Are Epsom Salt Baths Good For Sore Muscles

You may have heard of people using Epsom salt bath for sore muscles, and heck, maybe you’ve tried it yourself. You fill up a warm bath after a long workout or week of training, throw in a few dashes of salt from a bag, and hop in. You lay there, piddle paddle in the water a little, get a little sweaty because you probably made the bath too hot, splash your face with water and get out. Did it help? Is there any science behind using Epsom salt for sore muscles? You may have wondered this to yourself, and we know we have, so that’s why we’re here to find out for good if taking an Epsom salt bath is good for sore muscles once and for all.

When Were Epsom Salts Discovered

Epsom salts were discovered on accident, or so the story goes, which was documented by a chemist named Nehemiah Grew in 1695. Apparently at the time the local people were boiling water from a saline spring nearby, but when the water evaporated, there was a leftover mineral powder. Mr. Grew documented that the leftover mineral were “bitter purging salts” referencing the laxative qualities of magnesium sulfate, or what we now refer to as Epsom Salts. [R]

Later on, Mr. Grew actually acquired a royal patent for the exclusive manufacturing rights of the salt from the town of Epsom. He discovered many saline wells throughout the country and began manufacturing the salts and offering them over the counter at an affordable rate so that the need to go to the wells was no longer there. [R]

Another belief about the discovery of Epsom salt is from an Ewell History Explorer, Henry Wicker, in the year 1618 when he was caring after herds of cows on the countryside. The story goes that his cattle wouldn’t drink from the clear water due to the mineral taste, and when he tried it himself, he found that it was quite different than regular water, alas, the discovery.

Where Does Epsom Salt Come From

Nowadays Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is manufactured around the world and produced from the Dolomite rock. The mineral itself is abundant throughout the South Tyrolean Alps also known as the Dolomites. There are also manufactures in many countries, such as Giles Chemical Division of Premier Magnesia, LLC here in the USA, which is the largest north American producer of Epsom Salts.

Epsom Salt Muscle Soreness - Swolverine

Is Epsom Salt Magnesium

Epsom salt is technically magnesium sulfate which is an inorganic salt that contains magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. Is magnesium and Epsom salts the same thing? Not quite, actually. While Epsom salt does have some magnesium, it is in the form of magnesium sulfate. Whereas magnesium chloride, or magnesium salt, is a more pure potency and only magnesium. This type of magnesium is technically regarded as a more intense form of magnesium and is not recommended to be ingested unless it is in a food-grade.

So which one should you soak in?

Both have health benefits, including reducing muscle soreness and tension, and while the two compounds might look the same, Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) is going to be on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

What Is Epsom Salt For

If you’re like us, we’re always on the hunt for new and improved ways to maximize muscle recovery and reduce soreness so that we can get back in the gym and improve our overall performance. When was Epsom salt discovered? Great question. Epsom salt is a naturally occurring compound, containing magnesium, and it is believed that in the 17th century people discovered in a little place called Epsom, England, which is about 15 miles outside of London.

Magnesium Benefits:

Magnesium is well researched and demonstrated biologically essential mineral used in every cell in the human body. Nearly 40% of all magnesium in the body is found in the muscles, facia, soft tissue and bloodstream. [R] Magnesium is responsible for more than 600 different reactions in the body. [R]

Major functions include:

  • Nervous System Regulation
  • Contraction and Relaxation of Muscles
  • Repairing DNA and RNA From Oxidative Stress
  • Helps Create New Proteins and Synthesize Amino Acids
  • Assists in Converting Food Into Energy

Epsom Salt Muscle Soreness - Swolverine

Epsom Salt Bath Benefits

The theory is that Epsom salt bath benefits range from reducing muscle soreness, stress, and tension, to providing relaxation and rejuvenation for the entire body. Other benefits may include providing benefit to the dermis, or the skin, especially if you have health conditions like eczema and psoriasis. They may also help relieve swelling, reduce water weight, improve circulation, and improve mood.

Since the minerals are absorbed directly through the skin, there can be almost an instant relief from aches and pains that you might experience on the daily or from more intense bouts of athletic training. Epsom salt baths can also be a more cost-effective way to reduce muscle soreness and tension as compared to a massage or investing in a massage gun to target the body’s muscle recovery.

Epsom Salt For Muscle Soreness

Taking a bath in Epsom salts can be relaxing and soothing. While Epsom salts haven’t been researched well, many people have sworn by this natural remedy for muscle soreness, aches and pains, for centuries. Since the side effects of Epsom salts are limited to things like dry or itchy skin, and maybe an allergic reaction here and there, the downsides of using Epsom salts as a recovery method and relaxation therapy are extremely limited. Unfortunately, most research published (there are over 8,000 research articles on PubMed alone) have been focused on magnesium sulfate in an intravenous form as compared to used in a bath or external form. Dang! 

Alas, if you regularly take Epsom salt baths for muscle soreness, and it works for you, then keep doing it. If you’ve never tried an Epsom salt bath and your recovery isn’t very good, meaning your soreness, aches, and pains keep you from getting back in the gym and going at your training again, then you may want to give it a try. You can buy Epsom salts in anywhere from 1 lb. to 40 lb. bags and usually at a pretty decent price.

How Much Epsom Salt To Use For A Bath

It is recommended to start out with a lower amount and work your way up to a higher amount of Epsom salts when running yourself a bath. Epsom salt can have detoxifying or drying effects, and for some this may be a little overwhelming or dehydrating, especially in a warm to hot temperature bath. In general though, the recommendation is to use 1/2 cup to 2 cups of Epsom salt for a standard-size bathtub. You can soak up 10-30 minutes daily or after exercise, especially if you’re looking to use Epsom salt for sore muscles and muscle recovery.

Epsom Salt Muscle Soreness - Swolverine

Can You Put Too Much Epsom Salt In A Bath?

In short, yes. We do not recommend using more than 2 cups and the best bet is to follow the directions on the label of the package of Epsom salts that you bought. If you’re concerned and not sure if it is right for you, always consult your primary care physician or use as your doctor recommends. When you’re finished with your soak? Take a quick rinse to avoid excess drying of the skin and dry off well.

Where To Buy Epsom Salt

If you’re looking where to buy Epsom salt with lavender or other essential oils, or even Epsom salt in bulk, we’ve scoured the internet and found one favorite brand to mention. For those of us who put our bodies through tough workouts, we recommend giving the brand EPSOAK a try, as they make a variety of bag sizes and types of Epsom salts for both the every day bath connoisseur as well as athletes. 

Epsom Salt For Sore Muscles: Takeaway

While Epsom salt baths aren’t well researched, or really, researched at all, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your tired and hard worked body can’t benefit from some quality rest and relaxation. While you’ll probably benefit from other recovery methods, like eating sufficiently for your goals (like getting enough carbs and protein), hydrating often and adequately with water, stretching, and taking recovery supplements like L-Glutamine and Turmeric for example, Epsom salts can compliment your recovery and training efforts while effectively alleviating muscle soreness. If you’re not sure if you should take Epsom baths the best bet is to consult your physician or just follow the directions on a bag of EPSOAK salts and listen to how your body feels. Rest, recover, repeat.

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