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Inversion offers a system of stretching and exercise that helps to slow or reverse the harmful compression of the body by gravity. Used sensibly, inversion can be extremely beneficial. The experience of thousands of people who invert regularly is that it gives them the relief from back pain they've been looking for. Just as important, they gain the rejuvenating effects of inversion on the entire body, providing health benefits far beyond the relief of back pain.
Inversion may help to:
Reduce Back Pain
Inversion is a natural form of traction that uses your body weight in combination with gravity to decompress weight-bearing joints. While the body is rotated and suspended, gravity’s force applies traction, resulting in a customized stretch that elongates the spine, increasing the space between the vertebrae1, which relieves the pressure on the discs and nerve roots. Less pressure means less pain.
Since every nerve root leaves the spine through a space between the vertebrae, discs that are plump and contained in their ligament “wrappers” are necessary to keep the nerve roots free of pressure and your body free from pain. Inversion offers a system of stretching and exercise that helps to slow or reverse the harmful compression of the body by gravity.
How does it work? The Nachemson study2 provides some insight: A number of volunteers permitted a pressure sensor to be surgically implanted inside the 3rd lumbar disc. The pressure inside the disc in the standing position was set at a base line of 100% and all other body positions compared to it. Sitting proved to be much harder on the back than standing, but the real surprise occurred while lying down. The pressure inside the disc only lost 75% of standing body weight – it never went below 25%! This residual compression seems to be due to the hundreds of ligaments and muscles that encase the spine, holding it in compression like a mass of rubber bands. This study further indicated that the amount of traction force required to overcome all the rubber bands was a large number, approximately 60% of your body weight. Inversion to an angle of about 60° is the only practical way to offset that much gravity force while remaining relaxed.
Inversion Helps Provide Care for the Discs
Your discs have three jobs: to separate the vertebrae, provide flexibility to the spine and to act as shock absorbers. Disc separation is especially important since all communication between the brain and the body is via nerves that pass between each vertebrae. Insufficient distance between the vertebrae can result in nerve root pressure and pain.
The inner core of your discs is made of a jellylike material that provides the cushioning in your back. You can temporarily lose up to 0.5" - 0.75" (1.3-1.9 cm) in height daily during your waking hours from the compressive effects of gravity. Loss of height is largely due to loss of moisture from the discs, which results in loss of flexibility and cushioning effect. While inverted, you are able to reverse the downward pressure on your discs, helping the discs to recover faster, regaining lost moisture and lost height.
Stress and tension can cause muscle spasms in the back, neck and shoulders, as well as headaches and other problems. Tense muscles produce spasms and pain by restricting blood flow, which reduces the supply of oxygen to the muscles, and reducing lymph flow, allowing for an accumulation of waste chemicals. Inverting yourself to even as little as 25° for a few minutes can help relax tense muscles and speed the flow of lymphatic fluids which flush out the body's wastes and carry them to the blood stream. The faster this waste is cleared, and fresh supplies of oxygen are introduced, the faster stiffness and pain in the muscles can disappear. A study conducted by physiotherapist L.J. Nosse3 found that EMG (electromyographic) activity, an indicator of muscle pain, declined over 35% within ten seconds of inverting.
The cardiovascular system is your body's transportation system, carrying food and oxygen to your body's cells. Oxygen-rich blood from the lungs travels out through the arteries and waste-filled blood comes back through the veins to be cleansed and recharged with oxygen. Because your body must work against gravity to retrieve blood from your legs and lower torso, inversion can help to ease the circulation process by placing your body in a position that utilizes gravity's force in your favor.
Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no pump. Only the alternate contraction and relaxation of muscles moves lymphatic fluid through capillaries and one-way valves to the upper chest for cleansing. Inverting the body so that gravity works with, not against, these one-way valves helps to push the lactic fluid up to the chest. The faster the lymphatic system is cleared the faster the ache and pain of stiff muscles disappears.
In her book Beyond Cellulite4, Nicole Ronsard discusses the role of the lymph system in creating cellulite, and ways in which people can help stimulate lymph flow to reduce cellulite. She explains that when the flow of lymph is slowed down, a stagnation of fluid occurs in the tissues. In areas where circulation tends to be poor and relies almost entirely on gravity to move it back up, as in the hip and thigh area, this stagnation encourages the formation of cellulite. By reversing gravity's force on the flow of blood and lymph fluids in the body, you can increase the nourishment of cells and accelerate the removal of wastes.
Inversion can also help to encourage good posture. When inverted, the body is in line with gravity. The spine wants to naturally go to its proper form (a gentle "s" curve). A regular program of inversion can help maintain proper posture and keep the body in balance.
Maintain youthful function
Achieve functional fitness: This term is defined as a state of flexibility, strength and balance that supports youthful movement and activity. Inversion is a way to keep joints healthy and flexible as the body ages, which translates to an active way of living throughout a lifetime.
Maintain height: Most people will lose from 0.5" - 2" (1.3-5.1 cm) in height during their lifetime due to thinning discs5. As a baby, your discs are 90% water. However, the water content in the discs decreases to 70% by age 70. An active inversion program can help maintain more of your original height.
Decongest internal organs: As the body ages, internal organs (kidneys, stomach, intestines) begin to prolapse. Middle age spread, apart from weight gain, is due to the relocation of internal organs. Digestion and waste elimination problems are also common symptoms. Inversion helps these organs resume their normal shape and place in the body.
Increase oxygen to the brain: Your heart must work against gravity to pump blood up to your brain, which is the body's largest consumer of oxygen. Although it is only 3% of the body's total weight, the brain consumes 25% of the body's oxygen intake. Peter Russell notes in The Brain Book6 that the deterioration of the brain is not directly linked to age alone. Rather, this deterioration is caused by hardening arteries and high blood pressure, both of which decrease the supply of oxygen to the brain. Thus a major step in reducing mental deterioration over time may simply be increasing the oxygen supply to the brain. (NOTE: If you have high blood pressure, consult your physician before starting an inversion program.)
Relieve varicose veins: When inverting, you are helping your heart to clear the blood from your feet, legs, and lower body. This allows the blood in your limbs to circulate more easily, which may help to drain blood from varicose veins.
Promote Active Living:
Today's fitness and health conscious individuals are a diverse group representing a wide spectrum of fitness needs. As people become more exercise savvy, many look for more than basic treadmills and weight machines to give them a "whole body" workout. They recognize the importance of a well-balanced workout, one that keeps them toned, fit and flexible.
Similar to the benefits accomplished with Yoga or Pilates, inversion equipment can help users improve flexibility, build core muscles and relax and reduce stress. However, the simplicity of use makes inversion equipment approachable and appealing to a greater cross-section of people. A regular program of inversion may help to:
Reduce pain in overworked muscles: Athletes prone to stiffness or muscle spasms after a workout can benefit from the lymphatic wash provided by inversion. Intense muscle activities cause muscles to become sore. This is due to the build up of large amounts of lactic acid and cellular debris in the muscles. The faster this waste is cleared, the faster the stiffness in the muscles disappears.
Provide balance and orientation training: The performance of inverted activities can be enhanced through inversion training. Inversion helps to develop balance awareness, which occurs when the upper regions of the inner ear are stimulated. Skydivers, gymnasts, springboard divers, and scuba divers find that inversion therapy fine-tunes the body and inner ear to the inverted world. Inversion therapy has also been used to normalize the ear canal as a treatment for motion sickness.
Strengthen ligaments: Ligaments are fibrous, collagen-filled strips of tissue that hold your bones together. They are flexible but not very elastic, and can tear when they endure sudden strain or are stretched too far. Mobilization and gentle loading of ligaments can help to increase the collagen content of the tissue, which results in increased ligament strength7. Inverted stretching and exercise provides gentle reverse loading and mobilization of the spine and weight-bearing joints, helping to strengthen the fibrous structure encasing these joints. Strong ligaments and muscles are vital for proper joint support.
Increase flexibility and range of movement: Stretching while inverted maximizes effectiveness because it utilizes the users own body weight as well as eliminates any compression. The resulting traction lengthens muscles and increases separation of weight bearing joints thus improving circulation to the soft tissue of the joints, helping them to rejuvenate naturally.
Reduce stress on body after a workout: Inversion decompresses joints, helping them to re-hydrate for better shock absorption and reduced pain. During a high impact workout, joints and especially discs, loose fluid resulting in a temporary height loss of .5 to .75 inches (1.3 to 1.9 cm). Inversion has been proven to increase intervertebral separation thus helping the discs to recover faster.
Encourage muscle development: Thousands of destroyed cells need to be trucked away after every workout to make room for new growth. This happens through the lymph system, which circulates slowly, taking many hours to make one cycle. Inversion helps to stimulate lymph flow which speeds the removal of waste and allows the body to focus on building new muscle tissue. This equals faster recovery after a workout and quicker results.
Build core muscles: Well-developed core muscles support the spine in proper alignment, helping to avoid injury and improve athletic performance. Unfortunately, most exercises designed to build core muscles must be performed with great technical accuracy or they can cause injury to the lumbar spine. Exercises such as sit-ups and crunches executed from the fully inverted position, plus back extensions performed with the hips parallel to the floor (while using the DEX) help to strengthen core muscles, without adding compressive loads to the spine.
Enhance alignment and balance: Joints that are slightly out of alignment from overuse and misuse are helped to naturally realign with gentle stretching during decompression, resulting in better body symmetry and posture. When the body is balanced, it is more resilient to injury and able to perform at a higher, more efficient level.
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