I commonly hear from my clients, "What are Epsom Salts and how do they work?"
Epsom Salts are essentially magnesium and sulfates once they are added to water, broken down and dissolved. By adding Epsom salt to your bath, the theory is that your body can absorb the magnesium through your pores in the bath, and act as a natural "muscle relaxer", according to how a muscle contracts on a cellular level. For a muscle to contract, it needs calcium. Magnesium is a natural calcium blocker and will not allow the calcium to activate the proteins needed to cause muscular contraction. By increasing magnesium levels in the body, you are essentially blocking the calcium from flooding the motor unit unnecessarily, therefore allowing your muscles to relax, finding a balance of naturally occurring chemicals within our body. Excess calcium = muscle cramps and spasms. Increase magnesium = muscle relaxation.
Unfortunately, there are very few scientific studies on Epsom Salt and its true effects, which is different from sodium, also a salt, that we put on our food, amongst other things. Will it hurt to try Epsom Salts in your bath? Probably not… but by adding Epsom Salt to your bath, the warm water along with the magnesium, could potentially help the body relax the muscles and reduce muscle tension. (And who doesn’t love a relaxing warm bath anyway?!) Also, some people find that the sulfates along with the texture of the “salts” help condition and soften the skin… especially when you add other awesome helpers such as essential oils, which may help achieve relaxation, stress reduction and control inflammation.
Commonly, during pregnancy, one is advised to not partake in baths or to get into hot tubs, for a myriad of legitimate reasons. Many women will find relief with a simple, relaxing foot soak so that the magnesium can still enter the body, but without raising the body temperature completely submerged in a hot bath, amongst other things. Many of my clients as well as myself have experienced positive results by utilizing Epsom Salts while experiencing minor muscular pain or tension. There are many other theories on how Epsom Salts can help one’s body, such as with sleep disturbances, depression, inflammation, reduction of blood pressure and more… but they really come down to just theories as there is very little scientific evidence of the actual effects of Epsom Salts and it’s uses.
As always, it’s useful to speak to your medical practitioner or OB/GYN to find out what may work for you and what is safe for you, especially during pregnancy. We stand by the phrase, “When in doubt, don’t.”
Most importantly, the best way to treat muscular tension during pregnancy, especially when the tension is more than minor, is to see a licensed massage therapist who focuses primarily on releasing tight muscular holding patterns during pregnancy and help bring balance back to your body before, during or after baby.
Have Epsom Salts worked for you during your pregnancy? How about after?