It used to be that inversion therapy was considered an alternative back pain treatment, placed in the same category as acupuncture and healing crystals. Today however inversion therapy is considered by many in the medical community a legitimate and effective treatment for a variety of back ailments. For most back pain sufferers, inversion therapy alone will not cause long lasting relief, but it can get your body into shape to begin a more vigorous treatment plan.
What Is Inversion Therapy?
Also referred to as spinal traction, inversion therapy requires the use of an inversion therapy table. The patient is placed on the table, which is then placed on an angle or upside down so that gravity works to separate the vertebra. It helps to decompress discs that have been pushed together, and relieves the pressure placed on the nerve roots by this compression.
Inversion therapy has been shown effective for treating a variety of back problems, including a herniated disc, sciatica, facet joint dysfunction and lower back pain just to name a few. Some medical conditions may prohibit you from engaging in inversion therapy because it may cause the condition to worsen. Ask your physician if you have any illnesses that will bar you from using inversion therapy to treat your back pain.
How It Works
I’ve already explained the basics of inversion therapy, but now it’s time to talk a little about what you’ll experience throughout the inversion therapy treatment. Not all patients will experience a full inversion in the course of their pain therapy as not all patients will be able to handle it for more than a few minutes.
Inversion therapy is a process, one that cannot be rushed, and it is quite time consuming. During the first few weeks of therapy you won’t spend more than a few minutes at a time on the table, and those minutes won’t be spent fully inverted with your feet over your head. In fact, most inversion therapists will only have the table–and therefore you–at a twenty or thirty-degree angle for no longer than 2 or 3 minutes. During the initial couple of weeks of inversion therapy, you won’t spend more than 6 minutes on the table.
Inversion therapy only works if the patient is able to relax on the table. If you are nervous and tense on the table, the therapy will not work and may even cause the pain to worsen due to the tension. If you have a table at home, spend 30 seconds at a time on the table until you feel relaxed. You can request the same in your therapist’s office.
After the first two weeks of therapy, the patient will experience partial inversion which is defined as any angle up to 60 degrees. During this time your physician may gradually increase the angle by a few degrees to make sure you are accustomed to being on the table. By the end of these 2 weeks the patient may be on the table for as long as 15 minutes.
Within six weeks of beginning inversion therapy some patients will have reached the stage where full inversion is possible and necessary. Keep in mind that some patients may experience sufficient decompression to begin other aspects of treatment before they make it to the six-week mark. Those who make it here will be fully inverted for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. If you have your own inversion table at home, your physical therapist will recommend that you spend another 5 to 15 minutes on the table at home after your treatment.
Each patient is different and the time it takes for inversion therapy to work varies. Just allow the therapy time to work, while also doing the other things recommended by your back pain specialist.