Fitness stores sell a variety of spinal decompression/traction devices -- inversion tables and ankle boots that hang you upside down and stretch out your back -- on the promise that they help relieve back pain, enhance general back fitness, provide deep relaxation and maybe even slow age-related height shrinkage. The last, after all, is partially caused by the flattening and dehydration of the soft disks that separate your vertebrae…
"Some people do respond, but we don't really know if it's a placebo effect," says Mayo Clinic back expert Dr. Randy A. Shelerud. "No recent studies on traction devices have been done -- and there may be risks from those that invert you, particularly for people with high blood pressure, who can get bloodshot from blood vessels in their eyes hemorrhaging."
His advice: "Try them out in the store before you plunk down your money."
LA Times, by Roy Wallack, 1/11/2010