We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
It’s been said that walking upright is a miracle of engineering, and most of us perform that feat every day. The downside to all of this mobility, however, is additional stress on our necks, backs, and spines.
When the natural cushioning between the vertebrae becomes compressed, we pay the price in back pain, pinched nerves, and restricted mobility. Some sufferers seek relief through chiropractic care, professional spinal decompression, and therapeutic massage.
But these treatments are pricey, and the results are often temporary.
Inversion tables have become increasingly popular pieces of home exercise and rehabilitation equipment. People who suffer from chronic back pain, flexibility problems, and spinal issues often find relief through in-home inversion therapy.
The best inversion tables we reviewed place a high priority on user safety, range of motion, and comfort. Some of them have additional features, like heating pads and extra fitness tools. We are confident that there is an inversion table on our list that is right for just about anyone, whether you are trying to decrease hip pain or increase abdominal strength.
Inversion therapy provides an alternate solution to these physical woes. During an inversion therapy session, the practitioner secures himself to a pivoting table and assumes an inverted position. The position encourages spinal decompression and increased blood flow to the brain.
Inversion sessions rarely exceed 30 minutes for safety reasons, but satisfied users claim the health benefits far exceed any temporary discomfort. Some people even perform stretching and calisthenic exercises while inverted.
At BestReviews, we use a combination of consumer feedback, expert opinions, and product research to create shortlists of the best products on the market. If you’re interested in buying an inversion table, please see the five tables in our matrix, above. Each product meets our rigorous requirements for both performance and safety.
And if you’re interested in learning more about inversion therapy and its benefits, please continue reading our shopping guide, below.
Dr. Schreiber earned a bachelor of science in dietetics with a minor in biology from the University of Delaware, then continued at the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, CT, earning his doctorate of chiropractic and master’s degree in human nutrition. He is double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition. He has been featured in prominent publications such as the Huffington Post, livestrong.com, and WebMD.com.
Inversion therapy is considered to be an alternative health treatment along the lines of chiropractic care and body vibration therapy. Any claims of health benefits from inversion therapy have not been verified through scientific studies. Some benefits, especially pain relief, may be temporary.
Many inversion table users experience muscular relaxation and a gentle stretching of the spine at minimal inversion settings. The experience is akin to that of a chiropractic adjustment. Flexibility is restored, and the pain from pinched nerves or back spasms is noticeably reduced.
But the claimed benefits of inversion therapy stretch beyond simple back massage and spinal “popping.” Some people say that a deeper inversion of 60 degrees encourages the vertebrae to decompress, allowing fluids to flow back into the soft discs between them. Herniated or bulging discs may reduce in size after several inversion sessions.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
As a starter or entry-level inversion table, the Exerpeutic does not arrive with many extra features. However, we do appreciate the addition of thick foam on the backboard and on the ankle locks. (Bargain-priced inversion tables often use a hard plastic material for the backboard and minimal padding on the ankle locks.) The unit includes hand grips that help users regain momentum or return to a vertical position. Some people purchase an arched back-stretching platform and a personal lumbar support belt along with the Exerpeutic. We also suggest using additional padding, like a small pillow or foam exercise mat, to cover the un-padded areas of the Exerpeutic inversion table.
Some therapists recommend an inversion table for older children suffering from scoliosis. The act of stretching the spine under controlled conditions may help scoliosis patients halt, or even reverse, the spinal curvature that leads to mobility issues later in life.
Headache sufferers may find meaningful relief through inversion therapy. The relaxation and stretching of head, neck, and back muscles may reduce the triggers for some tension-based headaches. Increased blood flow to the head can also improve circulation and calm the nerves that trigger migraines. Even sinus and eustachian tube drainage are said to be improved during inversion sessions.
Some people with knee pain have also claimed to experience relief both during and after inversion therapy. No longitudinal studies exist to prove this claim, and we can’t say that this would work for everybody. Still, we believe this it’s worth noting.
Some inversion tables secure their angles by a pin. This is considered by many to be much safer than the straps found on cheaper inversion tables.
We spoke with a consumer who incurred bruised vertebrae and multiple bulged discs in his lower lumbar region after a devastating back injury. His surgeon recommended inversion therapy treatment, but that’s not all. Inversion therapy was also recommended to him by a sports medicine physician, a chiropractor, a physical therapist, and even his boss at work.
While this consumer’s situation may not match your own, we believe the number of professionals who recommended he try inversion therapy speaks volumes for this type of non-surgical, non-medicated treatment.
We also spoke with people in the active sports community who use inversion therapy in their workout recovery process. For some, the wear and tear sustained during running and other exercise appears to “heal,” at least to some extent, during inversion therapy. If you live an active life and want to experiment with new recovery treatments, this is useful information to keep in mind.
Make sure that you start out very lightly and do not completely invert. You may only require a little inversion to achieve results. Gradual is always better with time and angle of inversion.
High-end inversion tables often include additional features and optional equipment to enhance the user’s experience. Here are some helpful features and optional add-ons you may want to consider before making a purchase.
Comfort is an important consideration, especially for those who intend to invert for extended periods of time. Padding is especially important around the ankle clamps and head and neck support areas.
Some tables provide padding at critical pressure points but nowhere else. When in doubt about a particular table’s level of comfort, be sure to consult customer reviews and other feedback. If possible, test the table yourself before making a purchase.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
The Teeter EP 960 is constructed from heavy-gauge steel and weighs a substantial 73 pounds when assembled. We find the instructional DVD to be very helpful, but it's not specifically targeted at any Teeter inversion table model in particular. Total assembly time, on average, is approximately 30 to 45 minutes, and some basic hand tools may be required. The Teeter EP 960 is designed to fold up for easier storage, but at 73 pounds, it's not exactly portable. Because the manufacturer suggests at least seven feet of vertical clearance for safe operation, room placement is vital.
Often sold as an add-on, acupressure nodules are hard plastic knobs that you can place strategically in your table. During inversion, these knobs stimulate various acupressure points in the back, neck, and legs. Some people find this form of acupressure uncomfortable, but others may want to try acupressure nodules to address specific pain points.
Office workers and those who lead a sedentary lifestyle may experience tension in the lower back. The spinal stretches and muscular relaxation encouraged by inversion therapy are helpful, but they don’t always address the lower back and hip pain caused by sitting in a chair for hours on end.
Some inversion table manufacturers offer an add-on known as a lumbar bridge. The lumbar bridge pushes against the lower back during the inversion session, creating an even deeper stretch in that area.
Some inversion tables include additional features such as training videos, lumbar cushions, memory foam, and acupressure pads.
Before you buy an inversion table for home use, ask yourself three important questions:
Before investing in an inversion table, consult a doctor to determine if inversion therapy would positively affect your particular medical condition.
Most inversion tables are large and not very easy to break down. You’ll need a fair amount of space to use and store your inversion table. If you don’t have the right kind of space, you may end up feeling frustrated. We encourage all potential buyers to measure their space first, bearing in mind that an inversion table requires even more space when flipped into inversion.
For maximum benefits, many users say they spend just 5 to 15 minutes at a 60-degree (past horizontal) angle.
The stability of the floor on which you place your table is incredibly important. You want a surface that’s level, not slanted. An unstable floor could lead to a fall during inversion. That’s a risk you want to mitigate.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
IRONMAN Fitness Gravity 4000
Range of Motion
The Ironman Gravity 4000 provides a full range of inversion angles, all of which are controlled by an adjustable tether strap and a safety bar attached to the frame. Full inversion seems to be a common measuring stick with many would-be inversion table customers, but for safety's sake, we believe that security and the ability to return to an upright position should be greater concerns. The Gravity 4000 is perfectly capable of going a full 90 degrees, but that's an advanced setting for most beginners. Owners particularly enjoy the relative comfort of the unit's ankle locks and the ruggedness of the frame.
Inversion tables are large and bulky. Moving them around is no easy feat. Before investing in a table, make sure you have the strength and stamina to handle its dimensions and weight. In the best of scenarios, you won’t have to move the table after installation because it will have its own permanent location in your home.
People who have pre-existing conditions as high blood pressure, stroke, fused vertebrae, extreme obesity, detached retinas, or pregnancy should consult a doctor before inversion therapy.
Your safety is a top concern when selecting an inversion table. After all, this is a machine that’s going to support your entire body weight in an inverted position.
As your table’s design and construction play a vital role in your success, we urge you to keep the following tips in mind:
Ancient practices of inversion therapy have always existed. Many secret societies also practiced inversion techniques as they found it gave them increased mental capacity.
Some inversion tables require the user to place his/her feet between two padded bars and secure them with a quick-release lock. Others provide “boots” that clamp around the ankles during inversion. Both methods pass the critical security test, but user comfort can be an issue. We urge consumers to read consumer feedback and perform extensive research before deciding on the best attachment method.
Remember proper breathing techniques when using an inversion table — breathe in through the nose, and breathe out through the mouth.
Q: How long can I safely remain inverted?
A: There is no established time limit, but your body should tell you when it’s time to end an inversion session. Beginners should only remain inverted for one to two minutes during the first few weeks of therapy, increasing the duration slowly as time moves on.
Q: What is the protocol for using my inversion table safely?
A: We recommend that you consult your physician before beginning an inversion table regimen, especially if you have high blood pressure or other health issues.
Q: Do I need to become completely inverted for maximum benefits?
A: No. Most people start to feel a gentle spine stretch and muscle relaxation at 20 or 30 degrees past horizontal. Many practitioners never push past 60 degrees.
Inversion therapy experts say that 60 degrees of inversion should provide maximum benefits for average users. A 90-degree inversion could be beneficial for an elite athlete in training or an experienced home user who wants to perform calisthenic exercise.
Q: Is inversion therapy safe for everyone?
A: Consulting with a physician is always a good idea before starting a new exercise regimen. While most people in reasonable health should feel an improvement in flexibility and a reduction in neck, spine, or leg pain with short inversion sessions at 20 to 30 degrees past horizontal, it’s not an ideal practice for everyone. Checking in with a professional who knows your personal health history is a wise precautionary measure.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.