A hang upside down machine, more accurately an inversion table, is a machine used for inversion therapy – which involves the patient being hung upside down (180o) or at an angle that’s not quite upside down but still causes the person to be inverted (they are in a position opposite to what is normal – their feet are higher than their head).
An inversion table is a way for people to invert without the strain that comes with hand balancing (i.e. a handstand) while still maintaining the benefits of inverting and in particular, its use as a method of spinal decompression and traction.
Spinal Decompression and Inversion Tables
Spinal decompression is a recovery method for pinched nerves (too much pressure has been put on a nerve by surrounding body tissues – muscles, cartilage, tendons and bones); located within the spinal column, which can not only cause a tingling sensation, numbing sensation and pain, but can also disrupt the nerve function preventing it from working as normal.
Spinal decompression, and therefore inversion tables, can be used to treat several different problems of which chronic back pain is a symptom, such as spinal stenosis (often in the neck and lower back, caused by a decrease in open spaces within the spine), degenerative spondylolisthesis (caused by facet arthritis and may result in slipped vertebrae) and isthmic spondylolisthesis (when the intervertebral joint – space located between any two adjacent vertebrae; has undergone a slip or a fracture), disc herniation (when a tear in the fibrous outer ring of an intervertebral disc allows the inner softer portion to bulge out beyond the normal confines of the outer ring) and sciatica (caused by irritation or compression to one of the five spinal nerve roots of each sciatic nerve – a nerve that ends at the foot and begins in the lower back, there’s one on each side of the body, left and right; symptoms of sciatica include difficulty when controlling or moving the leg, lower back pain, numbness, weakness or pain in various parts of the leg, pins and needles and buttock pain).
Traction of the spine is a method of spinal decompression and is often carried out in addition to thigh-supported flexed-hip traction (such as inversion chairs) or whole-leg traction (such as inversion tables). Spinal traction can also happen during upright suspension such as certain exercises: dips, pull-ups or any other movements that leave both feet dangling and, as many inversion tables also allow you to exercise while inverting, an inversion table is a beneficial tool for this reason.
Spinal traction, and an inversion table, helps to heal damage to the damaged spine and associated tissues, and aid recovery from problems mentioned earlier in the following ways: it restores correct alignment and length of bone affected, eliminates or lessens spasms of the muscle, relieves pressure on nerves, reduces or prevents deformities of a skeletal nature, and causes a blockage by formulating a spindle-shaped taper (a fusiform tamponade).
Please also note: the first time you use an inversion table you should have someone standing by in case you need assistance to get you out of the apparatus.
If you have eye disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, or if you are pregnant – the risks of inverting are considerably higher and you should always consult your doctor beforehand.
Another potentially dangerous thing to watch out for is acid reflux, as the gravity that normally prevents the gastric hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) from entering the oesophagus will have no effect when inverting.