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Medical Epsom salt baths

  1. Aug 27, 2008 #1
    I'm currently training hard for a top amateur soccer team in my area. After a few training sessions my muscles are destroyed. I have severe DOMS (delayed onset muscle syndome). I was reading some online material about Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and how they claim to relieve muscle pain and soreness via bath. I decided to buy some and soak for 30min with 3-4 cups of the salts in a standard bath tub. When I got out I didn't feel any different nor this morning or now. However there are thousands of claims that it works online. I came across one skeptic here: http://saveyourself.ca/articles/reality-checks/epsom-salts.php

    Anyone try Epsom salts? Any opinions on this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2008 #2


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    Every once in a while, my wife will soak her feet in Epson salt and hot water. She claims it helps when her feet are aching, but we haven't done a blind test with just the water. Some of the claims of relief of muscle pain with an Epsom salt bath may actually be a result of the bath itself. A person does a lot of yardwork, etc and ends up aching and lame. They could take a shower to get cleaned up but they decide to take a nice hot bath with Epsom salts instead. Instead of a quick shower, rinse and dry, they take a nice long (to let the salts "work") relaxing bath. If you're a bit lame, that nice hot relaxing bath is going to make you feel a lot better than a quick shower. Unscientific as hell, but it's my theory and I'm sticking with it.
  4. Aug 27, 2008 #3
    My tub is a bit deeper then most, and I also use 3 to 4 cups of magnesium sulfate in very VERY hot water. It does help me relax, and with that kind of relaxation, tight muscles and aches tend to fade. I love the float factor.
    I use to live near a hot mineral springs and often went there. Magnesium sulfate baths are the closest thing I can find to that experience.
    When I first read the link...I began to think the guy didn't know much about how chemicals can be adsorbed via the skin. Both magnesium and sulfates can cross the skin barrier very easily. I was glad to see he looked a little deeper into it. I am also unaware of any research showing that it may have any real healing properties.
    Every living thing needs magnesium, so absorbing a little bit of it in your bath really can't harm you. On a side note, it was also one of my favorite things to play with in science class.
  5. Aug 28, 2008 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    Magnesium is an "osmotic sink"- it attracts water. That's also why "Milk of Magnesia" as well as Epsom salts are a good laxative.

    You probably didn't use enough salts in your bath. Dump in 2x or 3x what the box says, and soak longer. I've soaked my feet in an Epsom salts bath and did get some acute relief- whether that's due to excess water being pulled out into the bath or magnesium diffusing in (I did have a pronounced taste in my mouth) and moving internal water stores around, I can't say.
  6. Aug 31, 2008 #5


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    I've never really been sure of whether there is any therapeutic effect of epsom salts in the bath. I wonder if it's more that it simply allows you to soak longer in the hot water, with the heat really being the key, while the salts balance the osmolarity of the bath so you don't "prune up." I've never tried epsom salts, so don't know if they help prevent that...those of you who have used them can probably report if you still prune up or not with them in the water. It really just might be the heat of the bathwater helping.
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