This is where I used to have an article on the use of Epsom Salts for pain relief. I have updated this and changed much of the article to reflect my new understanding. This is part of an ongoing quest on my part to not only further my own education, but to help further the acceptance of my field, Massage Therapy, as a legitimate healing modality. A big part of this is simply better education and adherence to evidence based scientific methodology.
In the past I had simply accepted the generally believed ideas about the use of Epsom Salt. Recently though, in the interest of becoming a more research based practitioner, I have been on a quest to re-examine many of my assumptions. One of the things that I have learned is that there is no reason to believe that Epsom Salt has any effect at all on muscle pain or ‘toxicity’. This article used to say: “Epsom salt draws toxins and inflammation through the skin out of the body.” I had been sold on the concept that there was some form of osmotic action that somehow drew toxins out of the body through the skin.
As I began reviewing my own understanding of basic science and physiology several troubling questions came immediately to mind. The primary one has to do with the permeability of skin and the transport of substances through this important protective barrier. Related to this is the idea that osmosis or diffusion might somehow be the mechanisms by which either toxins are carried out, or Epsom might be carried in to the body. I realized that it is unlikely that either action is happening. In fact as I thought about it I came to realize that if the skin actually allowed for this type of transport to occur it would be very dangerous. All sorts of substances would be carried into and/or out of the body.
In doing some research into these questions I found that Epsom salt doesn’t permeate the skin barrier in this way, nor does it draw fluids out of the body. Even if the salts were to penetrate into the body they don’t have any pain relieving properties. Here is an excellent article on the subject: Do Epsom Salt Baths Work?
I still believe that hot baths are soothing. I think that it is probably the heat that provides the pain relief. The heat may also speed healing by increasing circulation and by speeding up the overall the metabolic process. Hydrotherapy in general has been shown to have pain relieving as well as other therapeutic effects, so I still recommend hot baths for relaxation and pain relief. Epsom Salts and other scented bath salts are a nice addition to the bath, but for the purposes of pain relief you can save your money and just have a nice hot bath.
I still like doing these baths and I find them to be very soothing and relaxing. I also still love using the Kneipp herbal bath, some Epsom salt and baking soda, I just updated my understanding of what is happening. Here is my original article.
“The ultimate bath is great for sore aching muscles, minor sprains and strains, or to simply unwind after a difficult day.
This tip is more of a recipe than anything else. Use one whole 4 lb. container (milk carton size) of Epsom salt, half of a 16 oz. container of baking soda and some of your favorite essential oil.
Fill the bath with the hottest water you can stand. Be careful not to burn yourself. Add your essential oil as the tub is filling. Once the bath is full stir in the Epsom salt. Make sure all of the salt is dissolved into the water. Then add the baking soda. The soda will fizz effervescently as it enters the water. Turn off the lights, light a candle, burn some incense and soak your aches away.
Some ideas for what essential oil to use are:
Eucalyptus – colds, congestion.
Lavender – calming.
Camphor – aching muscles.
Clary Sage – calming.
Patchouli – calming, grounding.
Ginger – warming, congestion.
Arnica – aching muscles.
Geranium – Just smells nice.
The Kneipp Company makes a line of herbal baths that are very nice as well. My favorite is the Lavender bath, which I will mix right in with the salt and soda.
Epsom salt draws toxins and inflammation through the skin out of the body. Baking soda sooths skin irritations and leaves the skin feeling smooth and soft. In general the more salt you use, and the longer you stay in the water, the more fluid will be drawn out through the skin. Be sure to drink plenty of water as this process can leave you dehydrated.
Sometimes when I am particularly sore or I have injured myself I will use two boxes of salt. Epsom salt is particularly good for minor strains and sprains.
People with high blood pressure should consult their Physician before using hot baths, hot tubs, saunas and the like. Remember that heat shouldn’t be used on anything which is in the initial stages of the inflammation process and that your doctor should be consulted for any serious injury.”