Decompression Therapy: A History

Using decompression therapy to relieve back pain has been popular since 460 BC. Hippocrates first implemented this method of back pain treatment. Hippocrates was known as the father of medicine, and the Hippocratic Oath. In the past, a patient was hung upside down on a ladder. A system of ropes and pulleys were used in order to lift and lower the patient. When the patient was inverted, gravity allows the patient’s spine to naturally relax and decompress. In the United States, a chiropractor by the name of Dr. Robert Martin reintroduced the concept of back decompression therapy. This was done in the early 1960’s as a way of healing back pain. Dr. Martin became very popular and was even featured in high-profile publications such as the Wall Street Journal. Part of the success came from the book published by Dr. Martin Junior called “Together with Gravity Guidance Inversion Table”. By the early 1980s the market for inversion back pain products was worth over $70 million. Part of the reason for this success includes a Richard Gere movie called “American Gigolo”, where Richard Gere was seen wearing a pair of gravity boots. Because of the increasing popularity many different companies entered the manufacturing business for spinal decompression therapy machines. Because there were so many competitors, many companies decide to undercut each other in price. The problem with this method however, was that some companies were only able to achieve lower prices by sacrificing the quality of the machine. In some cases this even caused death and spinal injury from people who accidentally fell while using these lower quality inversion tables. In addition to issues with manufacturers that were making substandard tables, the media also received a lot of negative publicity due to a study published by Dr. Goldman. In the study of inversion therapy by Dr. Goldman, the research shows findings that certain patients had increased blood pressure due to inversion. Two years following the original study, Dr. Goldman changed his mind. In furthering his research, he discovered that the human body has mechanisms, which prevent damage from extended periods of inversion. Ironically enough, some of the patients even were able to lower their blood pressure when they practiced inversion using physical movement. People who invert on a consistent basis have also noticed that there are other benefits of inversion therapy such as slower heart rates. Some of these people included professional athletes, physical therapists, chiropractors, and sports trainers. Teeter hang ups has grown tremendously in the 1990s. Inversion decompression therapy has now become synonymous with an overall wellness trend of taking care of the entire body. The United States Army has even decided to start using spinal decompression therapy in places such as Fort Benning, Georgia, where soldiers use gravity boots as a method of helping their bodies recover from rigorous training.

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