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Hanging Upside Down

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  • Hanging Upside Down

    Do you routinely intentionally hang upside down as a stretching exercise?

    This past weekend a buddy of mine said that he has been using an inversion table at ~45 for years to help decompress vertebra from degenerative disc disease. He claims that is the only thing that gives significant relief to his back pain.

    My back has been bothering me for several months. Now that I'm going to the gym regularly and getting much stronger as long as I keep my back muscles tight when I stand up out of a chair there's no pain in my back at all.

    Last night at the end of my workout I laid on my back on a declined bench for ~10 minutes and did some stretching. It was tuff to relax, almost painful. Later last night and this morning I can still feel that inverted stretching in my back. It doesn't hurt, it's just different.

    It's kind of like when you go to a chiro and when he first adjusts you back into alignment things that got used to supporting the misalignment start hurting. A good hurt you might say.

    I think I'll continue to stretch out inverted at the end of workouts to see how much that may help my back.

  • #2
    I don't really have anything substantial to say but my own experiences with hanging are positive. The reverse hyper machine will do about the same if you don't feel like hooking up to a true upside down hang.


    • #3
      Actually having upside down from a bar has a different effect to laying on gravity take / inclined bench with your feet hooked.

      The complete hang doesn't let your back muscles fully relax as your body is using them to hang. Whereas on the table your rating on the surface with your hooked feet to stop you from sliding, so your muscles are able to relax more. I've found the latter help more with my back issues.

      Not sure if my explanation makes sense though
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      • #4
        I'm very curious about the longterm benefits of regular inversion (with a table). Is it really just temporary, or can it help you heal something that's typically very compressed? Would stabilizing muscles get strengthened over time from this activity?

        I occasionally see these on sale for as low as $100 so I feel that it could be a good investment to help relieve the inevitable damages of modern life (desk-sitting, degenerative disc issues, etc.). All the "evidence" I find online is promoted from the manufacturers, of course.
        Depression Lies


        • #5
          I think inversion is good, but most people need to be somewhere in the 30 degree inversion range. More than that and their muscles can't relax enough for much benefit. I'm actually OK relaxing completely inverted, hanging from a bar in "gravity boots" or whatever, but I'm an oddity. Don't do that. But yeah, if I find an affordable inversion table I'll grab it.


          • #6
            The two people I know who use inversion tables claim great success. I think it would take a long time to permanently decompress a lifetime of compression caused by our upright position, but with regular use it's plausible that muscles would gradually hold onto the improvements. But even temporary relief is relief.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by John Caton View Post
              The two people I know who use inversion tables claim great success. I think it would take a long time to permanently decompress a lifetime of compression caused by our upright position, but with regular use it's plausible that muscles would gradually hold onto the improvements. But even temporary relief is relief.
              True. Of course, it helps to actually use according to instructions. I know someone who only stays on for about a minute, which gives them like an hour of relief from their back problem. Waiting until the head rush is too uncomfortable is not smart. Best to work your time up comfortably and the angle down slowly.
              Depression Lies


              • #8
                When I did 10 minutes on the declined bench I didn't have any kind of Head Rush at all. I mainly kept my eyes closed and concentrated on relaxing individual back muscles and extending my arms every direction. I was surprised how much I grunted and groaned out loud as the hot spots worked themselves out. I'll do it again tonight as part of my cool-down stretching.

                I'm interested in doing this 3 times a week for at least 2 months to see how it effects me.

                Before laying on the declined bench my lower back was hurting some, especially on Sundays in a Monday, Wednesday, Friday workout schedule.The effects of that first hang has been felt from my waist and up my spine to about my shoulder blades. Like I said it doesn't hurt, just different.

                I suspect that as the muscles get used to my discs re-inflating that my back will probably feel stronger, more flexible and with less pain. But, if pain starts to increase I'll stop.


                • #9
                  Inversion and decompression therapy have an interesting history in the journals. Pretty controversial actually. The way discs actually work...the idea that decompression yields healthier discs just doesn't totally pan out. Discs are actually kept hydrated and healthy by imbibition. They take up nutrients and fluid via normal and non-restricted movement. But anyway...the only hard rule to it is do not decompress an acute injury (that and cardiovascular issues combined with hanging upsidedown isn't a good idea either). So give any new injury at least 72hrs before jumping into any inversion routine. Other than that I've simply told patients to start at a low angle if they want to give it a shot. It's not going to replace adjustments or exercise, but it may well be a palliative adjunct therapy for some.


                  • #10
                    Well my second round of hanging declined went a lot easier. There weren't very many hot spots this time.

                    While stretching I crossed both arms across my chest and squeezed which resulted in one really loud pop.

                    At about the 6 minute mark my whole back started to tense up and it was a bit of a struggle to keep it relaxed.

                    Getting out of that machine is kind of a challenge that requires a massive sit-up effort.

                    It's been 4.5 hours since my workout and my back is feeling better than it has in months. Not a hint of pain. I'm diggin it.

                    I may wake up in the morning and can't get out of bed. But, for right now it looks like this may become a permanent element of my workouts.