NEW DIRECTIONS:  Inversion therapy  goes back to at least 3000BC. A  Teeter Hang Ups backswing requires  just three to five minutes a day, to  give a range of benefits, from relief  from back pain, to improved posture  and flexibility; better circulation;  stronger ligaments and joints, and   even enhanced mental function.  Picture © BACKSWING FOR HEALTH
NEW DIRECTIONS: A Teeter Hang Ups backswing requires just three to five minutes a day to give a range of benefits. Picture © BACKSWING FOR HEALTH

TAKE an upside down approach to make your gift stand out under the Christmas tree, with a Teeter Hang Ups inversion device from the Cape Town-based company, Backswing for Health.

It is medically approved, suitable for home use, and backed by scientific studies to support health claims. Just three to five minutes a day gives health and anti-ageing benefits that range from: relief from back pain, regeneration of spinal discs; improved posture and flexibility; better circulation and lymphatic flow; stronger ligaments, joints and autonomic nervous system; and even enhanced mental function.

The backswing was designed and developed by US chemical engineer Roger Teeter, after he injured his back in high-performance skiing.

When orthodox medicine could do little more than relieve his symptoms with powerful prescription pain killers, and a stiff corset, Teeter looked to inversion.

Not surprisingly, he was initially skeptical of inversion.

"As an engineer, I scoffed at it," Teeter says.

"It didn’t make sense that hanging upside down for five minutes could make a difference, when I was upright for 16 hours a day."

Still, he had nothing to lose. He tried inversion, and relief was practically instantaneous — and more effective than anything else he had tried.

By inverting regularly, he was soon pain-free. The treatment impressed him, as it had "addressed the cause of the problem".

The Teeter Hang Ups is now used by more than 2-million people in 37 countries, Teeter says.

Inversion is as old as the hills of ancient Greece. The ancients are said to have inverted since at least 3000 BC; drawings of inverted yoga poses have been found on ancient stone seals.

In 400 BC, Hippocrates, the Greek sage known as the "Father of modern medicine", combined conversion with natural traction using the weight of the body, for relief from back pain. Patients were strung upside down to a ladder using ropes and pulleys.

The Teeter Hang Ups is a sophisticated, 21st-century version, the fruits of a project Teeter started 21 years ago with his wife, in the garage of their home. He has since refined and improved the table, with numerous upgrades to make it safer, more comfortable, simple for people to use on their own, portable and easy to fold away.

Using it is a gentle process that allows your body to become accustomed to inversion slowly and gradually, at your own pace, Teeter says.

Starting in the upright position, you control the swing with the movement of your arms. When you invert to 60º below horizontal, you get all the benefits of full inversion. There is no need to go completely upside down, unless you want to do inverted exercises and strengthen your core muscles.

There are contraindications, says Backswing for Health CEO Michele Shenker: narrow-angle glaucoma, unmedicated hypertension; recent stroke. There is also a list of medical conditions to check with your doctor before inverting — recent joint or spinal surgery or fracture, osteoporosis, cardiac conditions, hernia, and others.

You also need to be check the quality of any inversion device you use, as there are no legal minimum safety requirements, despite significant risks to hanging upside down by your ankles if the equipment breaks down.

There are lookalikes, but Shenker says the Teeter Hang Ups tables has been subjected to rigorous independent testing required for medical approval.

It is also the only brand with medical certification both by UL (Underwriters Laboratories, an independent organisation for product safety-testing and certification) in the US, and in Europe, by CE (the manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with requirements of relevant EU health, safety and environmental protection legislation), Shenker says.

• The Teeter Hang Ups table costs R5,900 including VAT, and has a five-year warranty. For more information, visit www.backswing.co.za.

Using the backswing is a gentle process, that allows your body to become accustomed to inversion slowly, at your own pace