As we have discussed before, a slipped or herniated disc occurs when the structure of the disc between your vertebrae bulges or ruptures, causing the anatomy of the disc to place pressure on nerves, resulting in pain, numbness and weakness in your back which sometimes radiates into your buttocks and legs. Slipped discs occasionally happen in your neck (cervical spine), are rare in your upper back (thoracic spine) and are most common in the lower back (lumbar spine).
As with any injury, consult your doctor before beginning any treatment or therapy. When it comes to most slipped discs, rest and relaxation will do the trick over time, but if you are told you need surgery for a slipped disc, you may want to proceed cautiously and seek a second opinion. A recently published study found that 77% of pre-surgery patients that inverted on a Teeter and received physical therapy were able to avoid surgery altogether in comparison to only 22% of pre-surgery patients who received physical therapy alone.
Symptoms of a Slipped Disc
Even though most slipped discs can naturally heal themselves with rest and natural decompression with an inversion table, The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests you consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- A moderate injury causes immediate numbness or weakness in one or both legs
- You have shooting leg pains with coughing, sneezing, or straining
- Leg pain is accompanied by persistent weakness, tingling, or numbness
- Back pain persists or builds in intensity over a few weeks duration
- Back pain is accompanied by pain during urination
- You experience severe deep back muscle pain and muscle spasms
- You have loss of bowel or bladder control
How Inversion Helps Slipped Discs
The science behind your body being able to naturally heal a slipped disc is really quite simple: take a load off!
A study conducted by Dr. Nachemson looked at different body positions and how they impacted the pressure within the 3rd lumbar disc. Nachemson found that when you are sitting, you experience 50% more pressure on your back then when you are standing in good posture. Even when you lie down, you still have 25% of your standing body pressure on your spine as a result of the muscles and ligaments supporting your back! Nachemson also found that gravity decompression at an angle where 60% of your body weight is stretching your spine allows the pressure on your discs drop to at or near zero (this equates about 60 degrees inverted on a Teeter Inversion Table).
When it comes to pain relief, inversion can bring short term as well as long term benefits. Dr. Nosse4, who conducted a study using EMG activity to evaluate the level of muscle pain, found that within as little as 10 seconds after inverting, participants experienced a 35% decrease in muscle pain. He also identified a correlation between a reduction in EMG activity and an increase in spinal length.
Of course, the benefits of inversion are temporary. But routine use can bear long term results for the health of your spine and joints. Regular inversion allows your back muscles to relax, your spine to elongate and create space for your discs. This space is vital to the discs’ ability to naturally realign, rehydrate and return to health – providing flexibility, shock absorption and improved posture. Inverted exercises (sit-ups and crunches) can help to improve core strength and keep future injuries at bay.
Sources: 1.http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09638288.2011.647231?prevSearch=allfield%253A%2528inversion%2Btherapy%2529&searchHistoryKey= 2. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/296/20/2512.full.pdf 3. Nachemson, A and Elfstrom, G: Intravital Dynamic Pressure Measurements in Lumbar Discs. Scandinavian Journal of Rehab Medicine, supplement, 1970. 4. Nosse, L.: Inverted Spinal Traction. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 59: 367-370, Aug 78. Page 368.