I Have an Inversion Table; Do I Need Spinal Decompression Therapy?

In a world of do-it-yourself videos, many people prefer to take a shortcut or an easy way out.  There are no safe shortcuts when you are dealing with your health, and in the case of a spinal injury, if you don’t seek professional guidance, you risk making your injury worse.  People may buy an inversion table, hoping to save themselves trips to the doctor and heal their injuries at home.

Sounds good, right?  Well, not exactly.

Spinal decompression therapy is a unique traction technique that is used by professionals to treat degenerative disc disease, protruding discs, prolapsed discs, facet syndrome, spinal stenosis, and other related spinal disorders.  It is a very calculated therapy, using a computer enhanced table and specialized equipment.

Inversion tables hang you upside down, letting gravity stretch your muscles and spine.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the differences.

Inversion Table

Just like it sounds, an inversion table inverts you, or hangs you upside down by your ankles for a certain length of time.  Inversion therapy is frequently used by people who have lower back pain.  Inversion therapy uses your own body to stretch your spine, ideally reversing the negative effects of gravity.

An inversion table will generally pull every joint in your body rather than focusing on the area that is actually causing you the discomfort.  It doesn’t pinpoint an individual disc and can’t apply the negative pressure that is needed to release the impinged disc and promote healing.  In addition, inversion therapy can increase blood pressure, making it dangerous for hypertensive people, and cause injury and pain to arthritic joints.  Ultimately, it can harm the knees, spine or hips. Muscles in the body will begin to spasm as a defense mechanism to being stretched forcefully during a session on the inversion table.

There are many reasons that an inversion table is not a viable treatment option for patients suffering a physical process and resulting pain. 

Generalized therapy rather than targeted: 

Inversion therapy is unable to target the specific injury or disc that is causing pain and disability.  Additionally, you can’t regulate the forces exerted by an inversion table, and an inversion table can’t create the negative pressure that is needed to release the disc.  Inversion tables are closely related to traction, and traction is a far different treatment than decompression therapy.

Temporary relief: 

While inversion therapy feels good while it’s happening, the pain relief is very short lived.  The time a patient would need to remain inverted to achieve any real results on an inversion table, between 15 to 20 minutes daily, is dangerous.

Worsening the injury: 

Inversion tables don’t have any clear injury-specific guidelines.  There is always the possibility that patients will overdo their sessions, resulting in spasming muscles and even damage to the muscles and spine.

Worsening illnesses:

While the concept of hanging around by your ankles doesn’t seem to be inherently dangerous, there are some illnesses and conditions that could be worsened from inversion therapy.  It increases blood pressure, worsening hypertension.  Inversion therapy can also increase inner ear and eye pressure and is dangerous for patients who take blood thinners.  Some conditions, like obesity, pregnancy, fractures, aortic aneurysms, hernias and osteoporosis are absolutely contraindicated when using an inversion table.

No proven benefits: 

Unlike the research results on decompression therapy, inversion tables have produced no discernable proof of efficacy.

Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression

Nonsurgical decompression is performed by highly trained professionals on a specialized decompression table.  The patient is completely relaxed, and therapy is performed using a series of calculations to program the table for the appropriate force and timing needed for each session.

Decompression therapy will achieve negative pressure within the disc, pulling it back into place and allowing it to expand in its original position.  The therapy is combined with coaching in life choices such as hydration and nutrition, as well as an exercise routine and chiropractic adjustments.  Decompression therapy delivers long term results and for many, immediate relief.  

What is the Best Way to Safely Address Your Back Pain?

If you have back or neck pain, always call a professional for an evaluation.  Inversion therapy is an ineffective and potentially dangerous way to treat your back pain.

Your chiropractor is a licensed healthcare professional who is specially trained in techniques such as decompression therapy.  An evaluation will provide your doctor with all necessary information, including any conditions or contraindications that would exclude you from being a candidate for decompression therapy.  Your evaluation and consultation will include diagnostic tools such as MRI and digital X-rays to identify the exact cause of your pain or disability.

Decompression tables, unlike inversion tables, will specifically target the source of your pain and provide the treatment needed to begin the healing process.  Patients can safely stay on decompression tables long enough to achieve the necessary time frames for effective treatment.  The result is an immediate lessening of pain and longer lasting results using decompression therapy techniques.

The most effective way to achieve desired results when using decompression therapy is to continue them for the entire course of treatment, generally around 20 or 30 sessions in total.  In order to get the best benefits, a prospective candidate will need to commit to the full treatment plan including chiropractic treatments, ice therapy, exercise programs, nutritional advice and other lifestyle changes if needed. Don’t take any chances with the health of your back.  If you are experiencing any pain, stiffness, or disability with your spine, lower back or neck, call our office for an evaluation to see if decompression therapy is right for you.

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