Inversion Therapy: Definition, Benefits, & Safety Risks

Instructor: Meghan Greenwood

Meghan has taught undergraduate and graduate level science courses and has a PhD in Immunology.

This lesson will define inversion therapy and in what situations it is recommended. It will also describe the benefits of the treatment as well as the safety risks.

Gravity and the Spine

What goes up, must come down. As inhabitants of planet Earth, we understand that throwing a ball into the air will eventually result in it falling down. We also realize that going for a walk does not mean we have to worry about floating into the atmosphere; our feet will remain planted firmly on the ground. Unlike the moon, Earth is affected by gravity. Gravity is the principle that gives weight to physical objects. And although gravity is responsible for keeping our feet on the ground, think about what effect it may have on the inside of our bodies.

At birth, our spine contains 33 bones or vertebrae. As an adult, a few of the lower vertebrae fuse together, reducing the total to 26. The spine is segmented into 5 main regions, as shown in the image below: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal. Our spine not only protects the spinal cord, but is also crucial for movement and supporting our weight. The lumbar spine, or the lower back region, is especially important for carrying the upper body's weight, and is impacted greatly by gravity.

The spine consists of 5 major regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal vertebrae.

Definition of Inversion Therapy

In between each vertebrae lies a padded disc that contains spinal fluid and nerves. These little cushions are what keep the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. However, they are also the targets of pressure from gravity. You can imagine how gravity may contribute to pain in the spine. As the weight of the body pushes down on the vertebral discs, the spine has a tough job of keeping us upright and pain-free. Importantly, gravity is not the only cause of pain in the spine; aging, poor posture, and injury are also key players in spinal discomfort.

As an alternative to pain medication or other invasive treatment, inversion therapy is recommended by physical therapists, especially when the cause of back pain is unclear. Inversion therapy is a mechanical method performed by suspending the body on a table in an upside-down position (see image below). This position helps to stretch the body and provides traction to the spine. Traction is a method used to decompress the spine, alleviating pressure on the vertebral discs and vertebrae.

The image shows a typical inversion therapy table, where the feet would strap in, allowing the body to be shifted upside-down.
Inversion table

Benefits of Inversion Therapy

The four main benefits of inversion therapy include:

  1. spinal realignment
  2. disc rehydration
  3. nerve pressure reduction
  4. muscle relaxation

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account