“It was a dark and stormy night, unfit for neither beast or man. I was settled into my favorite chair engaged in reading by firelight, when a knock happened upon my door. At this late hour I usually received no one, considering it improper to visit at such a late hour. Nonetheless I rose and strode hesitantly towards the door, curious who might be knocking so violently on such a dreadful night. On the other side was a bedeviled delivery driver, babbling on repeatedly and often unintelligibly ‘You must take delivery, I cannot take it any longer!’ I could see the fear in his face that penetrated to his very bones and beyond. His eyes were locked open like some poor soul who has seen unspeakable things they cannot comprehend, yet cannot shake the fear that grips their hearts. I bid the driver to bring his charge inside where it was dry and implored him to be comforted by the well-stoked fire that kept the chill and unspeakable things at bay. With trembling hands and frantic eyes, the driver hurriedly dragged the crate inside, anxious to rid himself of its presence yet destined for a lifetime of nightmares. I signed for the crate, not fully aware that such a simple act would change my life in unspeakable ways. Yet I remained curious on what awaited me inside the well-restrained encagement, its bulging sides kept from bursting only by the strong and numerous straps. ‘Surely I’ve faced worst things before,’ I said to no one in particular. The driver, showing obvious relief, hurriedly went back out into the violent night, destined to deal with his torment in ways only he would know.”
Like a character in some Gothic horror novel, I too have willingly invited a beast into my humble home. Unlike my counterpart in the over-the-top snippet written above, I have tremendous hopes that this “beast” will help relieve the pressure on the disc and nerves in my back. Sometime ago, my witch doctor (my euphemistic term for the alternative health chiropractor I worked with), suggested I do some inversion therapy. His reasoning was simple: the condition I have is likely the result of aging-influenced compression of the spine (or at least exacerbated by it), thus reversing the effects of gravity through inversion therapy might counter the compression. Since all of our spines compress as we age, his recommendation made a lot of sense to me and appealed to my holistic senses as a sane alternate to the “practice” of medicine, in this case specifically surgery.
Inversion therapy is nothing new, having been around in various forms to relieve back pain and other maladies since Hippocrates used it around 400 BC. As depicted in this graphic, the father of medicine applied ladders, ropes, and pulleys to hang his patients upside down thus relieving their pain. The concept wasn’t used widely in the US until the 1960s when Dr. Robert Martin, a California osteopath/chiropractor/medical doctor introduced an inversion table to address gravity’s harmful effects over time on the body. Later Richard Gere popularized anti-gravity boots in his movie “American Gigolo” and in one form or another inversion therapy has enjoyed success in relieving ailments without surgery.
The fundamental principal at work is an elongation of the spine, thus increasing the space between vertebrae and relieving pressure on discs, ligaments, and nerve roots. A common side benefit of inversion therapy is increased height: if you’re over 40 and compare your height now with your height back in high school, you’ll likely notice that you’re now a half to three-quarters of an inch shorter. Other expected benefits of inversion therapy include stress and tension reduction, better flow of lymphatic fluids flushing body waste quicker, and improved posture. All in all, sounds like a win-win proposition…if I can only manage to tame The Beast.
At the time my witch doctor suggested this additional therapy, I visited several fitness facilities in hopes of finding an inversion table or equivalent but no one had such a solution. Another option was to simply find a school playground and spend some time “hanging around” on the monkey bars, but that proved to be both difficult to execute as well as the problem of odd stares from mothers with kids at the playground. Today’s world, unfortunately, is not one where a seemingly innocent thing as “hanging around” a playground is acceptable. In hindsight I’m probably fortunate I never had to explain my bat-like activities to the local cops.
Eventually destiny appeared as an angel from HSN (Home Shopping Network), courtesy of my mom who does her best to support the HSN empire. She saw The Beast demonstrated one day and thought I should watch the demo since it seemed to address my problem. I saw, called, and ordered and now I’m doing the vampire thing by hanging around on The Beast. I haven’t hung long enough to report any real bennies yet, but there is a significant adjustment period to go through. When the body’s inner ear is not used to quickly inverting as well as the rest of the body accepting without complaining on the flow of blood suddenly moving the other way, it takes some time to work into the hang of things. But soon inverting will seem natural and with luck the pressure on the L5/S1 vertebrae in my back will reduce and hopefully disappear completely.
In the meantime, in spite of the sighs and eye-rolling from my kids (you’d think by now they’d be used to Dad doing weird things, but noooo…), I’ll wisely spend a little time twice daily in The Taming of The Beast. But if you suddenly notice me wearing all black, avoiding sunshine, admiring the smooth skin of virgin’s necks, or talking funny by flipping Ws for Vs (“I vant to velcome you to my home…”) then I hope you’ll call 1-555-VAMPIRE for intervention. After all, this hanging round might change me in ways I can’t predict. (Note to self: stop buying garlic.)