Inversion Therapy, at least as it relates to hair loss, was first expounded by Andy Bryant around 1992. When I came across it in 2002 I was particularly intrigued.
Although its (limited) popularity had already waned, the method seemed to have a reasonable pedigree: an annual competition with GBP 10,000 in prize money, a public figure involved in publicising its benefits, and a book called ‘The Baldness Cure’ which generally avoided outrageous claims – always a good sign when it comes to hair loss treatments.
In Andy Bryant’s own words: “I have proved that with a change of lifestyle, a stress management programme, a controlled diet, the right shampoo and inversion that increases blood supply to the head, you can halt hair loss and substantially re-grow hair.”
How Does it Work?
Inversion Therapy has been around for over 2000 years in one form or another. The treatment, unsurprisingly, involves inverting the body at an angle, head down. As you do so the weight of your body naturally stretches the spine and relieves tension. This is believed to not only reduce back pain, but also slow aging of the spine.
As far as hair loss is concerned, the increased circulation to the head that results is said to accelerate hair growth, and even regrow lost hair.
Andy Bryant elaborates on this theory by highlighting three main causes of hair loss:
- Blood flow to the hair follicles is decreased due to vasoconstriction and muscular tension (arising from stress)
- The blood that does get through to the hair follicle doesn’t carry sufficient nutrients for hair growth; and
- Waste products from cellular activity find it difficult to drain away from the scalp through the lymphatic system. Stagnation of the lymphatic fluid can lead to general inflammation and immune system problems, both of which are said to lead to hair loss and thinning hair. Inverting may positively impact the lymphatic system.
According to ‘The Baldness Cure’: “Not only does inversion make it easier for blood to run downhill toward the capillaries in the scalp, but the capillaries are opened further when baroreceptors in the neck and chest sense an increase in blood pressure to the head and act to reduce that pressure by dilating all the capillaries in the body (including those that service the hair follicles.)”
Combine inversion with a number of lifestyle changes to improve the quality of blood and, apparently, you have a recipe for success.
The method isn’t limited to simply hanging upside down like a bat, although this garners the most headlines. It’s described in the ‘The Baldness Cure’ as being comprised of essentially five elements:
- Invert for 3 minutes per day at 90 degrees to increase blood flow (see the ‘Tips for Safe and Effective Use’ below).
- Change to a high water content diet and remove foods that are processed, high in sugar or act as diuretics (e.g. tea, coffee, alcohol). Bryant argues that these increase stress hormones such as adrenalin and prolactin which increase levels of testosterone, and consequently DHT (see the leading causal theory of hair loss in the ‘Hair Loss Explained’ section).
- Break scalp tension using scalp and neck muscle exercises (these require you to contort your face in ways you would never contemplate in public)
- Manage stress through active stress management techniques and lifestyle changes
- Use a shampoo as near as possible to the pH balance of the scalp and which includes a natural disinfectant to kill bacteria and fungal infections and promotes blood circulation to the scalp
Bryant used the F5000III inversion table which allows for balanced, controlled inverting. When the process is not controlled Bryant argues that the body can become distressed, which brings about a restriction of blood flow. While you can still buy the F5000II table second hand I recommend using the Teeter Hang Ups EP-950 table as an excellent alternative.
How Effective Is It?
Bryant readily admits that his method has not been placebo-trialed, but he did subject 70 of his clients to a clinical investigation. Results showed hair loss stopped in 70 per cent, and almost 50 per cent achieved measurable regrowth after three to six months. After three to four years, some of the participants had recovered three quarters of their lost hair.
You can also see a number of case studies and photos in ‘The Baldness Cure’ and the outcomes of the annual Hair Grower of the Year competition were well documented.
James, the fifty-one-year-old winner of the inaugural award, recovered 50 per cent of his hair in 18 months based on measurements and photographs taken throughout the competition. According to James he achieved the regrowth by only doing 75 per cent of the programme.
Another competitor, sixty-year-old Anthony Leonard had been losing hair since he was 22. He claimed to have reduced 50 square centimetres of baldness to 13 square centimetres. At the time he said “in a few months I expect to be approaching a full head of hair.”
See this article in the free library for a slightly more irreverent take on the event.
How Long Before I See Results?
Bryan Gould, the British Member of Parliament who took part in publicising the method, experienced new hair growth after three months. This is pretty consistent with the case studies and clinical trials.
Best Suited For
The promotional text for ‘The Baldness Cure’ book says it’s been “tested on all ages and every stage of hair loss, from slightly thinning to completely bald, there is new hair growth in every case.” So, pretty much everyone then.
In 1998, however, Bryant was quoted in The Independent newspaper in Britain as saying “the results are similar to finasteride, even down to the pattern of regrowth which sees hair returning to the back and top of the head, while the temples remain stubbornly slick, but with no risk of side effects”.
So, perhaps not as well suited to those with thinning at the temples.
Tips for Safe and Effective Inversion
As always, there are a few temptations to avoid if you’re going to try this. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want results as soon as possible. For manual treatments that normally means multiplying effort. Resist the urge. Make sure that you:
- Build up slowly: Start at 45 degrees for 25 seconds and work your way up to 90 degrees over a number of weeks. Listen to your body! Joint pain and excessive dizziness is not normal and should not be ignored. It will take weeks or even months to get to 3 minutes at 90 degrees.
- How you hang is just as important as the way you hang: You can invert without the use of any apparatus. Generally speaking, however, it’s more ergonomic and more effective if you use a table. Find one that’s finely balanced, allowing you to control the angle of inversion simply by moving your arms.
- Have someone close by: Inverting can cause dizziness and, until you’re used to using the table, it can be difficult to control your angles and return to an upright position (depending on the table). Make sure someone is within shouting (or grunting) distance.
- Give it a rub: Massaging your scalp while upside down has been suggested as helpful by other inversion therapy proponents (but I doubt it).
- Try before you buy: Although I’ve provided (affiliate) links to purchase the table online below, I recommend you try before you buy wherever possible. You want to be able to easily control the incline, particularly in the early days as you work up to 90 degrees. Failing that, make sure your research includes how finely balanced the table is. It’s worth spending the extra to get the right table.
I’ve also read recommendations for gravity, or inversion boots, but believe these place greater stress on the ankles. Personally, I’d avoid.
How Much Does It Cost?
A good table isn’t cheap but bear in mind that you can reduce the cost in two ways: purchase second hand or resell if it doesn’t work for you. If you go the pre-loved route, it’s a must to try before you buy. If the table is out of balance you’ll pretty much always need someone to help. As for resale, I sold mine on eBay after 18 months and recouped about 65% of the cost.
If you’re interested in how inversion therapy can be used to treat other ailments, these books may also be of interest.
Generally speaking, provided you build up slowly and don’t overdo the duration, there should be no unwanted side effects from inversion.
However, if you have any of the following conditions I recommend you completely avoid using a table: vertigo, obesity, damaged or loose ankle and knee joints, pregnancy, heart or circulatory problems, hernia, low or high blood pressure, recent stroke, detached retina, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, spinal injury, osteoporosis, swollen joints, or ear infections. Although lengthy, this list should not be treated as exhaustive.
If you do have one or more of the above conditions you may still be able to opt for the gentler, non-machine assisted, approaches described in ‘The Baldness Cure’. As always, if in doubt, consult your doctor.
This treatment falls into the same category as two other methods I’ve written about on this site (‘Meditate to Grow Hair’ and ‘Scalp Exercises’) – even if it doesn’t regrow your hair there are potential side benefits.
As far as treating hair loss is concerned, however, it didn’t work for me. I gave it just over a year and became comfortable inverting at a 90 degree angle, for up to 3 minutes, after a couple of months. Lack of progress wasn’t for lack of inverting.
As far as the other elements of the program are concerned – diet, scalp muscle exercises, etc. – I wasn’t quite as diligent.
On the dietary side I’ve always been a pretty healthy eater, with a preference for raw foods, so didn’t bother too much here. I wasn’t particularly dedicated with the scalp exercises, either. This was before I’d come across Tom Hagerty’s scalp exercises. I may have been more diligent had I been aware at the time.
In any case, I don’t have a burning desire to retry the method (not least because my joints aren’t as sturdy as they were 10 years ago). However, nor would I actively discourage anyone else from doing so … provided they approach inverting sensibly.
If you do decide to try, or have already, I’d welcome your comments below.
To see what worked for me go here.
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