Are Inversion Tables Good or Bad?
Recently a friend called me up and asked me:
“Amy, what do you think of inversion tables? I am thinking of getting one to help with my low back pain but I wanted to get your opinion first”
To which I stated the only response I ever give in this situation, which is:
“Tell me more”
My friend has been suffering with low back pain that travels down his leg for months. He works in shipping so he is driving big trucks for a living and they have been super busy recently. When he gets to the location he has to unload the truck into the store. Obviously, this is someone who is very active. And, his job requires him to remain active.
He has been seeing a massage therapist which helps to decrease the low back pain for a few days. It comes back when he goes back to work and shoots down his leg when he is driving. No matter how often he gets a massage this pattern keeps repeating.
However, when the massage therapist pulls on his leg he gets a rush of warm sensation that seems to make the leg feel better - until he returns to work. He was thinking that an inversion table would reproduce the sensation of someone pulling his leg which would help him feel better on a regular basis.
First off, if you are seeing a provider who is offering short term relief for your symptoms then you are not getting to the root of the problem. They are most likely helping to decrease symptoms by working around the problem. In this case, the massage therapist is helping to decrease the muscle tension.
However, the root of the problem that is causing the pain in the low back and leg is not being addressed. His problem is more than just does not muscle tension that is causing his low back pain. There is a root cause that is making the muscles tense. And, if you keep rubbing the muscles you will keep getting the same result. Short term relief without the long term healing that your body needs.
The problem will keep coming back.
Now, what about that inversion table? He does get short term relief from having his leg pulled so would he get longer term benefit from hanging upside down for a period of time? Well, in this case the answer is: NO.
I see this so often. I once had a patient who came crawling through my door with horrible low back pain and leg pain. He couldn’t even stand up straight or drive a car. The pain prevented him from sleeping or performing either of his jobs.
See, this patient needed to sit for long periods of time while working on a computer AND also did contracting work that required repetitive bending and lifting. He was at both ends of the scale requiring sedentary positions for a prolonged period of time so that he could do computer work. But, he also needed the ability to be able to bend, lift, twist, and carry heavy loads as a contractor.
He was ecstatic a few weeks later when he was able to stand, drive, sleep, and sit for 2 hours without low back or leg pain. He was pretty sure I was a miracle worker. And, then his dad told him he should try using an inversion table so that he could help himself heal faster. This patient brought the idea of an inversion table to me to ask my opinion.
My response was emphatic: “NO! You can never get on an inversion table. EVER”
You see, this patient had a disc that was not working correctly. You might call it a herniated disc or a ruptured disc. The point is that his disc did not have the integrity required for an inversion table. I knew that if this patient used an inversion table he would undue all of his hard work and progress to this date.
But, he did get on the inversion table. And, he lost all the progress he had made up to that point. He came limping back into my office after the weekend and asked me to fix it all over again. Which I did. But it hurt my heart that he went through weeks of pain and suffering all over again because of one bad decision.
Why did he decide to use an inversion table?
Because his dad had great results with the table. He used it 3 times a week to manage his low back symptoms and had never felt better in his life. Now, I never met his dad in person or did an evaluation on him. My educated guess would be that his dad had a problem where his spine didn’t move enough. While his son had a problem where his spine liked to move too much.
Different problems need different solutions!
Your low back pain is different than your parents’ low back pain or your next door neighbors problem. And, you need to understand the root cause of your low back pain so that a clear treatment program can be developed to help you heal. Which allows you to do all the things you want to - standing, walking, sitting, sleeping, exercising- pain free.
If you are interested in finding out more about how we get to the root of your low back pain then I encourage to click here to sign up for one of our Free Discovery Visits. This visit is perfect for people who want to understand more about what is going on specifically with them and their low back pain. Or for people who are tired of trying solutions that seem to work for everyone else but are not working for them.
After the Discovery Visit, we can decide if your low back problem is a good fit for what we offer at PT4EB. We can discuss the next steps on your path to completely healing your low back pain. If you choose to move forward with us we can do a full evaluation. Then we can create a plan to get you back to doing the things you love.
See, during the Discovery Visit we decide TOGETHER on what your goals are. This is done through a process of listening to your story and hearing what you want to achieve in your life. Then we work together to create objective goals so you see progress in your day to day life.
We here at PT4EB realize that “having full active range of motion of your lumbar spine” may not be an important goal for you. But, being able to complete an entire yoga class pain free might be important. Or bending over to pick up your child from the crib could be something you need to be able to do without pain searing down your leg. Some people are looking to eliminate pain when they roll over in bed so they can sleep through the night.
Now, back to the inversion table question – Are inversion tables good or bad?
The answer is – inversion tables are a tool that may help you to relieve your low back pain. Just like any other tool or piece of equipment that you can buy it is not innately good or bad. A tool must be used correctly in order to produce good results. And, it must be the right tool for the job that needs to be done.
And, the important question – Should you use an inversion table?
I cannot tell you from this far away because I do not know your story, I haven’t seen you move, and I haven’t felt your back. What I can promise you is that I will be able to answer this question clearly and concisely once we have worked together. Once I understand your specific body then I am able to use my knowledge and experience to provide you with personal, concrete answers about what is best for your body.
If you would like to start your journey with us, I encourage you to Request a Discovery Visit. During this visit you can get your questions answered regarding how we help you heal your back and provide you with the tools to maintain that progress for years to come.