Seeing a Chiropractor: Finding Ways to Keep Your Pain Away

Inversion Therapy for Back Pain

by Carlos Butler

Chiropractors often use inversion therapy in their treatment programs for individuals who suffer back pain related to sciatica, herniated discs, lymphedema, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), spondylolisthesis (slipping of a vertebra), and muscle spasm. Inversion therapy as part of an overall treatment plan may help reduce pain by relaxing the muscles and realigning the spine. The treatment may also decrease the time it takes to recover from an episode of back pain.

What It Is

Inversion therapy is based on the theory that hanging upside down or at a downward angle takes gravitational pressure off the discs in your spine. Over time, muscle and joint tension can pull your spine out of alignment and lead to compression stresses that cause wear and tear on the spine. When your back can no longer handle the wear, you can experience lower back pain. Chronic back pain can mean time lost from work, as well as diminish the quality of other areas of your life.

For some people, stretching the spine can relieve low back pain temporarily but should be avoided if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or glaucoma. This method of spinal traction, which involves lying on an inversion table for several minutes with your head hanging down, can increase your blood pressure and slow your heart rate. The head-down position also increases intraocular pressure -- pressure within the eyeball that can lead to glaucoma. Because inversion therapy positions the head lower than the feet, it's important to talk to your doctor and inform your chiropractor, ones like Dils Chiropractic, of any medical conditions, including pregnancy, before beginning treatment.

How It Works

When discs in the spine -- which act as the body's shock absorbers -- lose water, the vertebrae move closer to each other. This compression can lead to decreased flexibility, spinal misalignment, and increased risk of pinched nerves -- all conditions that can cause back pain. The use of an inversion table tilted at a downward angle can help the spine and weight-bearing joints decompress. Decreasing the separation between the vertebrae rehydrates discs by allowing the soft tissue of the discs to absorb moisture.

What Inversion Therapy Does

  • Stretches and relaxes tense muscles that can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain

  • Lengthens tight muscles and decompresses joints, which increases flexibility

  • Strengthens core muscles that support the upper body, decreasing your risk of back injury

  • Reduces pressure and pinching on nerve roots that can cause pain to radiate to the legs

  • Takes pressure off the spine making it easier to move vertebrae back into alignment

  • Improves blood circulation, particularly blood flow to the brain

  • Improves circulation of lymph fluid by pushing the fluid upward from the lower body to the chest