Does Epsom Salt Really Work For Muscle Aches?

Effective remedy or old wives’ tale?

By: Emily Freeman

When it comes to your fitness routine, muscle soreness can really cramp your style. Luckily, there’s no shortage of at-home muscle recovery techniques to relieve pain and soreness. From drinking cherry juice, eating watermelon, handheld massage devices, post-workout nutrition, and cold therapy, professionals are constantly trying to find the best solution for muscle aches. As the search continues, there’s one solution that holds the test of time, even with a lack of scientific proof, Epsom salt baths. 

RELATED: 9 Tips to Reduce Muscle Soreness Faster

What is Epsom Salt?

Despite its name, Epsom salt isn’t the same kind of salt you’d find in your kitchen. In fact, it’s not salt at all. Epsom salt gets its name from its chemical structure — it’s a chemical compound composed of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. These tiny crystals dissolve in water and have been used to treat everything from insomnia, arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, constipation, and, yes, muscle soreness.

How Does Epsom Salt Work?

Many of us are deficient in magnesium due to modern-day diets. According to research, more than half of all Americans are lacking adequate amounts of this essential mineral. Plus, everyday phytates and oxalates can inhibit magnesium absorption. Getting enough magnesium is essential for quality sleep, lowering stress levels, a healthy digestive system, reducing inflammation, regulating hormones, and alleviating muscle soreness and cramping. So, how does Epsom salt fit into this equation? Theories say that when dissolved in water, the magnesium found in Epsom salt can be absorbed through your skin. 

However, science has found this theory inconclusive. So why are professional athletes, wellness spas, celebrities, and health enthusiasts recommending Epsom salt baths for sore muscle relief? Maybe it’s because regardless of the effectiveness, a warm bath will put you into a state of relaxation which helps your muscles release tension. Or possibly it’s because it’s a low-cost way to pamper yourself, which always makes you feel better. This is a big question mark even science doesn’t seem to want to study. In 2021, there is still no research being done on the effectiveness of Epsom salt baths

But if it helps you destress and relax, why not bathe yourself with a little extra self-care?

How to Take an Epsom Salt Bath

Regardless of scientific proof, Epsom salt baths can be very relaxing and rejuvenating. And, since the skin is the largest organ in the body and is highly porous, it absorbs whatever you put on it. So, it makes sense that soaking in an Epsom salt bath could be one of the most effective ways to get more magnesium! Plus, warm water causes our skin to dilate, which may enhance absorption further.

After you’ve filled your bathtub with warm water, add in about two cups of Epsom salt it should start to dissolve right away. If the mixture gets clumpy, run more water or use your hand or foot to help them dissolve. Then it’s time to soak! Aim for at least 15-minutes of bath time. You can play music, meditate, read or listen to a book, and/or light candles to help stimulate relaxation. Make sure to submerge all sore parts of your body into the water. 

The Benefits of Epsom Salt Without An At-Home Bath 

Don’t have time for a full Epsom salt bath? Give these alternative treatments a try! 

For a time-friendly treatment (that’s still relaxing and therapeutic), you can always fill a foot soak with ½  to 1 cup of Epsom salt and soak your feet! 

Or, if you want to elevate the self-care experience, try a Float Therapy session at a nearby wellness spa! Many medical and wellness spas offer Float Therapy, or Sensory Deprivation Tanks, which are essentially large tubs filled with Epsom salt and skin-tempered water. These treatments are designed to provide a therapeutic environment to reduce stress, relieve muscle soreness, and help you enter a deep state of calm.

Choosing an Epsom Salt

When it comes to choosing an Epsom salt, you may be surprised to find that there are a number of different options! From fragranced to fragrance-free to fancier magnesium bath flakes, the options are endless.

Ancient Minerals, 365 Epsom Salt, and Dr. Teal’s are all great options to consider for your next muscle recovery Epsom salt soak.

Are There Any Side Effects or Concerns?

Epsom salt baths have little to no negative side effects. But, if you’re prone to dry skin, you may want to lather on some lotion after taking an Epsom salt bath — the crystals can have a drying effect on your skin. 

Always Do What Works Best For You 

If you’ve found that taking Epsom salt baths is an enjoyable way to alleviate muscle tension, why stop? Soak up all the self-care! At the very least, you’re setting aside quality time for yourself and adding another stress-relieving technique to your self-care toolbox.