The human spine does far more than just hold you upright. According to the Nebraska Spine Hospital, it contains over 120 muscles, around 220 ligaments and over 100 individual joints. Even though your spine is strong enough to hold up hundreds of pounds of weight, about a quarter of its mass consists of flexible cartilage– the same spongy tissue that holds your ears and nose together.
Given the spine’s complexity, it’s perhaps no surprise that 60 percent of all adults report back pain at some point in their lives. After a back pain issue emerges, it usually only gets worse with time unless treated properly. Arthritis, herniated disks, degenerative disk disease and scoliosis are just a few of the diseases that plague the human spine.
Inversion therapy provides a drug and surgery-free solution for back pain. Inversion tables gained popularity in the mid-1980s, but they never went out of style. Celebrities as diverse as actress Eva Mendez, author Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code fame and illusionist David Blane are regular inversion table users– but you don’t have to be rich or famous to use one. Many different types of inversion tables are available, ranging from inexpensive ones that you can use every once in a while and fold away, to heavy duty inversion tables that are sturdy enough to incorporate into your day-to-day exercise routine.
Here are the best inversion tables you can buy:
- The Innova ITX9600A is a solid option if a basic inversion table will meet your needs and you want to save money.
- Weighing in at 76 pounds, the Ironman Gravity 4000 will wiggle around less compared to other inversion tables because of its added heft and extra large rubber floor stabilizers.
- Teeter’s EP-560 is a solid mid-range inversion table that’s ideal for stretching, thanks to its firm bed and cleverly designed handles.
- The Innova ITM5900 is one of the only inversion tables you’ll find that comes with built-in electronic features.
- Because it’s equipped with a number of features that cater to athletes, Teeter’s FitSpine X3 is the best inversion table to get if you plan on using yours to exercise.
The best value inversion table
The Innova ITX9600A may not be fancy, but it is affordable, comfortable and sturdy. One of its most innovative features is its pin-based angle locking system, which represents an improvement over strap-based angle locking systems because it lets you change your angle without dismounting. Another nice thing about this inversion table is the fact that the surface of its bed is padded.
- Reasonably priced. It’s very affordable compared to the competition.
- Sturdy construction. The steel frame, which weighs 52 pounds, is solid and well-built.
- Comfortable padding. The cushioned bed adds comfort.
- Accommodates most body sizes. Its maximum weight capacity is 300 pounds.
- Reversible ankle holding system. You can flip the ankle restraints around if you want to lay on your stomach instead of on your back.
- No straps. A pin system with a patented cover locks in your desired inversion angle, and the patented cover system stops you from accidentally knocking the pins out of place.
- Easy to store. You can collapse it down and fold it up when you’re not using it to save space.
- No extra features. Other inversion tables are equipped with built-in heaters, acupuncture nodes and other extras.
- May not be ideal for short people. Innova says that this inversion table accommodates people that are as short as 4’10, but you may struggle with it if your height approaches that threshold.
In a nutshell
If you’re looking for a reliable yet affordable inversion table, the Innova ITX9600A might be your best option. The pin-based angle locking system makes it easy to use, and the fact that it can be folded up for storage adds additional convenience.
The sturdiest inversion table
Ironman Gravity 4000
The creators of the Ironman Gravity 4000 decided to put extra attention into stability. Typical inversion tables weigh about 50 pounds, but this one weighs 76 pounds. That added heft helps keep it from teetering or shaking when you’re trying to find your balance. The padded bed and ankle restraints were designed with comfort in mind, and the extra long side handles ensure that you can lower yourself into your desired inversion angle with ease.
- Stays in place and doesn’t wobble. The added weight and stable design makes it extra sturdy.
- Extra comfortable ankle restraints. The cuff-style restraint is widely considered to be the most comfortable type of ankle harness for inversion tables.
- Fully adjustable. Just pull the pin and pick the length you desire.
- Removable lumbar support. The included lumbar cushion provides additional back reinforcement.
- Affordable price tag. You can choose to leave off some of the accessories if you want to reduce the price even more.
- Optional assembly service. You can order the assembly service if you don’t want to install it yourself.
- The balance strap can be a hassle to adjust. Each time you change the angle restraint, you have to dismount the inversion table.
- Somewhat heavy compared to other inversion tables. Its added weight provides stability, but might become a downside in some situations.
In a nutshell
This inversion table’s best quality is the fact that it’s heavier and sturdier than other offerings in this price range. However, this added heft is also one of its most notable downsides, since the extra weight might be a disadvantage in some situations.
The best inversion table for stretching
The Teeter EP-560’s flexible bed isn’t padded, which is actually a benefit when it comes to stretching because the firm surface allows for improved flexion. The bed’s built-in handles give you the ability to stretch muscles and tendons that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to target with a standard inversion table. The removable acupuncture nodes and the lumbar bridge accessory add additional health benefits.
- Innovative handle system. The side handles, built in handles on the bench and a handle on the bottom bar let you get the most out of each inversion session.
- Cuff-style ankle fastening system. The comfortable, cushioned ankle cuff fasteners reduce ankle stress when you’re inverted.
- Removable acupuncture nodes. Inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, the EP-560’s acupuncture nodes are designed to stimulate key nerve centers in your back.
- Lumbar bridge accessory. The adjustable bridge enhances spine decompression while inverted.
- One-piece storage. Just fold it up and slide it into a storage area when you’re not using it.
- UL-certified quality and safety. This inversion table is one of the few that bear Underwriter’s Laboratories’ seal of approval.
- Best-in-class warranty. Most inversion table manufacturers offer a one-year warranty, but Teeter’s covers a full five years of ownership.
- Significantly more expensive than entry-level inversion tables. If you’re just looking for a basic inversion table, the EP-560’s extra features may not be worth the added cost.
- No padding, stiff bed design. The EP-560 lacks the FlexTech Bed feature found in more expensive Teeter inversion beds.
In a nutshell
If you want to do more than just hang upside down when you’re inverted, the EP-560 might be worth it. The best-in-class five-year warranty suggests that Teeter is not afraid to stand by the quality of its products.
The best inversion table with a built-in massage feature
The Innova ITM5900 comes with a remote control, which you can use to operate this inversion table’s electronic features: massage and heating. There are also several comfort and convenience-based features consider, as well. The pin-based angle lock-in system lets you adjust your inversion level without having to dismount. In addition, the padded bed will protect your back from soreness during lengthy inversion sessions.
- Built-in heating and massage unit. This inversion table’s electronic features are the main part of its appeal.
- Convenient remote control. You can use the remote control to apply heat or activate the massager.
- Comfortable ergonomic ankle cuffs. The extra long ankle restraint bar lets you release and lock in your ankles from a distance, without bending your waist much.
- Extra padding. The padded bed is reasonably firm, yet soft enough for extended inversion sessions.
- Pin system locks you in place. The pin-based angle locking system allows for on-the-fly angle adjustments.
- Sturdy enough to handle 300 pounds of weight. The 38-millimeter steel tubes that make up the frame won’t bend or break easily.
- Good customer service. Innova will help you troubleshoot any problems and send you replacement parts if needed.
- Somewhat difficult to assemble. It typically takes about an hour and 30 minutes to put this inversion table together.
- The massager lacks shiatsu nodes. The inclusion of rotating Shiatsu-style massage nodes would have added to its appeal.
In a nutshell
The ITM5900 is an all-around solid inversion table that offers good comfort and durability as well as some intriguing electronic features. If you’re looking for an inversion table that does more than just flip you upside down, it could be worth a closer look.
The best inversion table for exercising
Teeter FitSpine X3
The Teeter FitSpin X3 is one of Teeter’s most full-featured inversion tables, and it’s equipped with a number of features that make it perfect for people that are striving to obtain higher levels of physical fitness. The firm yet flexible bed is easy to clean and it provides enough resistance to do crunches and other exercises. Its FlexTech construction gives it some added flexibility and comfort, as well.
- Locks in place for exercising. You can activate the inversion lock when you’re ready to do some upside-down crunches.
- Flexible bed for added comfort. The bed’s FlexTech feature makes more supple compared to Teeter’s entry-level inversion tables.
- Easy to clean and maintain. Just wipe the bed down with soap and water when it’s time for a cleaning, and you’re good to go.
- Long ankle brace bar. The long bar reduces the need to reach down when locking or unlocking the ankle harness.
- Most components come pre-assembled. Setup is because all the main parts are assembled at the factory.
- UL-certified safety and quality. As is the case with all of Teeter’s inversion beds, this one bears Underwriter’s Labs’ seal of approval.
- Five-year warranty. The extended warranty will kick in if you run into any manufacturing defects.
- No cushions. The cushionless design adds stability for exercising, but reduces comfort to a degree.
- Expensive compared to other inversion tables. The main problem with this premium inversion table from Teeter is that it is a bit pricey.
In a nutshell
This inversion table may be pricey, but it may be the last one you’ll ever buy. The FlexTech bed may not be cushioned, but that means that it’ll last longer because it will never rip or tear. The added firmness provides better resistance when exercising, as well.
Buying guide for inversion tables
More rigidity makes for a less comfortable inversion session, but there can be a benefit there as well. Cushioned inversion tables can be difficult to exercise on if they are too soft. Other downside of cushioned inversion beds is that they aren’t as durable and long-lasting as firm inversion beds.
Frame type and weight
Most inversion table frames are made out of steel, but the width of the poles varies. The thicker the frame, the heavier it will be. This extra heft adds stability, but also reduces portability and ease of use.
Ease of assembly
Some inversion tables take longer to assemble than others. Some brands put together the major components at the factory, while others opt to let the customer do all the assembling. Once assembled, most inversion tables can be folded down when not in use.
Maximum weight capacity
Be sure to check the weight limit of your inversion table before you commit. If your weight exceeds your inversion table’s capacity, you’ll put yourself in harm’s way each time you use it. The industry standard for weight capacity is 300 pounds.
Pin-based vs. lanyard-based angling mechanism
Pin-based angling systems are easy to use and let you adjust your maximum angle on the fly. Once the pin is in place, you won’t be able to exceed whatever angle you chose. Inversion tables that lack a pin-based locking system usually come equipped with a safety lanyard. These types of inversion tables require you to dismount each time you want to give yourself more or less inversion freedom.
Inversion tables that come with electronic features can be used to heat your back while you stretch it or give yourself an upside down massage. If you decide to buy an inversion table that doesn’t offer these kinds of features, you can compensate by purchasing a third party massage pad or stick.
Exercise-oriented inversion tables can be locked in place so that your angle won’t change while you do upside down curls and other types of workouts. Some inversion tables will only lock in place once you’re fully inverted, while others will let you choose whatever angle you want to use for your exercise session.
More expensive inversion tables come with various accessories that let you get more out of your inversion session. The most common type of accessory is the support cushion, which lets you stretch your back from different angles. Acupuncture nodes let you target various pressure points as you stretch your body.
You can find a decent quality inversion table for around $120. Entry-level inversion tables aren’t really solid enough to be used every single day, but they hold up well if you use them occasionally for basic back stretching.
Inversion tables that cost around $200 tend to be a bit sturdier and better suited for more frequent use. Some come with electronic features and larger frames. This added weight is an advantage in terms of stability and durability but may also be a disadvantage if portability is a concern.
High quality, premium inversion tables that cost around $400 are strong enough to be used on a daily basis. They cater to the needs of athletes with features like angle locking, additional handles and other extras.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What are the risks of inversion therapy?
A: Advice from the Mayo Clinic states that people with high blood pressure and heart disease shouldn’t use inversion tables. In addition, those suffering from glaucoma shouldn’t use them either. The reason: hanging upside down increases blood pressure within the eyes.
Q: Are there any studies that support inversion table use?
A: Studies of inversion therapies have yielded mixed results, but there are some studies that support inversion table use. One study– which was published in the medical journal Disease and Rehabilitation— seemed to indicate that inversion table use can help people suffering from protuberant disc disease avoid surgery. Another study published by The Journal of Physical Therapy Science indicated that inversion tables may allow people with disc hernias to heal faster.
Q: How long can I remain inverted? Is it safe to sleep upside down?
A: Sleeping in an inverted position is not a good idea because your body isn’t meant to remain upside down position for an extended period of time. Inversion manufacturers generally recommend that their customers start gradually by inverting for just one or two minutes and then built up to ten minute inversion sessions.
- You can use your arms to control the speed at which you recline. Start with your arms down, and then lift your arms slowly when you’re ready to invert. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to control your rate of movement with ease.
- Use the safety strap or safety pin to your advantage, especially when you’re first learning how to use your inversion table. This built-in safeguard will stop you from getting stuck in an uncomfortable position and will stop you if you lose control when trying to get positioned.
- Listen to your body. If you get uncomfortable for any reason, stop your session and try again later. Be present while stretching and monitor your body for any signs that it might need a break.