Friday, July 28, 2017

Is Gravity our Friend?

    It’s very interesting that inverting the human body allows you to turn the table on gravity, and use gravity as a positive exercise and therapy tool. It’s true that we need gravity, or we would all float away. However, what does gravity actually do to our body? Is it a positive, or a negative? Can we work with gravity?

    Inversion and oscillation is probably the oldest and most extensively researched exercise and therapy in the world. It has been practiced all over the world, and goes back thousands of years! The ‘Roman Chair’ has been used for thousands of years, and is basically what we now call the ‘hyperextension bench’. The modern Inversion Table has been used around the world for over 30 years.

    The human body shrinks about 1 inch every 25 years. This is not because the bones are getting smaller or shorter, but the space between the bones, in the joints, is getting narrower. Most of this shrinkage is in the spine because there are 26 bones (vertebrae) which are separated by a fluid cushion called a ‘disc’. The downward pressure of gravity pushes fluid out of the disc, and so with aging the disc gets thinner and thinner. The loss of a 1/16 of an inch of thickness in the disc multiplied by 26 vertebras would result in over an inch and a half of spine length loss. The cartilage in the ankle, knee and hip is also compressed and loses fluid which results in more height loss. As a result the 25 year old can be walking around in a shrunken body that’s an inch shorter than it should be. The 50 year old could be 2 inches shorter, and the 75 year old could be 3 inches shorter than their optimum height.

    Inverting the body, or oscillating the body on an Inversion Table is an amazing technique which allows us to use gravity for many health and fitness benefits. The body is 70 – 75% fluid, and when we change the angle of the body, the fluid within the trillions of cells, and also the extracellular fluid (lymph fluid) is pushed into a different position. It is helpful to picture a bottle of water, and look at the effect that gravity has on the water when you hold the bottle at different angles. If the bottle is upright, the water is in the bottom of the bottle. If you hold the bottle on a diagonal angle, the water is partly on the side and partly on the bottom of the bottle. If you tilt the bottle into a horizontal position, the water is on the side of the bottle. When the bottle is inverted, the water is in the top of the bottle. Gravity is a force which is perpendicular to the earth, or at a 90 degree angle to the earth. When we drop something it falls directly to the earth, it doesn’t travel sideways. This applies in the northern hemisphere, or in the southern hemisphere, and at the equator. We can see that gravity is always pulling our body towards the earth, and that applies to everything inside the body as well, which would include the blood and lymph fluid, and all of the glands and organs, muscles and joints.

    The Inversion Table allows us to put the body at various angles which physically moves the glands, organs, muscles, joints, and bodily fluids into a slightly different position. Oscillating the body from a positive 20 degree angle to a negative 20 degree angle, helps to get rid of pressure points caused by gravity, and creates a floating effect, or feeling of weightlessness or buoyancy. This is similar to floating in water without the resistance of water, and without the concern of getting water up the nose. In the space station, astronauts experience the same feeling of weightlessness or floating which is very relaxing and therapeutic. Astronauts are approximately 2 inches taller in space, and they shrink back to their compressed posture when they return to earth. By using an Inversion Table as an oscillation tool you can achieve a similar effect on the body. Some people measure about 2 inches taller when they are on the Inversion Table. This is extremely helpful for the joints and muscles in the body where people often have pain, and a loss of flexibility because of the downward pressure of gravity. It is helpful to lie down after using the Inversion Table, so that the discs between the vertebrae, and the cartilage in the ankle, knee and hip, have time to rehydrate with fluid which will make the discs and cartilage thicker.
    The internal organs in the torso of the body sag or prolapse with time. The lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and stomach put downward pressure on the digestive tract, bladder and reproductive organs. This is one of the main causes for problems with the digestion, bladder and reproductive organs as people get older. Inversion or oscillation on an Inversion Table allows gravity to lift the internal organs back up into the youthful position so they can function properly, and it also takes the downward pressure off the organs in the lower abdomen. Inversion drains the old deoxygenated blood out of the organs, so that fresh, clean oxygenated blood can replace it. The only time the internal organs can fully relax is when the upper body is lower than the hips.

    The external muscles, joints and tissues prolapse with time as well, so using the Inversion Table has been called a natural “face-lift” for the whole body. It is a face-lift, chest-lift and tummy-lift! The Inversion Table is also recommended to get blood and nutrients to the face, scalp and hair creating a healthy, youthful appearance. Remember that exercise can compress the body quicker because of the added weight and impact applied to the muscles and joints while exercising. So, we could say that the more we exercise the more important it is to use an Inversion Table on a regular basis.

    A motorized Inversion Table offers many important benefits compared to a manual table:

    1. A motorized table is easy to control because there is no balancing or adjusting required like there would be on a manual table.
    2. A motorized table can be stopped at any angle, and a person can stretch or exercise without the table changing position.
    3. A person can lie on their stomach, and receive a treatment or massage on their back while they are decompressed at a slight angle.
    4. A quality motorized table has a comfortable padded bed, and an arm cradle to support the arms, and a cut-out for the face if you are in a prone position, and a knee support to hold the knees at a certain angle.
    5. A quality motorized table is extremely well-built, stable and sturdy for a lifetime of benefits.

    Perhaps the one organ that benefits the most from inversion is the brain!
    The brain is above the heart, so as a person ages it becomes increasingly difficult for the heart to provide all of the nutrient- rich, oxygenated blood that the brain needs. The brain uses about 25% of the calories we consume each day, and needs about 2,000 quarts of fresh blood every 24 hours. Gravity tends to slow blood flow to the brain. Brain speed and accuracy can improve with inversion, as well as memory and concentration. The cerebellum at the base of the brain is responsible for balance and coordination, and fresh, oxygenated blood improves the performance of the cerebellum. Eye sight and hearing can also improve with inversion. Head and shoulder stands have been performed for thousands of years to achieve these benefits for the brain and the other organs in the body. However, the concern with head and shoulder stands is that the lower body weight is transferred to the upper spine which causes compression of the thoracic and cervical vertebrae in the neck and shoulder area. Also, with the head and shoulder stand there is no stretching or decompression of the muscular and skeletal systems. With the Inversion Table a person receives all of the benefits of inversion for their glands, organs, blood, lymph fluid and muscles and joints without any compression of the upper spine. In summary, Inversion Therapy benefits all 12 Systems of the human body. 

- Written By: Philip Legge RNC, CH, CDMT

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