Have you been struggling with back pain and trying to avoid the route of surgery to treat it? I have, and like many other people I thought only surgery could provide a long-term solution.
Unwilling to go that route, I would take prescription painkillers trying to head-off or relieve the back pain that was sure to follow my work out. I don’t like having to rely on medications for pain relief, so I started looking around for a more natural way to deal with my recurrent back pain.
Then I found out about inversion therapy and how it can successfully treat and prevent the type of pain I was in. But you can get much more out of your table than just lying there. I've put together some of my favorite exercises and stretches below.
Start With Partial Inversion
You can first attempt inversion table stretches while in a partially inverted position. This is a good way to get used to the different feeling of exercising and stretching while inverted. Begin by giving your body a gentle stretch as you are inverting. Help your body to focus the motion on your core muscles by twisting your torso side-to-side.
Try crossing one arm across your body to get a firm hold of the opposite handle of the table. Rotate your body so you are up on one shoulder, then give your body a stretch. Don’t try to do sit-ups in the partially inverted position. You can end up tipping yourself upright suddenly. Leave those for when you are able to do full inversions.
Full Inversion Exercises And Stretches
To do inverted crunches cross your hands on your chest or put them behind your head. Next lift your torso half way up to your knees. Hold and then slowly release. If you put your hands behind your head for these, be careful not to pull with your arms. This can crank your neck forward. Remember, we're trying to remove the pain, not make it worse!
If you wish to focus on strengthen your legs, then inversion table squats will do the trick. These really work the hamstrings on the back of your legs. Grip the legs of the table and bend your knees, pulling yourself upwards. Remember, this is a leg exercise so use your arms for support and balance but don't pull too hard with your arms.
When you are ready to do sit-ups while fully inverted, start out in the same position as the crunches. You can try gripping the backs of your knees to give yourself a little extra lift. This is a tough exercise and one you'll probably have to work up to. Remember the idea is slow and controlled motion, not whipping yourself up with momentum. Don't forget you're on a table either, not the ground, so control is even more important.
The advantages of inversion table exercises for abs are well-known and so the temptation to try the sit-ups might be great. Listen to your body and if the strain of the sit-up is simply too much, stop. You can try it again when your body has developed more strength and is more used to working in the inverted position.
Focused Inversion Stretches
Exercise on an inversion table can also help to stretch your neck just by rotating your head side-to-side. Or, pretend you're drawing a small figure 8 with the top of your head. This moves your neck vertebrae gently in all directions. I have always found that this works wonders for tension headaches.
You can also give your neck a gentle stretch by resting your arms behind your head, right at the base of the skull. Gently (key word!) pull toward the top of your head to increase the stretch. You're already upside down using gravity so avoid pulling hard or you can create more pain than you fix.
Shoulders and Upper Back Stretches
Pain in the upper back often results from muscle tension and stress. Deep breathing and total relaxation while inverted can help to ease this. Also beneficial is to round your shoulders forward and then push them back. Stretching your arms overhead and gently arching your upper back can feel blissful!
Here's another favorite. Grab the handle with your left hand, gently pulling your left shoulder toward your feet. Reach over the top of your head with your right hand and gently pull your head to the right. This will stretch the left side of your neck and shoulder. Repeat on the other side. This feels great for end-of-the-workday shoulder and neck tension.
Lower Back Stretches
Rock your pelvis slowly forward (away from the table) then backward or rotate your whole body side to side to help lessen lower back pain. While in full inversion, try placing both hands behind your head then arch your body up and away from the table.
If the sides of your lower back are sore, try this. Reach up over your head with your left arm. Reach as far as you can to the right with your arm straight. Now push your left hip to the left and take some nice deep breaths. You should feel a nice deep stretch all along the left side of your back and ribcage. Repeat on the other side.
Exercises in the partially inverted position are really quite easy to perform. Try out a few different types to see which are best suited for you. Remember to slowly return to vertical when the exercises are complete. This allows time for the blood flow to readjust and prevents dizziness. It's a good idea to rest in a horizontal position for a couple of minutes to assist with this.
Remember to start slowly with these and build up gradually. Do partial inversion stretches before you move onto full inversion exercising. It gives your body time to adjust. Otherwise, you might be setting yourself up for more discomfort. Pain control is an ongoing effort. Slow and steady wins the race. Best of luck and let me know how they work for you.