Are Inversion Tables Safe to Use When Pregnant?

Back pain is a common ailment during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association reports that 50 to 70 percent of women experience some form of back pain during pregnancy. Although this type of pain can occur at any point during your pregnancy, it is more prevalent during the third trimester when your baby rapidly grows in size. Inversion tables are used in an alternative type of back pain therapy. In some cases, this type of therapy does help alleviate pain, but there are risks involved if you are pregnant or have other health conditions.

Increased hormones and baby weight can cause back pain. Credit: Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Purported Benefits

Inversion tables are used primarily as a method of relieving back pain. The Mayo Clinic explains that hanging upside down during this type of therapy is designed to reverse the gravitational pull within your body. It stretches your vertebrae and reduces pressure and pinched nerves within the spine.

How to Use

Inversion therapy works by lying securely on a table upside down. According to the Healthy Back Institute, beginners start at a 20 degree and angle and can work up to a fully inverted position at 90 degrees. At this angle, you will experience a lot of blood flow rushing to your head. This position is not the best one when pregnant, as it reduces the blood flow to your baby. Users perform exercises while inverted such as sit-ups and crunches.

Safety Concerns

The upside-down position adversely affects your circulatory system. According to the Mayo Clinic, using inversion tables for long periods of time increases your blood pressure and decreases your heart rate. This is especially dangerous during pregnancy, as your baby depends on a healthy circulatory system. Plus, as you head into the third trimester, your blood pressure may elevate slightly naturally, as your body produces extra blood for your baby. Due to the circulatory effects, the Mayo Clinic does not recommend inversion tables for use by people with hypertension, high blood pressure in the eyes or cardiovascular disease.

Bottom Line

Severe back pain from pregnancy should be addressed with a doctor to ensure that there aren't more serious complications occurring, such as premature labor. The American Pregnancy Association recommends light exercises for pregnant women as a means of alleviating and preventing back pain. An example is a yoga class designed for pregnant women. Keep in mind that traditional floor exercises should not be performed during pregnancy. Although inverted tables may improve back pain, the Mayo Clinic says that the effects are only temporary. This type of therapy has too many risks for pregnant women and should not be used unless recommended by your doctor.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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