Which Is Better, a Back Stretcher or an Inversion Table?

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While some back pain stems from arthritis or infection, one common reason is also poor posture. Stretching your back allows it to realign itself, relieving pressure and pain. Stretching with either a back-stretching machine or an inversion table can provide the best results. While both create a good stretch for your back, the back stretcher may be more cost effective, while the inversion table has more than just a good stretch to offer.

The Basic Stretch

Some back stretchers consist simply of an arched foam piece that fits under your back. When you lie on it, it causes you to stretch backward, which can reverse the forward-leaning posture causing you pain. This works if you’re looking for a low-cost, simple stretch. With this type, you aren’t able to adjust arch height, which can provide too intense a stretch for some.

All Harnessed Up

Another type uses harnesses that you attach to your lower back and to a bar on which you pull. This creates a traction stretch, which is affective for some, but it can be restrictive. If the harness or length of the machine isn’t set perfectly to your body length, the traction won’t be as effective as it should. Try different ones to find one that fits you right to maximize stretching benefits.

Inversion Ups and Downs

The inversion table can cost quite a bit more that a back stretcher, but you also get more bang for your buck. Inversion tables use gravity and your body weight to create traction that’s adjustable. You start by hooking your feet in at the bottom of the table, before laying back and inverting -- or hanging upside down -- to any degree you want. If you want a small stretch, you can adjust the table to a small incline. If you're looking for the maximum stretch, you can adjust to a full upside-down position.

What the Experts Say

Inversion tables are versatile machines that almost anyone can use since they can easily adjust to meet your needs. Adjustability is a primary reason the American Chiropractic Association prefers inversion tables over mechanical devices, such as a back stretcher.

Hang For Your Health

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Inversion tables can also help keep you healthy. When you invert, the blood and lymphatic fluid flow increases throughout your body. Increased flow allows your body to be more effective in detoxing and protecting itself from illness. This can lead to fewer sick days due to actual illness and days off due to back pain. While there are many benefits to inversion tables, some medical conditions could be adversely affected by the increase of blood flow -- such as heart or eye problems, or pregnancy.

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