The Benefits of Inversion Therapy for Back Pain & More

This post was originally just going to be about how useful I found Gravity Boots as a useful remedy for low back pain. Which they are, but I found that a lot of additional contexts was needed. So to begin, I need to explain why I found the need to use them in the first place. I’ll then discuss inversion therapy benefits, types of inversion therapy, and my own experience with it.

My Diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease

X-Ray of my desiccated and bulging L4 & L5 discs


At 25 years old I began to develop severe low back pain. After stubbornly dealing with the pain as it progressively got worse for several months, and as other symptoms developed, I finally got X-Rays done to find answers. The results that came back showed I had desiccated L4 and L5 discs. I was then formally diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease.

In short, Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition where the discs that lay between vertebrae of the spinal column dry out, deteriorate, or start to break down. This can lead to severe pain that shoots down the legs as nerves become pinched, a loss of height due to compressed discs, and the potential for further issues like herniated discs as the protective walls of the discs break down. This meant some of my favorite exercises including squats, deadlifts, and even running were totally off the table. At its worst, everyday activities like tying shoes had become a challenge.

How Degenerative Disc Disease Occurs

Normally, the discs between our vertebrae are filled with fluid (up to 90% in young adults) and act as shock absorbers within our back. They also provide the mobility to easily flex and bend our back. The fluid level within these discs typically is at its peak in the morning after lying flat in bed overnight. As a normal day progresses fluid is squeezed out from the constant downward pressure on our back. This exchange of fluids is what brings vital nutrients into our discs that keep them healthy and allow them to heal.

As we age the level of fluid in our discs trends downward resulting in thinner more compressed discs. This is why people tend to lose height as they age. The decrease in the fluid within the discs also triggers a downward spiral in disc health as fewer nutrients reach them. The thinning discs are also less effective in cushioning physical shocks to the spine leading to pain. When was the last time you saw a 70-year-old on a trampoline? Degenerative Disc Disease is typically diagnosed when this drying of the discs reaches an acute level that requires an X-ray. Usually, this only occurs at an advanced age. 

I Was Way Too Young For Degenerative Disc Disease

So at 25, I was way too young to be having this condition and I needed answers. Why was this happening to me? Prior to this, I felt almost invincible. I never had to worry about what I put in my body. After all, outwardly I was always what would be considered in good shape.

As for answers, the doctors I worked with didn’t have them. Basically, I was told I had to live with it and take copious amounts of NSAIDS to relieve the pain. It didn’t take long for a whole list of additional ailments started to weigh on me as the months progressed from the original onset of pain. These included gastrointestinal issues, chronic fatigue, brain fog, rashes, depression, rapid weight loss, and the list goes on. I was falling apart both mentally and physically.

It Was the Wake-Up Call I Needed That Got Me Into Biohacking

This was really the beginning of my biohacking journey. I was determined to not live with the back of a senior citizen during “the best years of my life” and as the rest of my health became to deteriorate along with it, I knew a change had to be made. At this point, I had no choice but to do my own research and experiment to find answers. Since the various pills I was pushed out the door of doctors’ offices with only seemed to make things worse. 

I eventually did find answers in a number of holistic health practices, healthy lifestyle changes, supplementation, anti-inflammatory dieting, movement, and something called inversion therapy. The combination of these practices gave my body what it needed to heal.

What is Inversion Therapy? An Opportunity for Relief with the Potential to Heal

Upon researching further into Degenerative Disc Disease I found one potential treatment option was inversion therapy. 

The theory behind inversion therapy is that it reverses the pull of gravity on the body via being upside down. Relieving pressure on the spine and surrounding muscles while providing traction to actually pull the vertebrae further apart. Thus allowing fluid and vital nutrients to re-enter the space around desiccated discs to a greater degree. 

Reported Benefits of Inversion Therapy Include:

  1. Inversion therapy can reduce pain caused by pinched nerves

Inversion therapy can help to reduce lower back pain by alleviating pressure on spinal cord nerves exiting the spinal column. These nerve roots exit the spinal cord between the vertebrae along the entire length of the spine. The discs between each vertebra normally provide space for these passages. As discs become desiccated or damaged these nerves can become pinched as space constricts. Resulting in pain that can radiate to the extremities of the body. 

Inversion therapy can provide temporary reprieve by separating the discs and alleviating any pressure on nerves. This can help relieve acute pain of pinched nerves. Though it won’t totally eliminate pain if there is ongoing inflammation in the surrounding area. 

After continued use of inversion therapy, along with other healthy practices (low inflammation diet, core strengthening, mobility work, etc.), its possible that discs can repair enough to prevent further pinched nerve-related pain.

  1. Inversion therapy can help to move the spine back into proper alignment

One-sided activities such as golf, prolonged sitting hunched over at a desk, and unbalanced exercise practices can lead to our spine becoming out of alignment. As we fall out of proper posture our backs are no longer at their optimum weight-bearing capacity. This can lead to further muscle imbalances as the body attempts to compensate for the weakened structure. In addition, improper alignment of the spine leads to increased wear and tear on discs. This may contribute to developing conditions such as degenerative disc disease. I’m almost certain that improper posture played a significant role in developing degenerative disc issues. 

When vertebrae are out of alignment, the continuous compression from our muscles and ligaments that support the spine can make it difficult to get back into alignment. This pressure continues to occur (to a lesser extent) even as we are lying down. Inversion therapy offers a way to fully remove this pressure off the vertebrae so they can return to their natural position. 

Keep in mind that this needs to be done in tandem with other posture correction techniques. Otherwise, chances are the spine will just return back to its same unhealthy position.

  1. Inversion Therapy can help to reduce pain and ease stress by relaxing tense muscles

In addition to tensed muscles potentially causing misalignments in our spine, they can wear on us both physically and mentally. This is because prolonged muscle tension leads to reduced blood flow to the affected area. Which then results in an insufficient inflow of nutrients and corresponding outflow of waste chemicals within the affected muscles. 

The lack of nutrients and waste accumulation triggers a pain response in our bodies. That pain is produced by inflammatory proteins and is a signal to us that there is an issue. Not properly addressing the issue can then lead to more severe chronic pain. Inversion therapy offers a way to gently stretch and relax back muscles to ease away the tension. 

  1. Inversion Therapy can help to rehydrate and rejuvenate damaged discs

The discs between our vertebrae kind of act like really tough rubbery sponges. With the ability to both absorb fluid and have fluid squeezed out of them. As mentioned previously they tend to accumulate fluid overnight as pressure is relieved from the spine. Leaving them full and plump in the morning. Then as the day progresses and we go about normal weight-bearing activities such as sitting, standing, or walking that fluid is slowly squeezed out. Since the discs have no blood vessels, this process allows fresh nutrients to be brought into the discs and waste to be pumped out. 

When discs begin to degenerate their ability to retain fluid diminishes. Especially in heavy weight-bearing situations (ie. deadlifts) that put additional pressure on them.  The fuels a negative feedback loop where discs are no longer able to maintain the vital nutrients needed to repair any existing damage. 

This negative feedback loop can be further exacerbated when our posture is out of alignment. This is because as surrounding muscles tense up to support the back they can create constant pressure on the discs even when we are lying down.

Inversion therapy can help bring vital nutrients back into these damaged discs by first separating the vertebrae from the discs. This allows fresh fluid to reenter the discs. As mentioned in the previous sections, inversion therapy can also help to relax any tense muscles that put additional pressure on the disc.  While also helping to realign the spine. 

Some notes inversion therapies efficacy

Inversion therapy won’t magically solve anyone’s problems. It is simply one tool in what should be a holistic approach to healing. Doing just inversion therapy, while neglecting other healthy practices, and then expecting to feel better will only lead to disappointment. 

There are a lot of mixed reviews out there on inversion therapy and I think much of it has to do with that single-minded approach. This includes many of the scientific studies done which are typically testing a single factor over a short period of time. This is why there is quite a bit of contradictory information out there. Healing structural issues with the body can take significant time.

My own opinion is that it can help when combined with other practices. I certainly believe that it is a biohack that has helped me. 

Are there risks to inversion therapy?

The short answer is yes. There can be risks involved with inversion therapy. Especially if you have a pre-existing condition such as herniated discs, high blood pressure, glaucoma, etc. Also, it’s probably not a good idea to invert yourself if you are obese as the excess weight could too much negative pressure on the spine. If you are obese, inversion tables that offer lesser degrees of inversion are probably a better idea.

I am not going to make an exhaustive list of potential risks involved as it is important for you to thoroughly do your own research (this is just a blog, mind you). You should consult a health care provider before beginning any kind of off-label therapy. 

Types of Inversion Therapy Devices:

  1. Inversion Table
    Pictured: Teeter EP-560 Ltd. Inversion Table

    Inversion tables are the most common type of inversion therapy device. They allow you to stretch your back while standing in them upside down. Some models allow you to do abdominal exercises when fully inverted.


  • The level of inversion can be adjusted to various angles which gives the user control over the level of negative pressure on the spine.
  • Most commonly used, recommended, and studied device.
  • Tabletop design helps to distribute way not only to ankles but across the entire body when not fully inverted which can be more comfortable.
  • Depending on the particular model they can be used for abdominal and torso rotation exercises.


  • Somewhat costly (quality models can be several hundred dollars).
  • Devices require a large open footprint when used. Not ideal for smaller living spaces.
  • Collapsible devices require effort to set up which is inconvenient. They also can be quite heavy and unwieldy, so not ideal for those actually suffering back pain. 
  1. Inversion Chairs
    Pictured: Health Mark IV18600 Pro Inversion Therapy Chair

    Inversion Chairs offer a very similar experience as Inversion Tables. The main difference with the chair is it offers more support. Allowing partial inversion without as much stress on the ankles and joints. Inversion chairs typically only invert up to 70 degrees and allow abdominal exercise to a lesser degree than inversion tables.


  1. The inclusion of a seatbelt in inversion chairs helps reduce negative pressure on ankles and joints when inverted by utilizing a seat belt.
  2. Adjustable inversion up to 70 degrees.
  3. Good for some abdominal exercises.


  1. Unable to fully invert chair past 70 degrees limits the potential of gravity-based traction.
  2. Far less commonly used than inversion tables and thus far less documented.
  3. Can be on the expensive side (the cheapest option I could find was $350).
  4. Devices require a large open footprint when used. Not ideal for smaller living spaces.
  5. Collapsible devices require effort to set up which is inconvenient. They also can be quite heavy and unwieldy, so not ideal for those actually suffering back pain.
  1. Gravity Boots
    Pictured: Teeter EZ-Up Gravity Boots
    Gravity boots are devices that wrap around the calves just above the ankles. The devices have hooks on them specially designed for standard pullup bars which allow inversion wherever a compatible bar is available. They offer similar benefits to other inversion devices in a much more convenient form factor.


  1. Light-weight and portable. Gravity boots can fit into a backpack.
  2. Great for a number of different workouts including abdominals, inverse squats, and torso rotations.
  3. Lower cost than other inversion devices. Most options are below $100 (Note: I don’t recommend the cheapest ones.)
  4. Offer the ability to fully invert


  1. Gravity boots only offer full inversion.
  2. Requires a suitable pull-up bar.
  3. Not as comfortable as other inversion options.

My Experience With An Inversion Therapy Table

Not long after I received my diagnosis for Degenerative Disc Disease I went out and bought a used Teeter Inversion table. I figured it would be well worth the investment. To some degree it was, but I was never able to get myself to use it consistently. It was just too bulky and cumbersome of a device to use regularly if it didn’t have a dedicated spot.

At the time, I lived in a house with roommates and the amount of space we had was limited. The inversion table when deployed took up too much space to leave out (I had to set it up in the kitchen space). Thus I had to fold it up and store it in a closet between each use. Sadly as the saying goes, out of sight out of mind. I did get some good use out of it though, for a while, but as I made improvements in managing my back pain through other methods (including avoiding weight lifting) it fell out of use. Eventually, I sold it in an effort to declutter before a move.

If you have space for an inversion table I think they are great devices. It did provide me some degree of relief in the short term. I definitely made use of mine whenever I had a particularly bad flare-up. Without consistent use though I don’t think I really benefited as much as I could have at the time.

My Experience with Gravity Boots and Why I Love Them!

More recently I discovered a pair of gravity boots at my local gym. I love these things! I use them all the time! Pretty much with every workout. I can the difference after using them consistently. Since they also offer one of the best core workouts I can see the difference too!

Relieving Back Pain And Decompressing with Gravity Boots

Inverted with gravity boots. Allowing my back to stretch and decompress


I’ve found that Gravity Boots are best utilized after any type of heavy lift. If I am doing a heavy round of deadlifts or squats for example I usually end the sets with a bit of tightness in my back. The downward pressure of the additional weight likely also compresses fluid out of the discs in my back. 

By popping on the gravity boots and doing an inversion immediately following these exercises I can instantly relieve whatever tightness in my lower back that had just developed. My inference is that the inversion also allows fresh fluid to re-enter the discs immediately after the compressing activity. Ensuring that the discs remain hydrated and have proper nutrients within them throughout the rest of the day.

I think this is an especially important activity after morning workouts, as dehydrating the discs just as the day begins would leave them without the essential nutrients they need for repair the whole rest of the day.

After allowing myself to just hang inverted for 1 to 2 minutes (with an occasional torso rotation) I usually take the opportunity to do some inversion-based workouts.

Core Workouts With Gravity Boots

Inverted Toe Touches

I’ve found that inverted toe touches and crunches make for amazing core workouts. To be honest, I haven’t found a better core workout than them.

Finding stability while free hanging and fighting against gravity just make these so much more intense than the ground-based alternatives. My core strength and definition have visibly improved since I started doing these.

Inverse Squats With Gravity Boots

Inverted Squat


On days where I train legs, I also have started doing inverted squats with the Gravity Boots. Something I wasn’t able to do with an inversion table. These are just like typical squats, just done in an inverted position.

They help train the calves, glutes, and hamstrings along with engaging the core. I find that 3 sets of 10 reps make a great complement to traditional squats. In order to add additional weight, I can perform the same exercise while holding dumbbells or plates. 

Closing Thoughts

Out of all the fitness or biohacking gizmos and gadgets out there, Gravity Boots are one of my absolute favorites. First and foremost, they are pretty fun to use. Being inverted is such a unique experience. You’d be hard-pressed to find other opportunities to just “Hang out” without them. 

They also offer a number of benefits and advantages that you just can’t with other forms of exercise equipment. What comes closest are inversion tables, but those come at an increased cost and are large, unwieldy pieces of equipment. Gravity boots offer the same benefits as inversion tables with the convenience of being able to take on the go. You can use them anywhere a solid pull-up bar is available.

Most importantly Gravity Boots provide a pharmaceutical-free alternative to reduce back pain. One that could actually help to heal underlying issues as part of a holistic regimen. Not just cover them up and help us temporarily forget about them. Utilizing a tool like this to take back control of our health is what I think Biohacking is all about.

What’s your experience with inversion therapy been like? Have any questions? Leave a comment below!

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Bill

    Good post.
    Another inversion method you neglect to mention is the bent-knee devices such as the Invertrac (formerly Bac Trac), GraviS, Teeter Dex II and the now no longer produced Back Revolution.
    These devices are preferred by some as they allow full inversion without any strain on the knees or ankles, the disadvantage being that they only allow full inversion.
    They are not as popular as inversion tables and as such are hard to acquire in Europe (specifically the UK) but the Invertrac is available in the US.
    Keep hanging !

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