Spinal decompression tables are designed to relieve pressure on the spinal discs in the back; these discs are sacs filled with gel-like fluid, and they sit between each vertebrae. As gravity pulls downward on the spine throughout the day, a person may experience pain from the compressed spinal discs. Spinal decompression tables either use gravity or mechanical stretching devices to decrease the spine. An inversion table is perhaps the most common type of decompression table, though elevation decompression tables are also common, as are stationary tables and flexion tables.
Inversion tables allow a person to do spinal decompression at home on a daily basis. This is perhaps the least complicated of all the spinal decompression tables available, though it must be used properly to avoid injury. The user will lean against a vertical table and secure his or her feet in stirrups. The user can then flip himself over by pressing his hands against the metal frame on which the vertical table pivots. This allows the user to hang upside down, effectively using gravity and his or her own body weight to decompress the spine. With these types of spinal decompression tables, a user should only stay inverted for a few minutes at a time to avoid injury.
Flexion spinal decompression tables are adjustable to allow the spine to move in different directions. These tables are very expensive and are not intended for use at home; they must be operated by a doctor, chiropractor, or other health care professional to prevent injury to the patient. These tables are often used as an alternative to surgical treatment of pain caused by spinal compression; the table itself is sectioned, and each section can move independently so that a person lying on the table can be supported properly as the spine moves in different directions.
Elevation spinal decompression tables also stretch the spine as a user lies on a table, but the method by which the stretching is done differs. One section of the table will be slightly elevated, and the patient will rest his or her legs on this section. A harness is then attached to the lower body, usually around the ankles, legs, or even the hips, and that harness is attached to a machine that will pull gently on the lower body. The upper body will be secured in place to allow the spine to stretch without dragging the body toward the raised part of the table.