Back pain is one of the most common complaints that people have when it comes to health issues. There are so many different things that cause backache and stiffness such as stress, pregnancy, poor posture, certain health conditions like multiple sclerosis or sciatica, and injuries. If you are very sedentary or overweight you may also find that you have backache.
NSAIDs are usually given to patients to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation, but long-term use of these medications can lead to stomach problems, and even kidney or liver problems. In some cases, people who struggle with arthritis find that the medication that they have been given doesn’t help. In these cases, the risks outweigh the benefits.
Natural remedies such as Epsom salt for back pain are becoming more popular because they help without those side effects.
Does Epsom Salt Help Back Pain?
There is a lack of scientific evidence that Epsom salt itself actually helps, not necessarily because it doesn’t help, but there haven’t really been studies done on Epsom salt bath effects, a lot of studies injected it straight into the muscle which caused adverse effects.
Many questioned whether Epsom salt is even really absorbed in the bath, but some studies have been shown that some of it does, in fact, get absorbed, like this study. The bath water in this study was hotter than is generally safe or well tolerated by most, but under normal conditions, some of the Epsom salt seems to be absorbed via our hair follicles (1).
Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate and not table salt which is sodium chloride. So be sure to look specifically for Epsom salt when purchasing it.
But how does Epsom salt help sore muscles and other back ailments that cause pain?
Magnesium is important for muscles to be able to relax (2).
A deficiency in magnesium has been linked to depression and anxiety. Stress is a major cause of back pain (2).
Magnesium helps to relieve pain.
Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) has been shown to reduce the need for pain medication after operations (3).
Magnesium sulfate helps to lower inflammation (4).
Epsom Salt for Back Pain Relief
There are a few ways to use Epsom salt for back pain. Whether it truly is the Epsom salt working or the heat of the bath, we can’t be sure, but this has been a remedy used for many years and many swear by it.
1. Epsom Salt Bath for Back Pain
This is one of the best ways to use Epsom salt for back pain, so much so that doctors recommend them to patients struggling with arthritis to relieve pain.
Here’s how to do it (5):
Run a bath, it doesn’t need to be too hot but it should be at least be warm. Make sure that it’s a comfortable temperature for you.
Add 1-2 cups of Epsom salt to your bath water (the label should tell you exactly)
Just sit back and relax for 12-30 minutes.
You can do this every day if you need to.
If you are pregnant, an Epsom salt bath for lower back pain is effective and safe as long as the bath water isn’t hot, it should only be warm. It can also relieve any other cramping and relieve stress too.
2. Add Essential Oils to Your Epsom Salt Bath
Aromatherapy has been proven to lower stress and anxiety as well as improve sleep (6, 7). It can also help to relieve pain (8). Try adding a few drops of essential to your bath water, how many depends on how strong you like the scent.
Try these relaxing essential oils:
3. Add herbs and Spices to Your Epsom Bath
This is especially helpful if you have these plants at home. Having herbs floating around can look idyllic, but if you prefer not to do that since it can be harder to clean up, you can put them into a face cloth and tie them up. This way they can still infuse into the water.
A few sprigs of lavender
A few sprigs of rosemary
A few juniper leaves
Crushed orange peels
Crushed bergamot peels
Crushed ginger (a tablespoon or two will work well)
4. Epsom Salt Compress
If you don’t want to soak in a tub or perhaps don’t have one to soak in, you can still benefit from Epsom salt. You can use the plain Epsom salt or add essential oils and make a compress using a towel or even a bandage. This is also a more cost-effective way of using your essential oils.
Add a tablespoon or two of Epsom salt to some warm water.
Add in a few drops of essential oil (optional).
Stir to mix it until the Epsom salt is dissolved.
Soak a towel or bandage in the mixture.
Apply to your back for 30 minutes or until the towel or bandages cool down.
Tips and Precautions
Epsom salt does not necessarily have the same effect when ingested. If you take it by mouth you are most likely to end up with diarrhea as relieving constipation is usually what Epsom salt is taken for orally. Pregnant women should never take Epsom salt orally.
Allergic reactions to Epsom salt not very common, but if you do get one, stop using it immediately.
Essential oils can interfere with medications and influence hormones, first speak to your doctor before using essential oils if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a medical condition or are on medication.
If you use the essential oils, do a little patch test first to make sure you don’t have any reaction to them. Dilute a drop of essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil like olive, coconut, canola, sesame, or sunflower oil before applying it to your skin.
If your back pain is severe or not improving after a few weeks, particularly after injury, see your doctor.
Exercising your core muscles and using good-quality furniture can improve your posture. Make sure that when you sleep your spine is aligned by having your pillow/s at the right height. When standing or sitting, make sure you aren’t hunching over or tilting your hips forward.
Distribute weight as evenly as you can across your back as much as possible, this means that you should use both shoulder straps on a backpack and try to avoid making your handbag too heavy or carrying heavy groceries on one side only (use more packets to distribute the weight).
Massages, gentle stretching, and gentle cardio exercises such as swimming and using a stationary bicycle can reduce pain and improve mobility if you are struggling with a condition like ankylosing spondylitis, MS, or sciatica.
Massages, meditation, writing down or speaking about things that you are grateful for and doing things that you enjoy can help to manage stress effectively.
If you are overweight, losing as little as 5-10% of your body weight can help to alleviate your back pain and improve your overall health. Ditch the crazy diets and rather switch to limiting process foods and increasing healthy food intake as well as exercising regularly to help maintain a healthy weight once you reach it.
We hope that you find these Epsom salt remedies helpful. If you would like to explore more back pain remedies, you may check our turmeric as a home remedy or you can read this article. If you have any tips for relieving back pain naturally, please share them with us.
Jane Scott grew up on a farm in California and is a crossover between a country girl and an evangelist for healthier living. She’s a nutritionist who preaches that healthy living need not be complicated.
She believes that by exercising regularly, eating mostly non-processed foods (with plenty of vegetables), and using home remedies for the small things and doctor’s advice for the big things, almost anybody can feel great and live a happier and healthier life. She’s excited to share her knowledge of natural remedies and healthier living on HRFL.
In her spare time, Jane enjoys cooking and watching bad rom-coms. She also loves nuts, and is a bit of a nut herself when it comes to Yoga, which she’s a little too obsessed with in the opinion of her friends and family.