Change your POV: Can hanging upside down improve your health?

June 1, 2018 Providence Health Team

Inversion therapy, when done safely and correctly, may help:

Relieve pressure on joints and bones;

Minimize compression;

Align the spine;

Offer short-term relief for lower back pain.

Have you ever wondered why children love hanging upside down? Not only is it fun, it helps them gain better body awareness; improve postural control, balance and timing of their movements. While children experience these developmental benefits of being upside down, adventurous adults may find a heap of full-grown health benefits.

Health benefits of inversion therapy

There are said to be many potential health benefits of inversion therapy for your respiratory system, circulatory system, digestive and immune systems — not to mention anti-aging benefits and mental health benefits similar to those of yoga. Here are some of the most popular reasons people practice inversion therapy today, although the claimed benefits are yet to be scientifically proven:
 

Relieving back pain
Our body is affected by the downward pull of gravity through every day things like walking and moving. These may contribute to spinal compression, pinched nerves and back pain over time. Hanging upside down may help alleviate back pain associated with compression by temporarily stretching the muscles and ligaments around the spine.

Maintaining posture
Job stress and strain, as well as activities like sitting at a desk or performing repetitive tasks, can all have a negative effect on your spine. These activities may also lead to a misalignment of the hips and contribute to poor posture. Inversion therapy gives your spine and the opportunity to stretch, realign and improve your posture.

Relaxing muscles
Inversion therapy is an effective way of relaxing and stretching out your muscles. Hanging upside down allows gravity to relieve pressure on the lower part of your body. This exercise may also trigger a series of “cracking” sounds across your body, which also alleviates built-up pressure.

Clearing the lymph system
Because the lymph system only flows in one direction, waste may begin to collect and build up over time. Spending a few minutes upside down could help your body to adjust lymphatic flow and remove that waste naturally.

Improving blood circulation
You can give your heart a helping hand while you hang upside down. Being inverted helps move your blood to the upper part of your body more easily.
 

Options for inversion therapy
Below are four common options for practicing inversion therapy:

Gravity boots
Gravity boots are designed to help a person hang upside down from a horizontal bar, most commonly placed in a doorway. The boots strap around your ankles and attach to the bar using a sturdy hook. Many people use gravity boots as part of their core workout.

Inversion table
Inversion tables are probably the best option for beginners because they are easy to use and offer plenty of support and comfort. An inversion table allows you to become either partially or fully inverted. You begin by securing yourself to the table in an upright position, and slowly rotating until your head is below your heart.

Yoga sling
The yoga sling is used most often in aerial or Iyengar yoga, both of which emphasize inverted poses. A yoga sling is made of parachute-strength fabric that has a long, wide piece in the center. Most of your inverted poses will begin in this section. Many high-quality yoga slings have two arm and two leg handles on each side as well as two additional handles toward the top to help you return to an upright position.

Yoga-based postures
Traditional yoga poses like handstands, headstands, shoulder stands or other head down positions offer anti-gravity health benefits but should only be performed by the experienced yogi to avoid injuries.

If you have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease or other circulatory conditions, inversion therapy is not recommended. Similarly, those who are pregnant or overweight should proceed with caution. If you fall into one or more of these categories, inversion therapy may increase your risk of joint strains or muscle pulls. It’s best to speak with your doctor before beginning this or any new exercise routine or therapy. Find a skilled Providence health care provider near you.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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