The Effects of Hanging Upside Down on the Body: Exploring Benefits and Risks


Something You Can Hang: How Does Hanging Upside Down Affect My Body?

Hanging upside down can be an enjoyable activity that brings back childhood memories, especially when attempting it on monkey bars. However, some adults are now practicing hanging upside down for more than just fun. Inversion therapy, a form of physical therapy, is gaining popularity as a potential treatment for back pain. The therapy involves hanging upside down to stretch the spine. While many individuals claim its effectiveness, scientific research on the subject has yielded mixed results, making it necessary to further investigate the true health benefits of hanging upside down.

Benefits of Hanging Upside Down

The primary goal of inversion therapy is to counteract the compression of gravity on the spine. Typically, inversion tables are used for this purpose. These tables come equipped with ankle holders and can be adjusted to various positions, including complete inversion.

Here are some potential benefits associated with hanging upside down during inversion therapy:

1. Short-Term Relief from Back Pain, Sciatica, and Scoliosis

Hanging upside down may provide temporary relief from conditions such as back pain, sciatica, and scoliosis. By stretching the spine and reducing pressure on the discs and nerve roots, individuals may experience alleviation of symptoms.

2. Improved Spinal Health

Inversion therapy has been suggested to promote better spinal health. The stretching and decompression of the spine during inversion could potentially improve overall spinal function and reduce discomfort.

3. Increased Flexibility

Regular practice of hanging upside down may lead to increased flexibility. Stretching the spine and the surrounding muscles can enhance range of motion and flexibility in the back.

4. Reduced Need for Back Surgery

Some proponents of inversion therapy claim that it can reduce the need for invasive back surgeries. By providing relief from pain and promoting spinal health, individuals may avoid or delay the necessity for surgical interventions.

It is important to note that while many people report these benefits, scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of hanging upside down is limited. Existing studies have primarily been small-scale and inconclusive. Therefore, more comprehensive research is required to establish the true benefits of inversion therapy.

Risks of Hanging Upside Down

Inversion therapy is not suitable for everyone due to potential risks and contraindications. Hanging upside down for extended periods can lead to increased blood pressure, a decrease in heart rate, and elevated pressure on the eyes. Individuals with the following conditions should avoid inversion therapy:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart conditions
  • Glaucoma
  • Back or leg fractures
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hernia

Moreover, hanging upside down is not safe for individuals who are obese, overweight, or pregnant. Prior to attempting inversion therapy, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it is appropriate for your specific situation.

Sleeping Upside Down

Sleeping upside down is not recommended as it poses potential risks to your health. Remaining in an inverted position, including on an inversion table, for an extended period while asleep can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

Although relaxing upside down may provide temporary relief for back pain, it is important to have a professional or a friend nearby to prevent unintentionally falling asleep in this position.

Duration of Hanging Upside Down

Hanging upside down for too long can be hazardous and potentially fatal due to the pooling of blood in the head. To minimize risks, it is advised to start with moderate inversion positions lasting 30 seconds to 1 minute. Gradually increase the duration by 2 to 3 minutes while listening to your body’s response. With time, you may be able to tolerate hanging upside down on an inversion table for 10 to 20 minutes.

It is crucial to acknowledge that hanging from a tree branch or using other makeshift hanging methods does not provide the same level of support as an inversion table.

Can Hanging Upside Down Result in Death?

While rare, it is possible to die from hanging upside down for an extended period. The pooling of blood in the head can have severe consequences for the body. To ensure safety, always engage in inversion therapy or any form of hanging upside down under the supervision of a professional, such as a physical therapist, or have a friend present to assist you in returning to an upright position if necessary.


Two recent incidents highlight the potential dangers of hanging upside down without proper precautions. In one case, a 74-year-old rock climber in Utah was found dead after spending the night hanging upside down in his harness. Another incident involved a hunter in Oregon who was in a medically induced coma after being caught in his harness and hanging upside down for two days. During the rescue attempt, authorities believe that the sudden restoration of blood flow to his lower body resulted in his heart stopping. Fortunately, he was revived and transported to a local hospital.


Although some individuals find hanging upside down enjoyable and beneficial for relieving back pain, caution must be exercised. When attempting inversion therapy, it is recommended to use a specialized inversion table and have professional guidance, such as a physical therapist or healthcare provider, to assist in maintaining safety and proper technique. Alternatively, exploring other methods like aerial yoga can offer a different experience. Remember to allow your body time to adapt and never hang upside down for more than a few minutes at a time.

Importantly, if you have high blood pressure, a heart condition, or any other medical condition, it is crucial to consult with a doctor before considering hanging upside down as a therapy option.