Bats and sloths are the only vertebrates we have discovered thus far that do not develop osteoarthritis (the degeneration of joints). Why? Experts believe it is due to all the hanging around upside down that they do that increases circulation and lessens the impact on their joints. What can we learn from these mammals? A little bit about back pain and inversion therapy.
One of the most common reasons folks visit the doctor or miss work is due to back pain. It happens to everyone at some point in their lives. Even though most back pain will gradually improve with anti-inflammatory drugs, a heating pad and some good old fashioned rest and relaxation, some folks choose alternative methods like chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, yoga and/or inversion therapy. I think it is safe to assume that most have heard about these various approaches with the exception of inversion therapy. I became intrigued myself a few years ago when a friend mentioned he had not been to the chiropractor in years since he began inversion therapy. What exactly is inversion therapy? Basically, it is hanging upside or lying on a table that tilts to different degrees of upside-down-ness. In theory, I suppose it makes sense. Reversing gravity could stretch the spine and relieve pressure between vertebrae. Does it really work?
Skeptics claim the pain relief inversion therapy provides is only temporary. Although no long term studies have been conducted to back up those claims, what is concrete is the risk to those who have high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma. According to Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., when inverted for more than a few minutes, the heartbeat slows and the blood pressure rises — which can create uncertain consequences for those at risk. However, the benefits for others make inversion therapy almost irresistible.
Joints that heal quicker from compressive damage, diminished back pain and decreases in joint related injuries are a few of the newly discovered benefits found in a six-year medical study on inversion therapy. Combined with the already scientifically proven cardiovascular, lymphatic, endocrine and nervous system benefits, the US Army decided to incorporate inversion therapy into their physical training regimen. In a clinical trial conducted by Newcastle University’s Regional Science Center in England, physical therapy combined with inversion therapy was found to be more effective in successfully treating those with severe back pain (needing surgery) than physical therapy alone.
Additional health benefits include increased circulation to the brain due to the blood being forced to move in the opposite direction; this provides more oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which lead to improved memory and concentration. The brain operates 14% more accurately when inverted, according to Dr. Robert Martin, author of The Gravity Guiding System, Turning the Aging Process Upside Down. This healthier blood flow has all kinds of positive side effects, such as increased immunity, better indigestion management and decreased mood swings. According to a study by physiotherapist LJ Nosse, muscle tension decreased by 35% within the first 10 seconds of inverting. This release of tension helps relieve stress and improve insomnia. The natural stretching that occurs while inverted also improves flexibility, strengthens ligaments (ultimately bones), and aids with maintaining better posture. It has even helped those who have been shrinking year after year to regain their initial height. Flexibility, strength and posture are especially important as we approach our golden years.
Right about now you might be wondering how you even begin to get started. The basic premise is to put your heart above you head. You can accomplish this in a number of different ways. Inversion tables are likely the easiest and most stable device to employ on your own for inversion. However, they can be costly at approximately $100-$800. They do allow for various degrees of incline so you can ease yourself into it, and they are typically very stable. Gravity boots that strap to your ankles and attach to a pull-up bar apparatus is another option that ranges $100-300, but they can be a bit nail biting on your own because you are freely and hanging completely vertical (similar to a monkey bar, just upside down). Some folks choose yoga classes that end with poses like crow or head/hand stands. Spotters are present for assistance if needed (a wall is also great to lean against). The really good news about inversion therapy; it only takes 3-5 minutes a day to be effective. So stop standing there and get “bat-like” already!
Information taken from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/inversion-therapy/AN01614