Inversion therapy is a type of spinal traction that some people have found helpful for reducing stress and easing back pain. It involves hanging upside down with the help of inversion boots or laying on a table that is tilted at an angle with the head pointing down. Being in an inverted position for more than a couple of minutes can lower the heartbeat and increase blood pressure, so individuals with certain conditions should avoid inversion therapy or at least speak to their doctor.
Heart and Circulatory Issues
Because inversion therapy can affect heart rate and blood pressure, people with heart disease and hypertension should proceed carefully before attempting inversion therapy. The Energy Center, which sells inversion equipment, also warns that people with circulatory disorders should consult a physician before inverting because the head-down position affects blood flow. In addition, anyone taking anti-coagulants might be at risk from inversion because the blood-thinning medications indicate a risk of circulatory problems.
People with glaucoma or pink eye should be wary of inversion therapy. When a person has glaucoma, he already has elevated pressure in his eye. Because inverting puts even more pressure on the head, the Energy Center recommends consulting with a physician before inverting. It also warns that people with conjunctivitis, or pink eye, proceed carefully. Pink eye is an inflammation of a membrane in the eye and the additional pressure that comes from inversion therapy could exacerbate the problem. People with retinal detachment also are advised to talk to a doctor before inverting.
When you invert, your body weight pulls you down and provides a type of traction. While traction provides short-term relief for some people with back problems, those downward forces can damage people with weak bones, recent bone fractures or skeletal implants. According to The Energy Center, inversion therapy could make those conditions worse. Since inversion therapy stretches the spine, anyone with a spinal injury should be extremely careful, too. Again, the Energy Center advises talking to a doctor first.
Hiatal hernias occur when pressure in the abdomen causes part of the stomach to move into the chest cavity because of a weakness in the diaphragm. Because inversion therapy creates more upward pressure on the body, the Energy Center puts hiatal and ventral hernias on its list of contraindications for inversion therapy.
If you’re suffering from a middle ear infection, you might want to wait before inverting. The Energy Center warns that people who invert while suffering from such infections might feel discomfort or disorientation.
According to the Cure Back Pain and Sports Injury Clinic websites, inversion therapy should not be used by pregnant women. The Energy Center warns that pregnant women should get a physician’s approval before inverting. Inversion therapy could have a negative effect on the mother or baby depending on the mother's condition and the baby's stage of development.