You pulled a muscle lifting weights at the gym. Or maybe your arthritis is acting up. Is there anything you can do, besides wait it out?
Your grandma could have the answer. Epsom salt has been used for hundreds of years to ease all kinds of aches and pains. A simple soak in the tub may help you feel better.
What Is It?
Despite the name, Epsom salt isn't like the stuff you put on your fries. It's called a salt because of its chemical structure. The "Epsom" part is a place in England where it's found in natural springs.
It's not the same as Dead Sea salts, a blend of minerals found only in the Dead Sea in the Middle East. The water and light there supposedly help skin diseases, arthritis, and other health problems.
Epsom salt is also different from fancy bath crystals. They may not be made from the same chemicals. Plus they often have oils, colors, and perfumes to relax you and soften your skin.
How Does It Work?
In water, it breaks down into magnesium and sulfate. The theory is that when you soak in an Epsom salt bath, these get into your body through your skin. That hasn't been proven, but just soaking in warm water can help relax muscles and loosen stiff joints.
People use Epsom salt baths as a home treatment for:
- Arthritis pain and swelling
- Bruises and sprains
- Fibromyalgia, a condition that makes your muscles, ligaments, and tendons hurt, and causes tender points throughout your body
- Ingrown toenails
- Psoriasis, a disease that causes red, itchy, scaly skin
- Sore muscles after working out
- Soreness from diarrhea during chemotherapy
- Sunburn pain and redness
- Tired, swollen feet
While there are plenty of folk remedy claims, there aren't a lot of studies to back them up. Taking this type of bath probably won't hurt you, but if you have health concerns, check with your doctor first.
How to Take an Epsom Salt Bath
The water should be very warm -- not hot, but comfortable to the touch. Add the Epsom salt while the water is running to help it dissolve.
For a standard-sized tub, use the amount suggested on the package, usually 1 to 2 cups, or the amount recommended by your doctor. Don't use Epsom salt in a hot tub, whirlpool, or other tub with jets unless the manufacturer says it's OK.
Keep the part of your body that hurts in the water for at least 12 minutes. Just relax.
Check with your doctor about how long and how often you should soak. You may need to do it just once for an ingrown toenail, or every day if you have arthritis pain.