Everything You Need to Know About Inversion Tables

Inversion can be good for you if you have compression of the discs in your back, or you have arthritic pain in your middle back, lower back, or hips.

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A woman doing inversion therapy hanging upside down in an inversion table

SergeyChayko / Getty Images

An inversion table is a cushioned table that allows you to strap yourself in and flip your body at least partially upside down to reduce a variety of spinal pain, including back pain

Inversion tables are usually used together with other types of back pain therapies and may be a practical alternative to surgery for back pain, sciatica, and other spine-related diseases. They may also provide additional benefits to other parts of your body, such as the heart and lungs.

Here’s all you need to know about inversion tables, including their benefits, and what to look for in one, and whether you should try one. 

Benefits of Inversion Tables  

Inversion therapy "can be very helpful for conditions leading to compression of the joints, especially of the hips and spine,” Cody Barnett, a physical therapist and the owner of Bodyworx Physical Therapy & Concussion Center in Wichita, Kansas, told Health. 

For example, inversion therapy can be good for you if you have compression of the discs in your back, such as degenerative disc disease, or if you’re experiencing arthritic pain through your middle back, lower back, or hips. Inversion therapy can also be helpful to relieve general stiffness and tightness in your back.

That being said, healthcare providers will rarely use inversion tables as a standalone therapy. Instead, they may recommend inversion therapy in combination with other treatments, such as manual therapy or corrective exercises, according to Barnett.

An inversion table can help relieve the pressure gravity puts on your spine. Therefore, it can help decompress your spine, increase the space between your vertebrae, and reduce the pressure on your spinal nerves. In addition, putting your legs above your heart may help realign your back and legs.

Studies have found that inversion tables may prevent the need for surgery in some people. In another study, people with back pain that kept them out of work received inversion therapy, and after only eight treatments, were able to return to work full-time. 

People with several different back conditions saw improvement with inversion therapy, including:  

  • Lumbar osteoarthritis with sciatica
  • Herniated or slipped discs
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Coccygodynia
  • Scoliosis

Research has found that inversion tables may also benefit you in other ways, including:

  • Treating some types of kidney stones
  • Increasing lung capacity
  • Increasing the oxygen level in your blood
  • Improving joint mobility and flexibility
  • Decreasing stress on your heart
  • Increasing lymph drainage
  • Increasing circulation

What to Look for in an Inversion Table

Here are several recommendations for what to look for when buying an inversion table:

  • If you are alone, will you be able to get the right side up again easily and safely? "There should be safety features that allow you to use the device easily by yourself, particularly being able to tip yourself back upright without the assistance of another person,” said Barnett.
  • What is the maximum weight and height for each model? "If you are a taller or heavier person, you want to ensure you have a unit that is built for your weight range and is robust enough to handle your weight or height,” said Barnett.
  • Can you use the machine while on your back and your stomach? "Being able to use the inversion table in either a supine or prone position is a nice benefit,” said Barnett.

  Other things to keep in mind when purchasing an inversion table:

  • Safety ratings: Check out the safety ratings and features before purchasing. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates inversion tables labeled for medical use. Other inversion tables may not be as strictly regulated, which may pose a safety issue. Check the label for FDA or other independent third-party safety approvals before purchasing. 
  • Safety features: Before buying, check for high-quality, adjustable ankle straps that will fit snugly, vinyl covers for moving parts (so you don't get your fingers pinched), and a locking bar that keeps the table in the proper position.
  • Cost: You don't want to go super cheap, but the most expensive does not necessarily mean better quality.
  • Design and size: Choose a model that will be functional, and yet, if it's going to be in the middle of the living room, colors and size are something to consider.
  • Comfort: Choose a model with padding and other comfort features.
  • Stability: Choose a model that will not tip over or fall apart.
  • Durability: Choose a model that will last you a while.
  • Customer ratings: Find out what other people who bought this product thought.
  • Quality construction and materials: Pick a table made of quality carbon steel, not plastic or low-quality metal. 

How Much Does an Inversion Table Cost? 

Inversion tables run anywhere from $100 up to $1,400.

"You get what you pay for. Typically, the cheaper inversion tables are less robust," Barnett said. "Before investing in an inversion table, see if you can try one out at your healthcare provider's office or try a friend's who has one. Make sure you have a positive experience. It should never cause or increase pain. If it does, contact your healthcare provider."

Possible Risks

As with all medical therapies, there are a few risks involved with inversion tables. Barnett recommends you talk to a healthcare provider before using an inversion table. If approved, continue to use it with caution if you have any of the following conditions:

  • History of high intracranial pressure or too much fluid around your brain.
  • History of a detached retina, glaucoma, or other eye problems.
  • Heart or blood vessel conditions, such as an irregular rhythm, uncontrolled high blood pressure, aneurysms, hernias, or coronary artery stenosis
  • Surgically implanted orthopedic supports, such as an artificial joint
  • Severe osteoporosis or unhealed fractures
  • History of dizziness or vertigo
  • Severe spinal injuries
  • Lung problems
  • Recent stroke
  • Pregnancy

How to Use an Inversion Table Safely

When used correctly, an inversion table can benefit your health and well-being in many ways. However, an inversion table may become a health hazard if not used properly. 

Here are some tips for using an inversion table safely:

  • Ideally, there should be someone nearby who can help you get out of it if you become stuck.
  • Don’t invert too far or for too long. You only need to be partially inverted to reap the benefits of an inversion table. Many people invert much steeper than they need to. “Typically, the maximum angle that I recommend patients invert to is 30 degrees,” said Barnett. It is not necessary to fully invert to a fully vertical position. “If it's something new that you are trying for the first time, start with a lesser angle for just a few minutes, and make sure you have a positive experience before trying to go at a steeper angle and longer time," Barnett suggested.
  • Setup and use will be different for each model. Always follow the product instructions carefully while using an inversion table, and always contact an experienced medical professional if you have any questions or concerns.

A Quick Review 

An inversion table may be just the thing to decompress your spine and relieve your back pain. But always talk to your healthcare provider before using or buying one. If not used correctly, inversion tables can create even more problems. 

Very rarely will an inversion table alone solve your back pain. So, talk to a healthcare provider about the issue causing your back pain, discuss the best treatment options, and ask if an inversion table would be helpful in your situation.

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7 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Prasad KSM, Gregson BA, Hargreaves G, Byrnes T, Winburn P, Mendelow AD. Inversion therapy in patients with pure single level lumbar discogenic disease: A pilot randomized trial. Disabil Rehabil. 2012;34(17):1473-1480. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.647231

  3. Yu X, Chen ZQ, Yang WM, et al. [Application of inversion-table in the treatment of lower pole renal stones]. Zhonghua Wai Ke Za Zhi. 2009;47(4):255-257.

  4. Kassay A, Soliman MAR, Jhawar BS. Recommendations for inversion table therapy. Disabil Rehabil. 2022:1-4. doi:10.1080/09638288.2022.2133174

  5. Top Brand Review. 15 best inversion table for spinal stenosis in 2022: Top brands review (nepva.org).

  6. Kondrashova T, Makar M, Proctor C, Bridgmon KA, Pazdernik V. Dynamic assessment of cerebral blood flow and intracranial pressure during inversion table tilt using ultrasonography. J Neurol Sci. 2019;404:150-156. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2019.07.033

  7. Lerebours VC, Rohl AJ, Shaikh S. Bilateral retinal detachments associated with inversion table therapy. Cureus. 2017;9(3):e1098. doi:10.7759/cureus.1098

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