Inversion Therapy

Inversion therapy involves hanging upside down to apply gentle traction to the spine. We explain the benefits of Inversion Therapy and how it can help with back pain.

Inversion was invented as early as 400 B.C. when Hippocrates (the father of medicine) first watched a patient hoisted upside down on a ladder for a dose of 'spinal traction'. Not only can Inversion Therapy help to treat back pain but it can be used to reverse the negative effects of aging on the spine.

Effects of Inversion Therapy

The spine:

Discs separate vertebrae, allow movement and provide shock absorption. Dangerous exercises or constant pounding from running can cause the discs to be compressed. The centre of the disc contains a jelly type liquid which can protrude out and put pressure on the nerves (known as a slipped or herniated disc). Inverted, your body weight applies mild traction to the spine which becomes slightly longer.

This increases the space between the vertebrae and reduces the pressure on the discs. Every nerve in the body leaves the spine through the spaces between the vertebrae. Increasing the space between the vertebrae reduces the pressure on the nerve roots and discs, which means less back pain.

By oscillating up and down on an inversion table a pumping action is created for fluids around the spinal discs forcing waste out and drawing in fluid around the discs. Inversion helps to relax muscles which increases blood flow through the muscles which in turn maintains the muscles in better condition and less likely to cause painful spasms.`

Posture may be improved and conditions such as scoliosis and lordosis may be helped. By reducing muscle spasm, inversion may help to realign the spine (in conjunction with other exercises).


The cardiovascular system consists of the heart and blood vessels. The heart pumps blood around the body. Inverting can help the heart to supply blood more easily to the brain.

The lymphatic system also circulates fluid around the body, mainly to remove waste products from the muscles and other tissues. Unlike the cardiovascular system the lymphatic system has no pump. It relies on muscles squeezing fluid through the lymph vessels around the system. Inversion may assist the passage of lymph fluid up the body and so aid recovery from training by fast removal of waste products.

How often can/should an athlete Invert?

This really depends on why they are inverting. If it is to aid a back problem then initially two to three times a day is advisable. As the problem improves then frequency will be reduced. It is a good idea to include it as part of a general training regime and invert a couple of times a week at least.

What are the possible dangers of Inversion Therapy?

Although this activity is safe we recommend seeking professional medical advice for example from your doctor before using inversion therapy equipment. The following are contraindications for inversion therapy (should not be done): pregnancy, hernia, glaucoma, retinal detachment, conjunctivitis, high blood pressure, recent stroke, heart or circulatory disorders, spinal injury, cerebal sclerosis, swollen joints, osteoporosis, unhealed fractures, surgically implanted supports, use of anticoagulants, ear infection and obesity.