Please Stay Away From Inversion Machines

Hi All:
Inversion machines have been around for a long time. In theory they are supposed to take pressure of the vertebral discs allowing them to re-hydrate and help your back feel better. Inversion machines are not good for you for one basic reason.

1. In the upside down position they increase pressure on the retina leading to potential retinal detachment. Retinal detachment can lead to permanent blindness.

Inversion benefits do not outweigh the risks and can be accomplished with simpler methods. You can achieve the same benefits to your spine by lying flat on your back for 15 minutes with a pillow under your bent knees. This will allow water to travel back into the spinal discs and increase the space between the spinal joints without causing undo pressure on your retina.

If you have further questions or you would like to join our support group please feel free to email me at

Woody McMahon

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13 replies. Join the discussion

Thanks Woody,
I couldn't agree with you more.

I had a couple of accidents, which caused me to loosen the Gel behind my eyes. I started to get those sparklers thingies in my one eye, then with the second accident, the other eye it happened too.
With such a hard jolt that can happen. It also happened to an older friend of mine, and he didn't do anything for it to happen!!
One of the accidents, they did think I tore my Retina.
I still have these black floaters in my eyes..

The Dr. said Do NOT bend over for any length of time. I guess it rushed the blood to your eyes, and its not healthy to do!!I notice when I do that, My eyes start sparkleing again..

As we get older, our eyes change, and these types of things happen..

Does anyone know what do about the floaters in my eyes that is natural? I did take Lutin for awhile!
The eye Dr. said they could vacuum out the floaters, but there is a big chance I could lose my eye sight!!

Thanks again Woody for the Warning.

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Wow! Woody! thanks for the heads up! (literally!) I just saw a commercial for one of those inversion things and it looked like fun. Fortunately DH has but a moratorium on any new EQUIPMENT coming into our house so I was saved from the temptation :). Good to know there is a physical reason besides overcrowding!

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I wad certainly interested in getting one for both my husband and myself. 20,40, and 60 degree inversions, slowly achieiving the 60 degree level. Never upside down for any length of time. Are you talking about detached retina from a full upside position on the table?

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Hi italiancowgirl:
As I said before, you can get the same results with lying on your back. Why risk the injury? I have seen no specific data as to angle of inclination.

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Woody, thanks for the information... it is good to know, don't need more problems with my eye sight that is for sure !

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You are saying the inversion machines cause problems with the eyes. Would any upside down pose cause the same problem if the neck is bent at the shoulders with a bolster under the shoulders? This is one of the poses in Iyengar Yoga where one uses a chair for support.

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Hi LouiseW:
Please describe the pose more clealy. Woody

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I thought I would chime in on this one. Although there are many reasons why someone should not do inversion, my "opinion" is that it is not all bad. If one has unstable hypertension, glaucoma, retinal detachments etc, these would be contraindications for any type of inversion. I am not sure that inversion could cause any of what we are speaking about but one would have to be careful and pay attention.
I use a table called a Back-A-Traction. It is not full inversion; rather it stops at -15 and -30 degrees. According to the work of Nachemson, inversion should further decompress the spine--I'm just re-reading his research from the 60's and 70's. Great stuff!
Anyway, I have used this table myself for several years and have had patients on it--all with nothing but positive effects. Scoliosis people love it as do people with back pain. I've designed a whole series of exercises to be done on it including diaphragmatic breathing which, in this position, is against gravity--that means more strengthening.
I stay at -15 as anything more feels stressful.
Not sure of the research on this but I will be looking.

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I agree with Sara. There are several safe ways to gently invert your body, such as Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose.

Lying on your back, (as Woody suggested) with a pillow or bolster or rolled up blanket under your legs, plus a firm folded blanket or towel under your neck and head, is a good start. Resting your lower legs over the seat of a level chair that has an opening at the back so your feet can hang over (like a standard folding type chair) is even better. The chair should be a few inches away from the body, so that the lower back is comfortable. This position gently inverts the body, rests the heart (in an inverted pose the heart is below the level of the legs) and is relaxing for the back, especially with a yoga sandbag across the pelvis and a eyebag over your eyes.

Many other classic yoga inverted poses can be practiced safely, with the guidance of a qualified instructor, so long as there is adequate support and no strain on the back or neck. I will address this in more detail in a future journal entry. Will post a link to photos next Post.

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Here is a link to some examples of lying down poses, gently (half way) inverted and fully inverted poses. Please note that not all poses shown here are safe for someone with osteoporosis to attempt on their own.

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One more note.

Several of the photos in above link show yoga poses practiced wth the support of a yoga bolster. I want to explain that when I work with new students with issues such as back and neck pain, osteoporosis, etc., I use firm folded yoga blankets instead of a bolster, so that I can adjust the height (thickness) of the support, so that they are truly comfortable.

(Most of my students are in the 50 to 90 age range.)

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Yikes, I hang upside down from hips to take the kink out of my neck at times. I guess I better talk to my eye doctor to see if this is wise for me. I only hang for a minute, 2 at the most.

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Gatekeeper, I hang upside down for several minutes on a regular basis from a pelvic sling, using Yoga Wall Ropes. I don't think anyone here is saying that all methods of reversing gravity by inverting the body are bad for everyone. (I will post an article about the various Yoga Wall Rope systems on my blog "Yoga for Healthy Bones," on this site.)

I posted some images of hanging with wall ropes on my amazon photo gallery: iu_pdp_images_all

Please note: I do not hang students with a medical condition (including osteoporosis) upside down until I have a chance to work with that person over a period of time and am confident that this will be beneficial. Students first practice gentle partly inverted poses as described above plus "Hanging Dog Pose," illustrated in above photo gallery.

My book, "The New Yoga for Healthy Aging," has a chapter on Yoga Wall Ropes. You can see more photos if you search the Amazon Inside the Book feature.

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