat and spending some time hanging upside down
increases spinal length, according to LJ Nosse who published
the article “Inverted spinal traction” in 1978. The study
concluded that inversion therapy significantly increased spine
length in 20 healthy male patients.

4.
Return to Work More Quickly With Inversion Therapy

Back pain is the cause of thousands of lost working hours
every year and if you have ever suffered from back pain you’ll
know how debilitating it can be. Inversion therapy may help
back pain sufferers get back on their feet and back to work
more quickly, according to experts. A 1964 study by F Sheffield
entitled “Adaptation of Tilt Table for Lumbar Traction” looked
at 175 patients who were not able to work due to back pain. Of
these patients, 155 were able to return to work full time after
eight sessions of inversion therapy. The researchers suggested
that inversion therapy was successful because the muscles and
ligaments were stretched and the distance between the
vertebrae increased, lessening pain.  

5.
Are There Any Dangers Linked with Inversion Therapy?

Upside down therapy is not for everyone. The head-below-
heart position can cause problems for people with high blood
pressure, glaucoma, and heart disease.

When you are inverted your blood pressure increases, as does
the pressure in your eyeballs.  (Read more about
how high
blood pressure affects your eyes.)

A 1986 study by EM Haskvitz and WP Hanten revealed systolic
and diastolic blood pressure increased significantly following
two minutes of inversion therapy. A 1988 study from the
University of Connecticut also showed that inversion therapy
increased pressure in the arteries surrounding the eyes. A 1988
study from the Northern Illinois University suggested medical
screening before using inversion devices is essential due to
increases in blood pressure and an increase in the heart’s
workload.  (Read more about
natural remedies for high blood
pressure.)

Who shouldn't do inversion? Check with your doctor before
beginning inversion therapy if you have high blood pressure,
glaucoma, heart or circulatory disorder, osteoporosis, or if you
are pregnant.

6.
Inversion Therapy to Reduce Pressure on Swollen Legs?

A short spell upside down is said to stimulate the circulation,
which in turn may help lessen
swelling in the legs and improve
varicose veins.
Varicose veins occur when the valves in your leg
veins weaken and circulation back to the heart is reduced.
Blood begins to pool in the veins and they enlarge in certain
places.

Scientific evidence on whether inversion therapy can help
improve leg swelling and varicose veins is not sufficient to draw
conclusions, although many people believe it makes a
difference.

Several yoga poses where your legs are raised above your
head, including the shoulder stand, help your blood drain back
towards the heart and reduce the pressure on your leg veins.

7.
How Inversion Therapy Helps Renal Stones

Inversion therapy is a valuable tool for assisting the passage of
renal stone fragments after shockwave therapy, according to
experts completing a 2005 study at the National University of
Singapore. Patients received four sessions of inversion therapy
one to two weeks following their treatment for renal stones, a
practice which was deemed successful in clearing stone
fragments. Inversion therapy may assist the body in squeezing
lymph fluid around the body, which helps with the removal of
waste products.

8.
Inversion Therapy Can Reduce Neuromuscular Tension

Experts suggest that inversion therapy helps ease your lower
back pain because the treatment reduces neuromuscular
tension. This is according to a 1985 study by HA deVries HA
and R Cailliet titled “Vagotonic effect of inversion therapy upon
resting neuromuscular tension.”

In the study on 12 healthy subjects,  neuromuscular tension
was reduced on average by 28.3 percent after inversion
therapy compared with 7.1 percent in the control group.
Researchers said that two minutes of inversion was enough to
give results that lasted up to two hours. (Read more about
natural remedies for back pain.)

Moreover, in contrast to the study above which found that
hanging upside down can increase your blood pressure, this
study took the blood pressure of participants before and after
inversion and found no changes.   What do we make of this?
First, more studies are needed of course. But, whatever teh
effects on blood pressure of hanging upside down, they appear
to be temporary. Limit your inversion to a two minutes. And, if
you already have
high blood pressure, check your blood
pressure immediately after and within an hour after inversion
to see if there are any changes.

9.
What’s the Minimum Time Needed Upside Down?

It’s a mistake to think that because two minutes of inversion
therapy is beneficial for back pain then 10 minutes will produce
even better results – the rise in blood pressure plus the
extended, unaccustomed pressure on the joints can cause
problems if you hang upside down for too long.

Research in 2000 by the Wentworth Falls Physiotherapy,
Rehabilitation and Sports Injuries Centre, Sydney, Australia
demonstrated that large forces are not necessary to produce
separation between the vertebrae and low “doses” of inversion
therapy are enough to achieve benefit.

Stick to periods of one to two minutes upside down, and seek
professional advice before you use an inversion machine.

10.
Can Being Upside Down Treat Urinary Incontinence?

Evidence is scarce on this one, but it seems inversion therapy
may have a use in treating urinary incontinence. A 1996 study
by the Complete Care Centre, Michigan looked at two female
patients with urinary incontinence who received two weeks on
an inversion therapy table for 5 minutes a day. Their urinary
incontinence resolved, but further research is needed on this
issue.  (Read more about
natural remedies for incontinence.)




























































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