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Inversion Treatment of Low Back Pain

By Editorial Team (2)
January 31, 2022

Low back pain, sometimes abbreviated LBP is one of the most common reasons why patients seek the care of their physician. The common cold is the only thing that bothers people more. Low back pain can be caused by heavy lifting, frequent bending, poor posture or any number of other conditions.

If you have ever suffered from low back pain, you probably know you’re not alone. People just like you have tried lots of different treatments and lower back pain therapy to help decrease their pain and improve their quality of life.

One of the lower back pain therapy you may have heard in connection with low back pain is an inversion table. This is a table with pads that are connected to a hinged metal frame. To use the table, you strap yourself on and allow the inversion table to slowly turn you over so your body inverts. Inversion tables usually cost anywhere from $100 to $400. A device called “Gravity Boots” was popular in the 1980’s. This was similar to an inversion table. Another name for what inversion therapy or inversion tables is gravitational traction.


Inversion tables work on the theory that when the weight of the body is suspended, the force of gravity may remove pressure from the joints that are below the anchor. The inversion table allows each of the body’s joints to be loaded in a way that is opposite and equal to standing in an identical position with the joints aligned. It is thought that this relieves low back pain by creating a traction force in the spine.

Risks of Lower Back Pain Therapy

Inversion table therapy is not for everyone who has low back pain. People who have high blood pressure, eye conditions like glaucoma, people who are pregnant or those who have heart disease are at increased risk for some of the dangers that may be related to lower back pain therapy. They should speak with their physician before using the treatment. Anyone who tries the therapy for the first time should have another person present to help them in case they need assistance with the apparatus or if they encounter other problems or health symptoms.

People who suffer from GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, should not attempt this lower back pain therapy. In this condition, small amounts of stomach acid are allowed to back up into the esophagus from the stomach. Under normal conditions, gravity keeps stomach acid in the stomach. When the body is inverted, gravity can’t work. When acid reflux disease is combined with an inversion table, the result can be a painful and potentially serious condition.

The effectiveness of Inversion Treatment

According to studies, lower back pain therapy causes some force of traction to occur in the lumbar area of the spine. As much as 3 mm of separation between the vertebrae in the low back was found in one study. But does traction really help to relieve low back pain?

It would seem as though, according to high-quality research that is available from 1995, even though traction does not cause any harm, it really does not help with the low back. In another, a more recent study of chronic, acute and sub-acute low back pain, traction as a treatment for pain received a “C” grade, which means no benefit was demonstrated.

The same study which concluded that lower back pain therapy was of no benefit, stated the best treatment for low back pain which is acute and non-specific is to stay as active as you possibly can. The exercise was given an “A” grade for chronic and sub-acute low back pain, meaning that benefit was demonstrated.


While there may be no clear indications that traction is not effective as a lower back pain therapy, further studies may prove to provide more information.

If you currently have pain in your legs or low back pain, the best answer for you is to continue your normal activity and maybe add some exercise. The use of mechanical traction does not seem to provide any benefit.

When the risks associated with the use of an inversion table (changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and eye pressure) are compared with the expected benefits of using inversion for lower back pain therapy, it seems your money and time would be better invested in exercise as a treatment for pain.

To find out what type of exercise you can safely do, ask your physician. Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. A skilled therapist can help you with exercises that will strengthen the muscles that support your low back, provide you with strategies to help you prevent injuries, and teach you ways to cope with your current low back pain.

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