// Turn your world upside down - inversion training
by Dana Eden
Good posture is the body position which best resists gravity.
inversion is a simple and logical approach to dealing with the
accumulative effects of gravitational stress on the spine.
The effects of gravity
When you get out of alignment for any reason your soft tissues (mainly muscles) are forced to resist gravity, and they can’t always do it. common habits like rounded shoulders and slouched sitting as well as one-sided activities like golf, tennis or carrying a baby on your hip can cause minor misalignments. This can cause muscle stress, tension and spasm in the back, neck and shoulders as well as headaches and other problems. gravity combined with common postures, malforms and deteriorates the body causing chronic compression of the weight-bearing joints and affecting the surrounding musculature and nervous system. Discs in the spine become thinner due to compression – you can temporarily lose up to 1.3cm to 1.9cm in height during your waking hours from the compressive effects of gravity (thinning of discs due to dehydration). Over time, we will see results of permanent height loss and sagging body parts that we attribute to ‘old age’.
Reversing the adverse effects of gravity
Inversion has been shown to temporarily increase spinal length and decrease pressure on intervertebral discs, helping the discs to rehydrate with fluids, nutrients and oxygen for greater shock absorption. This results in reduced pressure on nerve roots that exit the spinal column through openings that are controlled by the height of the disc. This could greatly assist anyone suffering from back or neck pain due to nerve compression.
The Mendelow study completed in September 2006 concluded that inversion therapy decreased the need for an operation in sciatica due to single level disc protrusion to 23 per cent as compared to 78 per cent in the non-inversion group. statistics show that over three million Australians suffer lower back pain, an interesting result considering how many people undergo back surgery with less than desirable results. The Nosse study found that electromyography (EMG) activity (an indicator of muscle pain) declined 35 per cent within the first ten seconds of inversion.
Regenerating support structures to restore functional mobility
Joints naturally align and decompress
The compressive effect of gravity is compounded by activities such as running, weightlifting and aerobics. inversion with movement (such as side-to-side bends and back arches) provides the opportunity for joints to naturally align into what we call perfect posture. Combined with reduced stress and less muscle tension, people find that they naturally stand taller and straighter after inverting.
Decongest internal organs
As the body ages, internal organs (kidneys, stomach, intestines) begin to prolapse. often what we refer to as ‘middle aged 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.
Adopting an inverted position helps your heart move waste-laden blood from your lower body to your heart and lungs to be cleansed and rushes fresh, oxygen-rich blood from your heart and lungs to your upper body and brain. by encouraging the blood flow, inversion clears out pain-producing toxins (e.g., lactic acid) trapped in tensed muscles. Inverting the body causes tissue fluids of the lower extremities to drain far more effectively than when one is asleep. If you can remain inverted for just three to five minutes, the blood will not only drain quickly to the heart, but tissue fluids will flow more efficiently into the veins and lymph channels of the lower extremities and the abdominal and pelvic organs, facilitating a healthier exchange of nutrients and wastes between cells and capillaries. English soccer teams that use inversion with their players as a warm up and cool down technique have reported reduced injury rates and quicker recovery rates (due to faster release of toxins).
Relieve stress and tension
Much back pain is caused by muscles that are cramped, tense and in spasm. The muscle tenses, reducing blood flow in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, back or buttocks. This produces pain by allowing the accumulation of waste chemicals, much the same process that causes leg muscle fatigue after a long run because of lactic acid build up. When the muscle goes into spasm in the lower back, it can lead to the mistaken assumption that a disc problem has occurred.
Inversion stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid which flushes out the wastes and carries them to the blood stream. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no pump and needs all the help it can get. Only the alternate relaxing and contracting of the muscles moves the lymphatic fluid through the capillaries and the one way valves pointing towards the major lymphatic ducts in the upper chest. Even in healthy relaxed muscles, the lymphatic fluid moves very slowly.
Stretching while inverted maximises effectiveness because it uses the individual’s own body weight and also eliminates any compression. Strong ligaments and muscles are vital for proper joint support, protecting people from injury. Inverted stretching and exercise provides gentle reverse loading and mobilisation of the spine and weight-bearing joints, helping to strengthen the fibrous structure encasing these joints and helping users to attain functional fitness.
There are numerous, and conflicting, schools of thought and techniques in the personal training industry, and naturally not everybody will subscribe to the same ideas, particularly in specialised fitness disciplines. Inversion training may not be for everyone, but many people find that they are able to maintain optimal spinal health when they incorporate an element of inversion therapy into their daily fitness regime.
Dana Eden is a personal trainer, Pilates instructor and older adult trainer and runs her own business, Pulse North Coast. She has more than 15 years experience in the fitness industry and has recently been awarded a scholarship to study spinology. Dana has a passion for spinal health and postural awareness and is director of Inversion Australia PL.
PERSONAL TRAINER NETWORK • AUTUMN/WINTER 2008 • PP19-20