In the past I have written about zero-gravity to dispel misconceptions about what it really is.
Every massage chair seems to be using the zero-gravity feature and it has become very popular. But, the inversion feature is fairly new to the industry and most folks think that it is the same thing as the zero-gravity. It is actually quite different.
While zero gravity is nothing more than a 30 degree tilt of the massage chair seat, inversion is actually reclining the chair back to below horizontal so that the body becomes somewhat inverted.
You may be familiar with inversion therapy from TV commercials or from a chiropractic office. Invert means "to turn upside down." An inversion machine is designed to turn the user upside down so that their head is down and their feet are up. The idea is to invert so that the spine is being "stretched" or elongated with the notion that inversion will relieve back pain. The user buckles up their ankles so that when they turn themselves upside down the body stays inverted and doesn't fall to the ground.
When I practiced chiropractic, I had many patients who told me that they had used an inversion machine. For some it helped, for some it didn't. At that time there was no real research to back it up or not, but from the stories many patient's told me, it seemed to do a lot of good.
Inversion was introduced in the not-too-distant past to massage chairs to try mimicking that therapeutic effect. The best the massage chair can do to that end is recline the chair back past the horizontal position of 180 degrees. Once it passes that point, gravity begins to serve as a source of distraction on the spine. When you sit in the chair you can actually feel as though you are going past horizontal and you actually feel as though you are going to slide off the chair back (by the way, some zero gravity chairs that don't have inversion give you the feeling that you are going to slide off the chair back when the chair is reclined in the zero gravity position. The HT-7450 is an example of that).
Does it have any therapeutic effect? I don't know, but folks seem to like it. Is it as effective as a real inversion machine? Unlikely, but at least it offers some degree of inversion. I suppose that anything is better than nothing, in this situation.
There are currently two chairs that we carry that offer inversion:
1.) IT-9800 - the specs show that the chair back reclines to 183 degrees.
2.) IT-8500 - Infinite Therapeutics touts this chair as an inversion chair, but it's specs only show the recline to be 178 degrees, which seems to me to be higher than horizontal of 180 degrees.
Is inversion the next massage chair "fad", like zero gravity is now? Well, we shall see.
I hope to have both these models in my showroom before the end of summer. I will gladly review and videotape them for your perusal at that time.
Dr. Alan Weidner