What is Inversion?

I caught a commercial the other day for one of those pieces of equipment that let you hang upside down. Thanks to the commercial, I now know that hanging upside down is known as inversion therapy! But is it really beneficial for your health?

Before doing any research, I had two theories: hanging upside down could possibly be beneficial for joints and circulation. Hanging upside down could relieve pressure on particular joints, like your knees and spine — or at least, reverse the pressure! And hanging upside down does make the blood rush to your head, so maybe that’s a good thing?

Inversion may have a very long history — practitioners of yoga have long used inverted poses to help improve balance, increase circulation, and relieve pressure on organs in the abdomen. But modern inversion — using a machine of some sort to help a person get into an inverted pose — was a product of the 1960s and 70s. Inversion became a health craze in the 1980s, until studies suggested that inversion might be more of a health hazard than a health benefit.

The authors of the study — which suggested that inversion could raise blood pressure and pressure in the fluid inside the eye — reversed their position within a few years. (Haha, I made an inversion joke!)

The main advantage of inversion can be summed up as “decompression”. Joints and muscles are stretched and compressed in the opposite direction that gravity compresses them when upright. Some inversion fans call inversion the “perfect stretch”. The stretch can help relieve stress and fatigue, too… though I think right side up stretching can also do that. You may also find that hanging upside down helps improve your balance and flexibility — but again, other types of exercise can do that for you.

Hanging upside down changes circulation, which can help move blood out of your lower limbs. And blood carries oxygen — hanging upside down can give your brain an extra boost of good old O2.

The bottom line? It doesn’t seem like inversion is harmful for people in general good health. However, there are some health conditions that may be a problem if you are interested in inversion. We’ll take a look at those next!