What Are the Dangers of an Inversion Table?

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Doctor taking patient's blood pressure (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Inversion therapy is used to apply pressure to the spine. Participants lie down on an inversion table and are turned upside down. Benefits of this therapy may include improved posture, better blood flow and relief from back pain; however, negative effects and potential dangers are also associated with inversion therapy.

Eye and Ear Pressure

Because inversion therapy causes elevated pressure in the eyes, people with glaucoma or retinal detachments may experience increased pressure on their eyes, which can exacerbate the condition and even cause bleeding from the eyes. Anyone with elevated pressure in his eyes should not try inversion therapy. This position can also increase pressure to the inner ear, which may cause discomfort or aggravate ear-related health problems.

Increased Blood Pressure

While upside down on an inversion table, your heart will slow down and your blood pressure will increase after a few minutes. This causes your heart to move blood through the body at a force greater than it is used to. If you have hypertension or high blood pressure, an elevation of this sort can be dangerous to your health. These effects make inversion therapy dangerous for anyone with a heart condition.

Muscle Pulls

Using an inversion table also poses risks of pulling a muscle. In a 2007 "Chicago Tribune" article about inversion therapy, massage therapist Craig Singer said, "It’s easy to pull a muscle by overdoing it because there’s a tendency to believe that if hanging for two minutes is good, then 10 minutes is even better."

Worsened Symptoms

While use of inversion tables may help reduce muscle pain thanks to the extension of the spine, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Dr. Gary Brazina cautions that the therapy could actually make this pain worse. He notes the therapy can worsen back problems and hypertension as well as cause headaches.

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