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Hi, everyone, it’s Kathleen, and today, I want to talk about your back.
No, not back as in Baby Got Back, but your spine and neck (also called the cervical spine).
As you know, several years ago, I hurt my back. While it has since healed, it was not uncommon for me to feel as if my spine were out of place. You know what I mean- you try to lie backward over a chair to crack it? Yes, that’s a thing for some people!
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My neck was often sore as well, which is really common for those of us who spend long hours typing and then more hours looking at our phones!
I used to go to my chiropractor for these issues. Oftentimes, he would alleviate pressure through adjustments, which means cracking my neck and back, but other times, he would use his spinal decompression machine.
I once joked that I wished I had a decompression machine at my house and he laughed, but then he said something I couldn’t get out of my head. “You could always use an inversion table, but they aren’t exactly the same thing,” he told me.
This simple statement would change my life! I did check out gravity boots (Forget it! No way I could hoist myself on those!) and inversion tables.
If you’re tired of visits to the chiropractor, or if you wish you could find an easy way to alleviate lower back pain, you will want to read this article.
Please remember that I am not a doctor, and this is NOT medical advice. This article should only be considered advice between friends. Always see your doctor or chiropractor before using an inversion table or gravity boots, especially if you’re having back or neck pain that has not yet been diagnosed.
Are you ready? Grab a cup of coffee and sit back. We are going to “hang” out for a little while!
Does Hanging Help Decompress Spine?
Yes, that’s the whole point of using an inversion table or gravity boots – to help decompress the spine. Hanging upside down is a great way to allow the forces of gravity to gently pull on your spinal column, regain spaces between the bones, joints, and discs, and relieve back pain.
What Happens When You Decompress Your Spine?
This form of spinal decompression therapy is nonsurgical. It changes the force and position of the spine by creating a tiny bit of extra space that takes the pressure off the spinal discs, which are gel-like pillows or cushions that are between the vertebrae in your spine, thus creating negative pressure in the disc.
When we release the pressure on the spine, you will feel your entire spinal column lengthen as it stretches out and creates space.
This very tiny bit of space allows the nerves the room they need to prevent sending you pain signals. When a nerve is compressed within the spinal column, it often leads to problems such as sciatica or pinched nerves.
If you have a bulging disc, such as in my case, this small amount of space allows the disc room so that it can return to its normal position.
The same is true with your neck. You can actually have a bulging or herniated disk (sometimes spelled disc) in the neck. Spinal decompression allows just enough space so that the discs can return to normal.
I’ve found (via my fitness tracker) that my heart rate and blood pressure dip after spinal decompression. I’m not sure why, but I believe that this might be because I feel a huge sense of relief after hanging from my inversion table.
This is also the case with other joints in the body, including the hips. Who would have thought that a simple inversion table could decompress your spine and offer you so much relief!
Does Spinal Decompression Feel Good?
Oh friends, does it ever!
If you have ever gone to the chiropractor and had your back or neck adjusted, you know what I’m talking about.
Your back or neck may crack, but this is nothing more than air or gas being released. This air gets trapped in the spaces when your vertebrae are out of position. That cracking sound isn’t the bone literally breaking, but nothing more than air being released.
It’s one of those “hurts so good” scenarios. For a brief second, you feel the shift happening, you might say “OH!” and then it’s sweet relief!
Spinal decompression is not harmful, in fact, the opposite is true. It’s spinal compression that causes a great deal of pain and discomfort. Spinal decompression simply puts things back into place and creates some space between the bones of the spine.
How Often Can I Do Spinal Decompression Exercises?
This will depend on your overall health and what method you plan on using.
For the dead hang, you can do that simple exercise as often as you like.
When speaking of hanging upside down, you should try to start slowly and spend only 1 or two minutes every day. You can gradually lengthen the amount of time you spend decompressing the spine, but most people end up spending 10 minutes every other day.
Everyone is different, however, so judge for yourself how you feel. If you feel relaxed and pain free after 5 minutes, then hanging for another 5 minutes won’t help more.
Listen to your body and do what feels good.
Why Is Hanging Good for the Spine?
When you let your body hang on an inversion table or using gravity boots, you’re not only making space for the nerves, but you’re also using your body weight and gravity to help return the vertebrae to their normal position.
Of course, there’s a slight difference between what a chiropractor does and the inversion table.
Your physical therapist or chiropractor will use a computer-controlled machine that will gently pull on the spine. This machine can limit the decompression to only the lower back or only the neck or the entire spine.
The inversion table has no such adjustment. It uses simple decompression exercises that align and create space from the neck to your lower spine, including your hips. This means that even if your hips aren’t causing you problems, the inversion table will not be able to exclude them.
Not that this really matters. Most chiropractors don’t like inversion tables because it takes away a large part of their business I would imagine!
I found, however, that after I began using my spinal decompression exercises on the table, I didn’t need to see the good doctor any longer.
If you have spinal stenosis, a herniated disk, pain in the lumbar spine, or regular neck pain that stretching exercises don’t seem to alleviate, you might benefit from spinal decompression.
How Do You Dead Hang for Spinal Decompression?
People have been using spinal decompression exercises for…, I don’t know, centuries? They may not have understood why it felt good, but our ancestors must have known that it offered tremendous pain relief.
There are several spinal decompression exercises that you can do at the gym or even right at home if you have a few simple pieces of equipment.
One of the quickest and easiest for some people is called the dead hang.
Using a chin-up bar, grab the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Step off of the platform and let your body hang down.
Don’t swing your legs, just keep your core tight and hang there and let the spine stretch. Start off by hanging for 10-seconds and try to work yourself up to 1 minute.
Of course, most women lack the upper body strength to do this, and it might make neck pain worse.
Another option is to hang upside down using gravity boots. These boots attach to a chin-up bar or pull-up bar. You put the boots on tightly and then using a small step ladder, you hook the boots to the bar and then hang upside down.
You may have seen gravity boots if you have watched the movie American Gigolo. In that movie, Richard “to die for” Gere was using gravity boots to do extreme sit-ups, but most people use them to do spinal decompression.
Personally, I think that inversion tables, such as the Teeter Hang Ups or the Teeter Inversion Tables, are much easier and more relaxing to use.
There are other exercises and stretching programs that can also do some spinal decompression, such as shown in this video.
Is Spinal Decompression Safe?
Oh yes, much safer than surgery, that’s for sure!
If you choose to use an inversion table or gravity boots, you should read about who should not use one. There are a few health problems that may prevent you from using one of these devices, in which case, you should opt only for the dead hang or the exercises shown in the above video.
Don’t use an inversion table or gravity boots if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, trigeminal neuropathy, or any issue involving the cardiovascular system.
Spinal decompression itself is perfectly safe for the overwhelming majority of people. You can decompress your spine simply by stretching. However, if you have any medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, cancer, or if you are under a doctor’s care, please consult with them first.
In other words, you can feel perfectly safe about finding relief from pain in the lower back, hips, or neck when you decompress your spine.
The Final Takeaway
Spinal decompression can help a great many painful conditions, including pinched nerves, sciatica, low back pain, and neck pain.
There are several ways to perform spinal decompression, including using gravity boots, an inversion table, or simple exercises.
Whether you choose overhead stretches, simple exercises, dead hang on a pull-up bar, or the upside-down methods of gravity boots or inversion tables, you’ll find benefits and pain relief in all these. And once you’ve tried the inversion tables, you’ll find yourself wanting to do it again and again!
Don’t let back pain bring you to your knees or send you straight to the couch! Try spinal decompression. Don’t believe how well it works? Google it for yourself!
Live happy and healthy because life is too short for anything else!