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Inversion Chair Vs. Inversion Table
Inversion, as a therapy, has been around since the time of Hippocrates. The idea that simply turning your body upside down could have health benefits has been an intriguing concept. It is difficult to get into an inverted position and remain relatively comfortable is challenging. Two solutions to that problem have appeared in the market to address that problem -- the inversion table and the inversion chair.
Effects of Inversion Therapy
There has been little hard research regarding the purported health benefits of inversion therapy. Most information is provided by the table or chair vendors. Obviously, hanging upside down changes how your body will be affected by gravity but the degree and types of that change are still undetermined. Although there is a traction created by inversion, the parts of your body system affected remain unclear. There is a lengthening of the muscles, which is especially felt around the torso because the weight of the upper body is pulling away from the waist. Claims of traction opening the space in the intervertebral discs of the spine are unsubstantiated as are clinical benefits of traction for back pain.
Inversion therapy reappeared in the market in the form of the inversion table. This device allows you to recline back against a standing table or cot-like device, strap your ankles in, and lean backwards, thus shifting your weight and causing the table to pivot around an axis near your waist to slowly turn upside down. Returning to an upright position requires shifting your weight again and slowly moving back to where you started. Some tables restricted inversion to about 70 degrees, but others allowed users to hang suspended from ankle cuffs. Problems have been noted with ankle, hip, and knee pain from the traction effect on those joints. If you have a history of injury or arthritis in those joints, you should use caution by starting for short periods of time. For example, most manufacturers recommend starting with as little and one to two minutes per day to evaluate your individual response.
Because people complained about joint pain, a revised design was offered in the form of the inversion chair. The user starts in a seated position with a strap across her lap, which holds her into the seat. When she leans back, the chair slowly turns upside down. This revision allowed traction without the strain on the ankle, knee, or hip. Also, because the user is slightly curled up in the chair, it is easier for her to rotate her body.
Precautions with Inversion Therapy
If you have no history of ankle, knee, or hip problems, you may find the inversion table to be slightly more aggressive. As with all new activities, start with a short period of time and gradually build up. Most manufacturers recommend starting with as little as two minutes and building up to twenty. There are concerns regarding inversion therapy, however. Increased blood pressure in the eyes may occur, and thus, warnings have been given to people who have glaucoma, hypertension, history of stroke, or carotid artery disease. Other concerns have been raised for people with spinal instability or hiatal hernias. People taking blood pressure medications or anti-coagulant therapies should consult their doctor before starting inversion therapy.
- Guidelines for Back Pain
- Precautions for Inversion therapy
- Inversion chair
- Wegner I, Widyahening IS, Van tulder MW, et al. Traction for low-back pain with or without sciatica. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(8):CD003010. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003010.pub5
- McMonnies CW. Intraocular pressure and glaucoma: Is physical exercise beneficial or a risk?. J Optom. 2016;9(3):139–147. doi:10.1016/j.optom.2015.12.001
- Chronic Back Pain. Health Policy Institute. Published February 13, 2019.
- Kong L, Tian W, Cao P, Wang H, Zhang B, Shen Y. Predictive factors associated with neck pain in patients with cervical disc degeneration: A cross-sectional study focusing on Modic changes. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017;96(43):e8447. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000008447
Greg Cooper began writing in 2007 with his book "The Reasonable Radical." He completed undergraduate work at West Virginia University and received his Doctor of Chiropractic from Sherman College. Cooper taught spinal manipulation in orthopedic hospitals in China and was part of a sports medicine team for the 1992 Olympic trials.