Do Inversion Tables for Sciatica Pain Work?

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If you suffer from back problems, specifically sciatica, you already know how debilitating the pain can be. One question I hear from people is, “do inversion tables help sciatica?” Today I want to dig into this question and also share my personal experience with both sciatica and inversion tables. So if you suffer from sciatic nerve pain, please stay tuned.

Woman with Sciatica

I am an advocate for using an inversion table, as I have been dealing with back problems most of my adult life. I have tried a lot of different treatment options over the years including shots and even surgery, I only wish I had been introduced to an inversion table earlier in my back pained life.

With that said, I would like to get into some of the basics with sciatica and inversion tables, so let’s get rolling.

What is sciatica?

In a nutshell, sciatica is pain that travels along the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs from the lower back down each leg.  It is crucial to note sciatica itself is not a diagnosis, but rather a symptom of a problem with the sciatic nerve.

When there is pressure on the sciatic nerve, the pain typically radiates into your butt and down your leg.  For me, the pain always shoots down my right leg, into my calf and even my toes.  Shooting, tingling, numbness are all sensations that you can experience when sciatica strikes.  I am all too familiar with shooting pain and numbness in my leg from sciatica.

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk.  Disks are the gel-like substances that act as shock absorbers for the boney vertebrae in your spine. A herniated disc will press against the nerve, initiating the pain.

I can tell you from my personal experience that sciatica can be awful.  I have had sciatic nerve pain so bad that it has brought me to my knees.  I have been shopping with my wife, wondering how I would make it out of the store and all the way back to the car. Other times it just plain annoying.

What is an inversion table?

An inversion table is a device that you lay down on your back and rotate backward to decompress the spine. There are other forms of inversion, including inversion chairs and gravity boots, but inversion tables are what I use regularly.

Some people use inversion tables as part of their fitness routine, but I strictly use mine for back problems.  An inversion table does not require you to hang completely upside down like gravity boots; instead, you can control the angle of inversion.

What does an inversion table do?

An inversion table basically turns gravity in your favor.  We spend all day upright and just the mere fact of standing up, or even sitting during the day puts pressure on the disk spaces in your spine.  An inversion table helps to stretch your spine and relieve back pain, like sciatica. Inversion helps to decompress your spine using your own bodyweight.

How does an inversion table work?

When you lay down on the inversion table and rotate backward, this helps to take the pressure off your spine and allows the disks a chance to rejuvenate and recover.

The disks are afforded the chance to rehydrate as well. When you are upright, whether you are sitting, standing, or exercising, fluid is squeezed out of your disks. Using an inversion table helps to rehydrate the disk space by providing separation between the vertebrae, allowing the disks to absorb moisture.

When a disk is damaged or dehydrated, the nerves can become pinched.  Here is a simple example.  We all love Oreo cookies and the creamy filling right? Think of a disk as an Oreo cookie, and when the cookie is compressed, the cream filling squishes out the sides and can compress the nerve.  That is just for visual context, but similar to what happens when disks are dehydrated.

When the disks can rehydrate, the result is a more plump disk space (cream filling), which doesn’t pinch the nerve.

Inversion tables can help realign your spine

We all tend to spend a lot of time at the computer, in my case sometimes slouching, okay a lot of time slouching.  I am also active, whether it’s hiking, biking, walking, or working out at the gym.Inversion table for sciatica

If you play golf or tennis, you will tend to work one side of the body more than the other without even knowing it.  If you are lifting loads of laundry, groceries, children, whatever it may be, you can get out of alignment pretty quickly and not even know it.

An inversion table can help to take the pressure off of the vertebrae (bones in your spine), and they have the opportunity to move back into alignment. Not saying this works for everyone all the time, but this is the theory, and my experience has been positive.

How does an inversion table help sciatica

Okay, now let’s get to the meat of this article.  Using an inversion table (one form of inversion therapy) can help your muscles stretch and relax.  This is especially true for your hips, back, and leg muscles.  By enabling these muscle groups to relax, you are giving the spine a chance to decompress, in turn giving that pinched nerve the space it so badly deserves.

People who suffer from sciatica can receive long-lasting benefits from inverting.  This study showed that people who inverted regularly were over 70% less likely to need surgery for sciatic nerve pain.

In my case, years of dealing with back problems have made the muscles around my hips, and low back, very tight and tense over the years. When you give your hips, back and leg muscles a break and a chance to relax, through inverting, the muscles can let go, allowing your spine to decompress and lengthen.

Allowing your spine to decompress can help herniated discs heal on their own, and encourages your spine to be appropriately aligned.  Using an inversion table can help to with these issues, whether it is a muscular or skeletal problem, that is causing the sciatic nerve pain.

So at the end of the day, an inversion table can help sciatica in the following ways:

  • Allowing your muscles to stretch and relax
  • Decompression affords a herniated or slipped disc the chance to heal
  • The spine has an opportunity to realign, which will give the nerves the room they need to pass through the vertebra

My experience

I have been using an inversion table for many years and have found inversion to be an effective method for my sciatica flare-ups.  If I overdo it at the gym, am doing chores around the house, or have to lift a dryer all by myself (don’t laugh, I have done this), I find that using my inversion table helps me out.

I am definitely an advocate for using an inversion table, and I realize there are differing opinions on the topic.  I believe that using an inversion table is a maintenance play.  To get long-term benefits, you need to use an inversion table regularly.

Conclusion: Do inversion tables help sciatica?

When you use an inversion table the right way, and regularly, I am a believer in the benefits.  But of course, like any product or treatment option, results will vary.  There is not a one size fits all solution to back pain or sciatica for that matter.

The best thing you can do is speak to your doctor, chiropractor, or other healthcare provider and determine if an inversion table is right for you.  There are a lot of different treatment options for back pain, so finding out what works for you is vital.

My personal experience has been very positive, and I am curious to hear from others on this topic.

So what is your story?  Do you deal with sciatic nerve pain?

Do you use an inversion table to help with your sciatica?

Also, if you know someone else who may benefit from this post, or from using an inversion table, please share this as well.

I appreciate you stopping by today if you have any questions, or comments, please leave them below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Also, if you are in the market for an inversion table, please be sure you check out my reviews here and here for a high-quality inversion table.

Thanks again for taking some time out of your day for me.


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