Before we get into the Inversion Chair, it’s important to take a short dive into the human anatomy so that you can truly understand how this chair was designed to work.
If you’ve been suffering from back pain, you might already be familiar with Inversion Tables and inversion therapy as a means to finding pain relief. Personally, I have used an inversion table for years and experienced both the pros and cons of using one.
What is Inversion Therapy?
Inversion Therapy is the process in which gravity is used to distract (stretch) or elongate the spine in order to relieve pressure on the nerves which can cause back pain. This process is also called inversion and is a form of spinal traction.
Why does Inversion Therapy Help?
Each of your vertebrae are separated by flexible discs that allow your spine to bend and move. Each of these flexible discs are like little shock absorbers that also provide cushioning for your spine. The outer portion of the disc (the annulus) is a tough, layered material that surrounds a softer inner core (the nucleus). Think of it like a jelly donut with a softer jelly-like material in the center.
When a disc is healthy, it doesn’t touch or make contact with the nerve roots that exit the spinal canal. But when a disc experiences a heavy impact, or begins to degenerate, the outer annulus can begin to tear and bulge outward. Or if it fully breaks open, the inner jelly like material can push its way out (this is called a disc herniation). In both cases of a disc bulge or a disc herniation, each can push on the nerve roots (the yellow finger like things in the illustration) and cause a great deal of pain.
When we’re sitting or standing, gravity is compressing these discs and pushing the inner-core material outward, the same way that a ball of Play-Doh squishes out the sides when you push the palm of your hand into it. The reason why inversion therapy helps relieve back pain is because the process of stretching the spine (pulling the vertebrae apart) creates a negative pressure inside the disc that can pull back the disc bulge or herniation just enough to decompress the nerve root. When the pressure is backed off on the nerve root, the pain naturally dissipates.
Does Inversion Therapy Really Work?
I know from many years of personal experience that inversion therapy does indeed help relieve back pain. But in my particular case, it’s typically been more temporary relief and not necessarily a permanent solution. However, other people swear by it and feel strongly that consistent inversion therapy has either completely fixed or significantly improved their back pain. It has been theorized that the negative pressure (stretching the spine) can pull the disc bulge back in and also draw in more nutrients from the body, helping to accelerate the healing process.
I used to own a Teeter Hangups inversion table and used it on an almost daily basis for years before I sold it. For the most part, I was very happy with it. It was easy to setup and had a pull pin that was used to set your height before getting strapped in. This height adjustment basically made it so that it was balanced better and made it more controllable when going inverted. The table and head rest were very comfortable and the build quality was top notch. However, there were two key things that really bothered me:
- The ankle locks put a lot of pressure around my ankles when going inverted which caused discomfort and pain in both my ankles and knees. This pain prevented me from staying inverted any more than a couple of minutes at a time.
- When I was laying there inverted, I always felt like I should be working on my laptop or reading a book instead of being unproductive and wasting time just hanging upside down like a bat.
Designing the Inversion Chair
When designing the inversion chair, my main goal was to solve the issues that bothered me with all of the inversion tables on the market.
- Mainly, I wanted the chair to do a more subtle amount of inversion so that I didn’t have to strap my ankles into anything and so that I could go inverted over a longer period of time. Instead of getting only a minute or two of inversion therapy, I wanted to extend this to at least 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Secondly, I wanted to incorporate a way that I could use my laptop to work, watch YouTube, or read a book while I was doing my daily inversion therapy. This way I could kill two birds with one stone and be productive while taking care of my spine at the same time.
As we went through different prototypes, we came up with a padded roller table design that reduces friction and allows your body to maximize the stretch with very little resistance. For those of you that have significant back pain, you know how very small movements can be very uncomfortable and sometimes just engaging your back muscles alone can cause significant pain. The rollers allow your back to relax while gravity pulls gently to give you a nice stretch.
What we found is that the rollers not only give your lower lumbar a good stretch while laying on your back, they also give your lower lumbar a good stretch while laying on your stomach. When laying on your stomach, gravity naturally pulls your legs down the rollers and gives a nice subtle amount of decompression in the lumbar area. Combined with the laptop stand on the foot rest, this provides a good option for decompressing while getting work done.
We call this decompressing in the Sphinx position, because it’s very similar to the Sphinx pose in Yoga. The Sphinx pose is often recommended by physical therapists for people with lumbar disc issues. Because the angle of the roller table is electronically adjustable with a simple rocker switch on the side of the chair, the angle can be dialed in for the optimum and most comfortable sphinx position.
No matter what you do, it’s generally not a good idea to be in the same position for too long. It’s always a good idea to keep moving and switch positions as the day goes on. Knowing how important it is to incorporate standing as part of your routine, we also added a fully adjustable laptop mount that can be used as a quick standing desk. The laptop arm features a gas spring that allows for almost limitless adjustments.
This laptop arm can also be used while laying on your back in the inverted position when using an external monitor like shown below.
Exercising with the Inversion Chair
If you’ve been through a physical therapy program where a roman chair was recommended for strengthening your core back muscles, you’ll be pleased to see that you can also perform back extensions on the inversion chair by slowly raising your legs and holding in position.
The padded bars also provide a comfortable platform for doing pushups and getting the blood flowing.
Hopefully by now you can see some of the benefits that an inversion chair provides over an inversion table. It’s much more versatile, allows you apply a more subtle amount of inversion over a longer period of time, and provides a healthier way to work as opposed to being in a single position all day long.
Want to Build this Project?
We provide a full parts list and step by step instructions for building this inversion chair. The plans are delivered as a .pdf download which can be viewed on any computer or mobile device. The plans include 119 highly detailed pages with diagrams and step-by-step instructions that are very easy to follow for the average woodworker and they contain BOTH Metric and Imperial measurements. Electronics and wiring instructions are also included.Get the plans