Anyone who has read my golf posts for more than a few weeks at a time knows I suffer from back problems. I have scoliosis, a birth defect where the spine is curved or angled. My case of scoliosis is on the minor side according to doctors, but when I tweak my back the pain isn’t minor. It can be completely debilitating. I’ve had sharp pains so bad that I can’t get out of a chair or push on the brake of my car, put my socks on… The sharp muscle spasms when my back is thrown out is best described “like having someone jab an ice pick in my spine.” One time, possibly the worst time, I remember hitting the ground in a parking lot in a snow storm. I was laying by my car in the snow and I could not move. I was alone. I had to crawl to my office and even reaching up to unlock the office door was unbearable.
When my back goes out all of the muscles around my spine spasm. They’re tighter than a marching band snare drum. The spasms are like clockwork. They happen for exactly one week. On the 7th day the muscles finally give out due to fatigue. At least that’s my theory. When they finally release I feel like dancing around singing The Sound Of Music. But there are still a few days of pain and stiffness to go before I’m fully recovered. When I tweak it really bad, like two times ago, it can be as long as 14 days in excruciating pain. I’m literally laying on the floor for days, unable to move. The last time I threw it out, I had to miss a golf tournament I’d been waiting three years to play in, on my home course.
Treatments which haven’t helped
What have I tried for my bad back? Pain pills, muscle relaxers, pills which block nervous system transmissions, stretching, hot baths, icing, deep tissue massage, electric shock of the muscles, chiropractors, acupuncture, miracle balls and even heavy alcohol. None of those things worked, in fact the massages and chiropractic treatments only seemed to exacerbate the spasms and pain, extending the misery. The pain pills and alcohol may make you not care that you are in pain, but the pain remains.
Teeter Hangups Inversion Table
One day my friends at Teeter Inversion contacted me. They’d read about my back pain and wanted me to try one of their inversion tables to see if it would help. I put the inversion table next on my list, in front of witch doctors and being blessed by a Shaman princess.
The inversion table uses your own body weight to decompress your spine, by hanging you upside down. I’d heard about this before from my friend John who also suffers back pain.
Decompression of the spine… hmm. What is that? Well over time, especially if you are like me and sit in a chair in front of a computer a lot, the spine compresses. The vertebrae push together, preventing much of the circulation which keeps them healthy. They start to ache, and posture gets worse. Pains or tweaks don’t heal or take much longer to heal.
Hanging upside down helps stretch the muscles and spine, allowing better circulation and healing. The joints and soft tissue between them hydrate, and pressure is released. The back and joints are also better aligned.
Does it work? What does it do?
The first few inversions are quite an experience. Your feet hurt from the pressure of hanging from them. Your head hurts because all the blood is going there due to gravity. When you get out of the machine you feel strange, out of balance, like a rubber band. I now associate that as a good feeling and not strange.
After inverting several things are noticeable. First, I’m about one half to one inch taller. I’m not kidding. I measured it. This is a well documented fact with inversion. Second, my flexibility in my entire body, especially my back, is increased by many times. I can feel a huge difference in the coil I can make with my golf swing, and also my ability to finish the swing. Finishing the swing in that high Ernie Els position can be very tough with a tight back. I feel like Ernie (though I’m much better looking) in the finish after inversion.
The flexibility can wreak havoc on the golf game though. I found that after inverting a lot, my shots become very wild. My flexibility is so much better that I’m coiling farther back and farther through. I can pull the ball massive amounts left, due to my being more flexible. It takes time, and is taking me time, to get used to being more flexible.
The real test
It took a couple of months of waiting. I hated having to wait for my back to go out so I can finish my evaluation but that is what had to happen. It finally went out on New Year’s day. Great start to the new year.
This was an average tweak. 7 out of 10 on the pain scale. This tweak would be just like many others I’d had, a one week experience in pain.
As soon as I tweaked my back, I went home and got on the inversion table. It was not fun getting into position, but I finally hung upside down. Nothing happened. No miracles. I was not happy. The next day I used the table again. No miracles. Still in tons of pain. I kept at it.
On the 4th day though, the muscle spasms stopped. They stopped fast and the pain, swelling and tightness subsided so quickly that I was shocked. I actually tried gingerly swinging a golf club.
On the 5th day I played golf. That in itself is a miracle. I cut down my recovery time from 7-10 days, with lingering pain and tightness, to 5 days with no pain or tightness.
I shot a very casual YouTube video of myself using the inversion table. Check it out:
I just measured my height tonight in fact (which is what inspired me to write this piece now), and I’m one inch shorter than normal. I knew that meant I was beginning to compress and slouch. Having said that makes me realize I don’t hang upside down consistently enough. It should be every day for 10 minutes. I hope to get on a regular program of inversion because I really feel there will be even more benefit, in many other parts of my body and golf game.
If you have back pain, stiffness, or simply lack in flexibility, I strongly suggest trying out inversion. I was skeptical at the beginning but I’m a true believer now.
I’d love to write more, but I’m off to go hang upside down.