• I’ve been suffering from back pain for as long as I can remember.  It started with high school sports and progressed with time, being reignited by manual labor, sedentary desk jobs and everyday life with small children.  When I talk with others I realize that I am not alone – at least half of my friends suffer from back pain, too.

    I have tried practically every kind of mainstream treatment available and nothing has worked. I went to physical therapy, a chiropractor, a pain management clinic, a nutritionist and several other alternative disciplines to try to diagnose and alleviate the pain. I’ve tried transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatment.  TENS is when they send electric shocks to your spine (sounds like interrogation tactics) causing your muscle to contract and relax in hopes that it will lessen your back pain. While in physical therapy I tried this bizarre torso pulling machine (picture a device resembling ancient torture methods)—while laying on my back my upper body was harnessed and tied in a stationary position while another harness pulled from my waist down in the hopes of creating more space between my discs. Sounds like it would work in theory but in reality it felt incredibly unnatural and did not lead to any lasting relief. My doctor even tried me on anti-depressants, various painkillers, and still all this did, at best, was mask the pain.  I was told that I had a herniated disc and that the only solution after years of ineffective treatments was to have surgery. I was at times bed-ridden and in excruciating pain with nowhere to turn and desperate to get my life back, reluctant to have surgery but feeling like it might be my only option.

    It all changed when I went to the Relax the Back store during lunch with a friend who needed to purchase a special pillow for relief of his neck pain.  I was so excited to see an entire store dedicated to alleviating back and neck pain, but was not very optimistic of finding relief, and figured there would just be other devices to try. I played with different gadgets at the store, like the TheraCane– a simple (and relatively cheap at around $35) plastic cane design, with a few extra handles and knobs to allow you to maneuver it by yourself across your back, neck and other tension-filled areas.  It felt amazing but didn’t offer any long term relief

    In the center of the store was an inversion table (the L3-Contour made by Teeter) that grabbed my attention. I’d heard of inversion tables before but never knew how they worked or what they did. The salesperson approached and asked me if I wanted to try it out.   I jumped at the opportunity. He explained that the device locks your ankles in place while you lie back on the table that slowly causes you to recline backward to an upside down position (a full 90 degrees).  He suggested I start off slowly at 60 degrees and once he adjusted it for my height I strapped my ankles in and lifted my hands up, which controlled how fast and how far I leaned back. The device was well balanced and my descent was surprisingly controlled.  All the blood rushed to my head at first but within a minute or two I got used to it and the relief was amazing. Essentially it allows your body to negate gravity or use it to naturally decompress your spine. I was amazed! No fancy gimmicks, medications, or nutrition plan (which doesn’t hurt anyway), just a simple inversion allowing your spine to use gravity to create space. After five minutes, I dropped my hands and came back up to the upright position.  I felt immediate relief and wanted more.  After my friend bought what he needed I asked the salesperson if I could try it again.  He agreed and I was hooked!  I ended up taking a huge leap and buying the table for about $450 (it seemed minor compared to the pain I was enduring and the potential cost, stress, etc, of the seemingly inevitable surgery ahead of me).  Turns out it was the best investment I’ve ever made.

    After using it for about a month, just twice a day, morning and evening for 5-10 minutes, I no longer had any back pain.  I didn’t follow-up with any of the care I had been suggested (not recommending you do that) because I was so pissed off that none of the providers from my previous treatments, over my many years of suffering, had ever suggested that I at least try this. The concept is so simple and the results are incredible.   I started to wonder if the reason most professionals didn’t mention it was because it wasn’t profitable for them.  I did not have surgery but did eventually call to let the doctor’s office know what had helped me, with the hope that they would consider recommending it to others like me.

    In my mind the inversion table has been a godsend and I feel that it literally saved my quality of life.  At this point I would give up most of the extras in my life before giving up my table.  You can find cheaper models but there are two things you want to look out for before buying. First, the ankle lock needs to be comfortable and easy to engage so that you don’t have to bend completely forward to lock it in to place (remember, your back already hurts).  Secondly, don’t buy a cheap imitation that has a foam backboard. The hard plastic back contoured for your spine lets your back slide slowly down the table allowing your spine to expand. I no longer have to use it every day, since the pain is gone, but I still get on there every so often because it’s relaxing. I’ve also discovered new stretches and exercises I can do to help with my upper body flexibility. Make sure you read and follow the precautions and instructions before using an inversion table.  And you should probably check with your doctor before buying one in case you have a medical condition that would be worsened by the use of the table. Though it takes a little time to get used to and might not work for everyone, I think your bodies will thank you for taking a break from the effects of gravity!