When I was a young whippersnapper, when one had an ankle sprain or muscle strain, one of the go-to treatments of moms and grandmas was to soak the injury in a warm Epsom salt bath, most likely out of a bucket. If the injury was higher up the body, strips of cloth bandages were soaked in an Epson salt solution and then placed on the muscle.
As a kid, I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening within my body because of the salts, all I knew was that the soak seemed to bring relief. And yes, I was that kid bruised and bloodied from play and sports.
As an adult, I have rediscovered the healing effects of Epsom salts.
Many of you know I’m a runner ( an up-to-recently injured runner) and that I also have back spasm issues. Since I haven’t been running, I’ve taken up biking (indoor biking) as a substitute. While the biking is helping with the foot injury, it hasn’t helped the back spasm issue and I’ve continued on my quest to resolve my issue.
One day I was desperate and put out a plea on facebook for any and all ideas about what my be a contributing factor to my spasms, since I had ruled out all medical injuries with many many docs. My issues were not structural, thank God.
I got all sorts of thoughts about the matter, but one of which was I might be dehydrated when my episodes appear. I scoffed at the thought, as I am a water drankin’ fool. Ask anyone. I drink water all day long.
Except….when I don’t.
Turns out that the last two spasmy episodes I had, I could have very well been dehydrated. WHAT?!
Okay, so that’s one piece of the puzzle.
The next thing I learned was that magnesium and potassium levels can diminish greatly when dehydrated, both of which can lead muscles to spasm. My solution has been to make sure I have electrolytes and eat bananas (which I’m not fond of) for easy access to potassium.
The last piece to this puzzle is my diminished magnesium level. While taking a supplement is easiest path, it seems as if the magnesium levels are still lacking. With that thought in mind, I have implemented, as an experimental study in my pain, a more efficient way to increase my magnesium levels. The fastest way to do that is through a soak in a very warm tub spiked with Epson salt.
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An Epsom Salt bath or soak has been a trusted natural remedy for minor aches, and sprains for centuries. Epsom Salt can help relieve tired, achy muscles by providing magnesium to help reduce swelling, and sulfate which helps flush toxins and form proteins in joints. Epsom Salt can also be consumed as a natural saline laxative for occasional relief.
Here’s how my reintroduction to Epsom salts went:
I knew that Epsom salt was an easy and efficient way to deliver usable magnesium to my body, so on a day that I was particularly gitchy from back pain, I started a hot bath, threw in about 2 cups of Epsom salt and got in. I soaked for about 15 minutes, after which I rinsed/dried off and went about my day. Within three hours I was pain-free. I kid you not. I hadn’t had ZERO pain in years. This was a revelation.
I should back-up here and say this was pre-supplement usage.
In three days from the original soak, I started to feel the familiar tweak ease back in. I knew that my diet wasn’t taking care of my needs, even though I was increasing all things magnesium and potassium naturally (ie food stuffs) in order to get ahead of any recurrence. Because I had such success with the initial Epsom salt bath, I repeated it to another three days of great relief.
This cycle continued for two weeks. While I was thrilled to have discovered the possible root of my back spasms (lack of magnesium/potassium), I didn’t want to rely on the baths for relief, so I started taking a 400 mg magnesium oxide supplement once a day as well.
As I tweaked this new part of the plan, I found that if I took my supplement in the morning with a banana chaser, I had the least amount of pain I’ve had in years. If I find that I need a bit more of a magnesium boost on a day that I’ve sawed things, climbed things, chased things, I’ll use the Epsom salt bath to put me in the pain-free zone within a few hours.
CAVEAT #1: I’m not even close to a doctor, so do not take any of this post as medical advice. It’s simply what is working for me and based on my experiences.
CAVEAT #2: My research has led me to believe that you should limit your soaks to three times a week and no more than 15 minutes a pop. Also, if you have any kidney disease or are taking any prescribed medications, you should check with your doc before using.
When you root around the Internets, checking Epsony salt thangs out for yourself, you’re going to come across lots of new info about this old-fangled help. Maybe even hear the echo of your mother’s/grandmother’s wisdom from your youth. I hope that you find as much use for it as I have. It’s just one more thing your mom/grandma was right about.