Ancient stone seals discovered by archeologists show the first drawings of yoga poses. Yogis have long preached the value of inverted poses to rebalance the body, help increase circulation, stimulate the brain, enhance glandular system functioning, and relieve pressure on the abdominal organs.
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, hoists up a patient on a ladder with a series of ropes and pulleys to harness the force gravity in an effort to stretch his patients and relieve their ailments.
In the United States , Dr. Robert Martin (a California osteopath, chiropractor and medical doctor) introduced the "Gravity Guidance System" to the country. This concept was revolutionary to the modern world and addressed the effects of gravity on the human body, the simple solution of inversion therapy, and the resulting benefits.
Dr. Martin was devoted to teaching the benefits of postural exchange including inversion. The public responded enthusiastically to his sincerity and honesty. Dr. Martin appeared on talk shows, and was featured in popular publications like The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine.
Dr. Robert Martin, Jr. published a book in the late 1970's. Together with the Gravity Guidance Inversion Table, the program caught on, experiencing increasing success. This encouraged other companies to enter the inversion market-products like the Bud Leach table and the BackSwing emerged.
By the 1980's the inversion craze was in full swing. Gravity boots were popularized by the 1980 movie "American Gigolo" starring Richard Gere. By 1982, the inversion market had soared to over $70 million, with literally thousands of people incorporating inversion regularly into their lifestyles.
Success comes with a price, however. Before long, over forty manufacturers were producing inversion products. There was little apparent differentiation among the products, which caused price wars among the companies. Some manufactures sacrificed quality so that they could offer cheaper products. The lack of attention to quality resulted in product failures, causing serious, sometimes deadly, harm to consumers.
Also, a medical study published in 1983 by Dr. Goldman and colleagues suggested that inverted patients experienced an increase in blood pressure and internal eye pressure. The media widely and inaccurately reported the study, warning that stroke was a potential result of inversion.
1985 – 1990's
Two years following the inversion study, Dr. Goldman reversed his original position, stating, "New research shows that you are at no more of a stroke risk hanging upside down than if you are exercising right side up." He noted that the body actually has mechanisms that prevent damage from hanging upside down: the increase in cerebral spinal fluid supports and protects the vessels. In fact, while oscillating (inverting with movement), some of the patients' blood pressure actually dropped a few points. (*Note: these studies were based on patients in generally good health. Make sure you review contraindications prior to inverting.)
Dr. Goldman stated that the warnings to the public about the dangers of inversion were "grossly inflated" and that "in the 15 years these devices have been in use, there has not been one single stroke case reported, nor any serious injuries." (This statement, to the best of our knowledge, is as true today as when Dr. Goldman made it 17 years ago).
Other universities, including Marquette, Iowa, and Portland studied inversion during this time, with results that also helped to vindicate Inversion as a healthy physical activity.
Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. The poor quality equipment combined with misunderstandings of health risks resulted in a decline of consumer confidence in inversion products. Inversion went from a multi-million dollar market to one that struggled to survive. The use of Inversion therapy shrank to virtually exclusive use by a few "in the know", including chiropractors, physical therapists, sports trainers and professional athletes. Of the forty plus manufacturers in business in the early 1980's, Teeter Hang Ups is the only company to continuously promote inversion products to present.
Late 1990's - Present-day
After a number of years fighting to rebuild the reputation of Inversion therapy, Teeter Hang Ups has witnessed tremendous growth in the use of inversion products from the late nineties and into the twenty-first century. Inversion is an ideal ambassador for "whole body wellness," an idea that is embraced by fitness enthusiasts and baby boomers alike. No longer is the focus simply on aesthetics, but a concept of health and longer life. Inversion has been shown as an effective form of natural therapy, while the wide-ranging benefits of Inversion apply to all age ranges and fitness levels.
In fact, after several years of evaluation, the US Army Physical Fitness School has decided to incorporate Inversion into its world-wide physical training doctrine.
In 2007, the prestigious Newcastle University in England performed a study on patients suffering with sciatic pain and scheduled for surgery. While waiting for surgery, members of a group practiced a regular routine of inversion therapy, while a control group practiced general stretching exercises. The group that practiced inversion therapy realized remarkable results. Learn more about the study here.