What is an inversion table and how does it work?
An inversion table is a specialized device that allows you to hang upside-down safely when treating yourself with inversion therapy. The idea behind inversion therapy is that a lot of back, muscle, and joint pain comes from compression over time due to gravity always pushing downward. Hanging upside down – essentially reversing the gravity your body feels – provides traction for the spine and can help the process of decompression. Research has demonstrated that inversion therapy is relatively effective at reducing back pain by decreasing inflammation. Also, inversion therapy can improve flexibility and posture and reduce your risk of future back injury.
An inversion table itself works by allowing you to stand with your feet at one end of the table – typically by putting your leg through a padded ankle rest and hooking your foot around a foothold – and then invert yourself using your arms. Some tables are compatible with gravity boots, which are boots designed to hold your feet in place so it does not place as much strain on your calves.
Features to consider before buying
Now, keeping all the advantages of inversion therapy in mind, it’s extremely important that you know exactly what to look for. A poorly constructed inversion table will be of no use and can even harm, so be sure to check the vital point below before you buy.
Construction and capacity
One of the most important design aspects of an inversion table to consider is the material it is made from, since this will determine how much weight the table can hold and its durability and reliability over time. The majority of inversion tables are constructed with steel frames since weight is typically not a concern and this is a relatively inexpensive but extremely strong and durable material. Tables vary much more in what the backrest is constructed from – while many tables use foam or nylon or a combination of the two. The HealthGear ITM5500 uses memory foam, which is particularly good for lumbar comfort when using the inversion table. Other tables, like those made by Teeter, use a molded plastic back that is better for exercising since it does not absorb sweat and stains.
Another important consideration when selecting among inversion tables is their capacity, in terms of the weight and height ranges that they are designed to accept. It is extremely important for safety reasons not to exceed the maximum weight rating of an inversion table, so ensure that the table is strong enough to hold the heaviest person in your household who plans to use it.
Getting the correct height of the table is important both for comfort and for ensuring that your inversion therapy is effective. While most tables have some height range, be sure that your height matches the stated height capacity of the table.
Range of motion
Inversion tables vary in the range of inversion that they allow – not all tables invert fully to 180 degrees, and many offer multiple stops so you can customize your angle of inversion. Especially if you are new to inversion tables, it can be helpful to opt for a table that offers incremental degrees of inversion as well as 180-degree inversion so that you can work up to being fully upside-down over time. Having lesser angles of inversion available to you can also be helpful if you are planning to use your inversion table for workouts.
Safety features can be an important consideration if you are new to inversion tables or have difficulty with mobility to invert or right yourself. Not all inversion tables offer additional safety features, but some like the Ironman Gravity 1000 come with a tether strap so that it is difficult to slide out of the table in case you lose your footing. Another safety system present on some inversion tables like the Ironman Gravity 4000 is a ratcheting ankle strap system that makes it nearly impossible for you to fall out of the inversion table even if you remove your feet from the footholds.
Price and warranty
Price is one of the largest factors differentiating inversion tables, so it is important to have an idea of your budget. Typically, the biggest contributors to added cost among inversion tables are additional features such as built-in massagers and heating pads – as found on the Ironman IFT 4000, for example. In addition, the materials used in the backrest can also contribute to differences in pricing.
Also, keep an eye on the warranty that different manufacturers offer on their inversion tables. Warranties can vary widely, from one year to five years, and having a longer warranty can make a big difference in your confidence when purchasing a brand new inversion table.
What can you do with an inversion table?
While many inversion table users purchase them simply to hang off of for inversion therapy, inversion tables are good for much more than just decompressing your spine. These tables can be used to add difficulty and variety to your workouts. Crunches especially benefit from being performed on an incline, as this makes the workout significantly harder than if it was done on the floor. Correspondingly, the benefits to your core muscles are greater when working out on an inversion table – which in turn further decreases your chances of a later back injury. Having an inversion table that allows you to set incremental inversion angles rather than only inverting to 180 degrees is particularly important if you plan to use it for working out.