Inversion therapy basically means hanging or standing upside down or at an inverted angle. This type of therapy has has been shown to be very good for the body for a number of reasons. In theory, inversion therapy will take gravitational pressure off the nerve roots and disks in your spine, increasing the space between the vertebrae – it always feels amazing to give your spine a good stretch and space, so imagine being able to use the force of gravity to make it even better and without too much effort. Inversion therapy is one of the many ways where stretching the spine can relieve certain back pain. The benefits don’t stop at back pain and can include, better posture, get taller, meditation, straightening, improve joint health – it really is a great way to make yourself feel amazing. The benefits are listed in much more details below – as usual let us at Functional Self know if you have any more questions or feel free to comment below.

Inversion therapy is not safe for everyone! When you are inverted for more than a couple of minutes, your heartbeat slows and your blood pressure increases — and the pressure within your eyeballs jumps dramatically. For these reasons, you should not try inversion therapy if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or glaucoma. However, you can build up better resilience to being inverted with practicing it everyday for slightly longer periods at a time.

The key benefits of inversion therapy are detailed below…

Better posture
Gravity can give you bad posture by constantly trying to pull you to the centre of the earth and thus rounding your upper and lower back. After a few years of bad office sitting you can end up resembling a foetus with a keyboard! Don’t worry this can be reversed! When you are hanging upside down gravity straightens you out like a piece of string and over time gives you that elegant open chested look suitable for showing off those pecs you’ve been working so hard on at the gym.

Straighten that scoliosis
Your spine can kink to the right or left which is often caused by years of handbag carrying or crossing your legs in a particular way. Hanging upside down shakes you out and gravity straightens you over time. For faster results we suggest stop carrying a handbag on one shoulder and stop crossing those legs!

Rehydrate discs and get taller – Who needs high heels?
Your spinal discs are like little water beds full of shock absorbing gel, which need constantly topping up with water. Imagine trying to fill that waterbed if your heaviest friend was lying on it. It would be difficult! Hanging upside down gives space between your vertebrae and allows the discs to absorb moisture and maintain their thickness. In any given day, disc fluid loss can make you ½ to ¾ inch smaller! This has been tested and proven, so get drinking, get hanging and get taller!

Improve joint health – Bounce, bounce!
Ligaments, joint capsules and cartilage pads cover your joints to stop them grinding against each other or dislocating. When you are in a normal standing position, these joints are compressed by your weight, but when you invert, they can decompress and open. This compression and decompression stimulates synovial fluid in the capsule to lubricate movement and keep the joint tissue bouncy and healthy. If you have time, there is much more information in The Science and Practice of Manual Therapy, Lederman, E., Elsevier (2005)

Reduce nerve impingement – Stop that electric shock feeling!
The nerves that run through your body originate from between your vertebrae. If gravity is winning in its quest to flatten you, and your vertebrae and back muscles are compressed, the nerve roots can easily be impinged. This can lead to electric shock sensations and an exponential tightening of the muscles near the spine as the spinal cord feels under attack. It can also cause pain at any point along the path of the nerve. Sciatica pulsing pain down the leg is one common such problem. Fortunately, hanging upside down reduces compression on your discs and allows them to hydrate and pump up, increasing space and reducing nerve impingement.

Use gravity for self massage!
Thoracolumbar fascia links the upper torso to the legs and dictates a lot about how we move. Tight lower back fascia can be a source of postural imbalance and compression of the vertebrae. You can use products such as the Yoga Monkey Massage Swing, fits snugly over the sacrum and around the waist. It then sinks into the fascia and uses gravity and your body weight to give a localised massage and loosen stiff fascial tissue. This can give more space in the lower back and more fluid movement instantly.

The neuromuscular effect
If one of your lower back nerves feels like it is on fire and nearby muscles have tightened, just hang upside down in the Yoga Monkey Massage Swing. The pressure of the swing pushes deep into your lower back muscles until the nerve is stimulated. This is intense and you feel the beginning of that electric shock feeling as the localised contact has now interrupted the normal activity of the nerve and the muscle can begin to relax. The sensation is a glorious release of pressure similar to acupuncture. This pressure can also loosen chronic muscle knots and dead fibrous muscle tissue and encourage more blood to the area to stimulate muscle fibre repair.

Relaxation and cleansing of muscles
Some people constantly look like they are shrugging their shoulders and saying ‘I dunno’. They are likely stressed and their muscles are tight as a result. This is where muscle fibres are in constant contraction have a reduced blood flow, meaning they don’t get the oxygen needed to fuel proper muscle function. As the muscle is not working, there is no relaxing and contracting motion to make the lymph system pump waste chemicals out of the muscles and back into the blood. The solution is simple – hanging upside down uses gravity to send waste chemicals through the lymph system and out the exit points in the chest to the veins of the cardio-vascular system.  Normally the lymph system has to work against gravity and does not benefit from a heart pump like the cardiovascular system. Also, as the muscle is now stretched by the inversion, there is more space for blood to enter the muscle and encourage healthy muscle function. You can find a bit more information about this here or here.

Meditation – Take the weight of the world off your shoulders and turn the world upside down, literally
During hanging inversions, your muscles can suddenly relax as there is no need for them to do their normal job of keeping you upright and balanced. With no need for your muscles to contract, the Golgi tendon sensor, which is designed to protect tendons from tearing from excessive contraction, has no job. Your muscles just stretch passively. As the stretch is slow and gentle, the sensors designed to protect against muscle tears: the ‘muscle spindles’, also have a reduced job. As the sensors in the back muscles have less to do, the nerves do not have to send as many electrical signals back and forth to the spinal cord. This is called a reduction in ‘electromyographic’ (EMG) activity. Reduced EMG means your muscles are calmer and your body is less active, and your mind has a chance to shut off and calm down. Also, the sense of balance in your ear, which works together with your eyes and muscles to stop you from falling over, is not needed, So, just hang, lose balance and get chilling!

Wake up!
Being upside down makes it easier for blood to go to the brain and nourish it with blood and oxygen needed for optimum brain function.

Have a yogic poo!
If you’re constipated, one cause may be that the food is struggling to fight gravity and make it up the ascending colon. Being upside down gives your yogi poo a flying start on its minging journey. Stomach massage in a clockwise direction can also finish off the job. It’s probably better to make sure you’re not inverted when faecal evacuation actually begins, however.