Turning Your World Upside-down for Health

blue pen 120Originally published in the Fenton Patch newspaper July 2012

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My wife hung up the phone and said, “Gloria and Felipe are coming over.” In Colombia it is unusual for friends to just drop by or come on short notice. My face must have registered the questioning look. “Felipe’s friend and his wife just arrived from the United States. His friend is not feeling well and needs to use your machine,” continued my wife.

The happening is nothing new. We get a very similar call about once a year. The guy “not feeling well,” meant that his back was in pain. Correctly, as I found out when they arrived, I surmised that he was a tall person and had spent many hours in one those airline excuses for economy seats.

The machine, as my wife calls it, is an inversion table. Batman would probably give two thumbs up to it. Basically it allows a person to hang upside-down like a bat.

Twelve years ago I started using one and have not stopped since. At that time my morning routine consisted of running anywhere from two to five miles. The pounding on the pavement took its toll on an over 50 year-old body.

My following views and thoughts are from that of a user.  While many think of it as a short term fix for a problem, especially in the spine, I see the table as a way to keep one healthy and prevent potential future health problems.

The inversion table is a relaxing time for me. I use it anywhere from five minutes to thirty minutes a day. It has now become my chosen position for meditation.

The basic concept makes sense. We live our lives with gravity pulling everything down. Reversing the damage done by that pull seems plausible. Proponents of the table say that there is something like sponges between our spinal discs. The constant gravity, and especially running and jumping, cause these sponges to loose their ability to absorb shock. They say it is like pressing the water out of a sponge. By using the inversion table, their contention is that these intervertebral discs re-hydrate. I have noticed myself that after spending about twenty minutes upside down walking again is like doing it on a cushiony carpet. For the technical part of all this perhaps fellow Fenton Patch blogger Dr. Erica Peabody will do a writing explaining more about the spine and how it affects our health.

It is interesting to note that from my reading, Chiropractors are somewhat divided on the usefulness of the inversion table. Though, I believe the majority are in favor of using one. Obviously, if you have a heart, spinal or other medical problem you should consult your doctor before acting like a sleeping bat. Then there are those people who actually have a fear of their head being lower than their feet. If a person cannot relax, it is very doubtful they will gain much benefit from being inverted.

Here are my tips, tricks, thoughts and suggestions for use of and getting benefit from an inversion table.

Though anti-gravity boots are considerably less expensive, I believe the table is well worth the extra money. Do not believe that you can just jump right into hanging for thirty minutes, very few people can. The table allows a person to begin at angles less than 90 degrees. Because of this you can acclimate yourself slowly and this will help you to keep using the machine for achieving benefits.

I recommend starting at 30 degrees from horizontal for two minutes on the first day. On the second day increase the time to four minutes. For the next two days increase the angle to 45 degrees for the same times. For the following couple of days 60 degrees for five minutes then ten minutes. Finally one day at 75 degrees. After a week go the full 90 degrees. Even after you reach that point it is best to spend 10 seconds to 15 seconds at 30, 45, 60 and 75 degrees before going upside-down.

Pleasure in use also comes from a table that is properly adjusted to your height, weight and the angles that you use the most. Properly tuned, you will be able to easily maneuver the angles of the machine with just the placement of your arms. The first adjustment is for your height. Most of the inversion tables have a scale on the tube for height. I have found that depending upon your physique the adjustments may need to be up to three inches in either direction. The second adjustment is near the pivot area of the table with the supports. Most of the manufacturers place three holes there. This helps control how easy it is to get to the completely inverted position. I use the middle hole. That allows me to have the best control with my arms and still invert easily. Most tables also have a strap that will help stop your inversion at a set angle.

This part is very important. If you can’t do the following then I recommend that you not purchase an inversion table. To get benefit you must be able to relax while inverted. The best way is to think relaxing your muscles. Start with your legs then continue consciously relaxing your hips, back, shoulders and face. After that clear your mind and focus on your breathing.

Another great benefit for me is thought process. It just seems that after putting my head lower than my feet that I can think better. A few minutes at 60 degrees has been helpful on several occasions for breaking writers block. I found this increase in mental ability interesting and wondered though if it was all in my head. So a few years back I did a little research and found one report stating that the mind runs 7% faster and is 14% more accurate when a person is inverted.

Possibly it is good for high blood pressure. None of the literature that I have read says anything about it. I am not a doctor. I can only report what happened with my experience. Others may have a different experience. However, after spending some time traveling and not using the inversion table the doctor told me that I had high blood pressure. I started taking my blood pressure reading before and after using the inversion table. In every instance the systolic (top number) lowered after hanging upside-down. Sometimes the change was a much as 10 points.

A film gets credit for this part. I cannot attest to it from personal experience. In the movie “El Amor es Extasis” men hung upside-down as part of their therapy for improving their sexual performance.

The table is not meant to replace exercise but used in concert with it. I often spend five minutes before exercising and ten minutes after exercising on the table. Some people have devised exercises while inverted, but I prefer to use my time on the table relaxing.

In my opinion you can gain much more by inverting at 60 degrees to 75 degrees every single day for five to ten minutes rather than being vertical for 20 minutes once a week. If you can’t stay down for ten minutes straight, then come up until you feel ok and go back down for awhile. There have been days where I invert for a couple minutes then come up and relax for a few seconds before returning to upside-down.

Felipe’s friend thanked me profusely for the use of my table. He walked out of my house feeling and looking much better and there was even a little spring in his step. I felt good to have been able to help. I hope that this writing helps others.

Thank you for reading - Your comments are always welcome

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