Inversion as a medical therapy has been around for centuries, although the actual inversion table is a relatively new invention. But what’s behind inversion, and who will it best help? And how do you know if you’re making a safe, sensible purchase if you’re in the market for an inversion table? We’ve compiled a few tips to help you be certain you’re making the right choice of table for your needs and budget, and we will also look at a few of the industry’s top performers so you know how your choice stacks up to the best.
What Is Inversion?
The concepts behind inversion are simple. Humans walk upright, and the digital age with long hours spent crouched over keyboards and sitting in boardrooms has not done our spines any favours. Inversion seeks to decompress the sensitive joints of our back- but it does it in a particular way.
By completely reversing certain stances and, in effect, ‘hanging’ the patient from their feet, it exactly inverts the stresses of alignment placed on the spine, allowing the joints to realign and decompress in the best way possible. It’s sometimes called gravitational traction, as that’s exactly what you get. It’s a useful tool for people suffering with backache and similar problems- and its accessible in your home!
That said, if you’re in certain high risk categories- pregnant, elderly, suffering glaucoma or with severe cardiovascular or blood pressure issues- you may prefer only to try inversion under the supervision of a professional therapist, but for most people an inversion table can be a useful addition to your personal gym or therapy room. Some yoga practitioners also find it a useful tool.
What Makes A Good Inversion Table?
As the spine is a sensitive area of the body, and as the table will be taking the entirety of the user’s weight, it’s obviously vital that your chosen table meets a few safety and quality criteria. Even a quick Google search will warn you that it’s a fairly pricey piece of equipment.
Back specialists recommend making certain the table you choose has the full safe range of motion available. That’s settings up to 90 degrees. Do know, however, that you shouldn’t start off there- they also advise that novices to the inversion process stick with the mid-degrees at first, and the injured may want to start at 30 degrees.
You want a durable, stable table- there will be a trade off in frame weight here, as the most stable frames will obviously be the weightiest too, but it’s a balance you need to strike. Do be sure to look at the table’s maximum accepted weight while you’re doing this, as you will need to make sure you’re in the right personal weight capacity for the inversion table you choose, too.
The attachment points on inversion tables fall into 2 categories. The most common is ankle suspension, although a few with knee bars do exist if that method suits you better. You want to be sure the platform is adjustable so you can get the height ratio perfect for your body.
Comfort should be a consideration too. Most experts will recommend a comfortable, thick back pad on the inversion table, but it’s really a matter of taste. There’s alternate designs [like honeycomb back pads] and mesh back pads available, as well as some with nifty tricks like added infer-red therapy. It’s up to you and what you can tolerate best.
The classic inversion table is self powered, and you will be responsible for the inversion process. Newer models may include a motor to control the process, but these are on the pricey end of the spectrum. Vibration pads to provide a relaxing ‘massage’ to complement the process are included on many models, should this be a feature that will interest you.
Who Do You Trust In The Inversion Industry?
So, we know what the features of an ideal inversion table are, but how does that stand up to what's in the market? There are a few famous brand names in the inversion market- Ironman and Teeter Hang Ups are veritable giants of the industry, with Body Max following as a great budget choice. Below, we take a look at an offering from each of these lines, to see how users rated them in operation.
The Ironman Gravity Inversion 4000 dominates positive reviews no matter where you try searching, so it’s probably the best place to start. This isn’t a cheap option, although not in the highest of price ranges either. It is a flagship in the brand and the priciest of the ‘gravity’ range, but most buyers find it well worth the investment.
This table offers the full inversion angles in several stage settings, and can sustain weights of up to 300 pounds and users up to 6.6”, so it’s also a versatile choice. Its heavy duty steel frame and anti-skid system are among the best, and it folds away for easier storage- though users caution that this will not be a unit you can slide under a bed, as its bulk is still awkward even when folded. Users praise the backboards and ankle mountings for comfort and support, and its ease of assembly makes it a hit too.
The quality of design, however, and reliable, sturdy nature are what draw people to this model again and again. Some users do note that the company packs its products considerably less well then it makes them, so if you have the option to buy this one in person rather than have it delivered it may be a worth transporting it yourself.
Teeter Hang Ups
Teeter Hang Ups is another of the ‘names’ in the inversion table industry, and a glance at reviews for any of their products generally tell you why. People like what they offer. The Teeter Hang-Ups EP-950 is another premium buy, and this one is one of the most expensive in the Hang Ups range.
Teeter puts a lot of work into its back pads, and the EP-950 boasts a mesh design with flexi technology to make it easier to adjust your position whilst inverting. The design is patented to this line, if you’re keen on the extra flexion- some love it, others are left cold. If you’re the sort to enjoy customising your purchases, the Hang Ups range is for you too, as the company offers copious extras from acupuncture nodes to lumber bridges, vibration pads and more, so you can adjust any of the range to suit your tastes.
There’s not much apparent difference between the EP-950 and the more economical EP-550 if you’re budget conscious, and even lower in the range you can usually buy add ons to achieve the same setup as the more expensive offerings, but many users suggest the real difference lies in the ease of release on the ankle mounts, so you may want to look at the EP-950 if you’re using your table with an existing back injury. In fact, there are users of the Hang Ups range that suggest all of the models can be hard on the ankles without shelling out extra on the available gravity boots, but users praise it for durability and usefulness.
The Body Champ IT-9070 is on the other end of the price scale from the 2 models above. It’s an economical buy, and so it’s a no frills unit. Users, however, have little to complain about and trust its build, making it a top pick for the budget conscious. Just don’t expect the added frills and whistles of the other units, and be aware the maximum weight limit for this table is a little lower. It’s a good choice for a starter table, or for people using it infrequently, but those with injuries to address or who require a heavy workhorse may wish to upgrade to a pricier option.
All in all, when it comes to picking out an inversion table, it’s key to remember that it must suit you. Past the basic safety features- secure clamps, sturdy anti-slip frame- and durability, the differences in models mainly lie in the customisation options, comfort and special options offered. Spend a little research time with your shortlist of tables, and be sure the combination of options makes for a table that will be the best inversion table for you and your specific needs, especially if you’re in recovery from an injury.