Magnesium Baths for Muscle Pain
As a massage therapist, I can say with authority that we all deal with some sort of muscle tension, pain, or other structural discomfort. Every so often a client will come in and say "I feel fine! No pain!" but once they get on the massage table and I begin, they will almost always say something like, "Wow, I had no idea how tight I was there." It's not a shock - we live in a world with gravity! Whether it be our posture, repetitive motion patterns, stress, lack of exercise, long periods of standing or sitting, eating inflammatory food, or harmful work-related movement and injuries, we all have some reason to have muscle tension.
There are a few ways you can help yourself feel better and prevent chronic pain or illness in your future. First off,
don't ignore your pain.
Take care of it while you can.
My beloved grandfather, who after years of sitting for work, not exercising enough, and not taking preventative measures for his structural health, ended up with five of his cervical vertebrae fused together and 3 fractures because of it. He lived with extreme pain for the last ten years of his life. When he finally went to the doctor, it was too late to fix it, so he survived off of heavy pain killers and cortisone shots the rest of his life.
I believe it is easy to take care of your structural health - bones, joints and muscles.
The best way is to seek professional, preventative care. Methods that I utilize and believe are very important include chiropractic, massage, yoga, acupuncture, and cupping. When you can't afford to get a professional massage, go to the chiropractor or an acupuncturist, or pay for classes at a yoga studio, there are things you can do for yourself at home. Today I will share with you just one of these things.
A little bit about magnesium deficiency
Magnesium therapy is one easy way for you to deal with muscle tension and pain at home. It isn't a pain killer. It is not masking a symptom. Instead it is actually dealing with a deficiency most of us in the western world have and which causes inflammation.
How do humans access magnesium?
Magnesium is a macromineral, born in the stars, and needed for 300 biochemical reactions in our body (source), but we do not make it internally, therefore we need to ingest it, ideally about 300-420 mgs a day for most adults. (source) It's easy to take in enough magnesium each day if you're eating a whole foods diet high in whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat, lots of dark green leafy vegetables, and plenty of beans, nuts and legumes. (source) According to a 2012 study by the Center for Magnesium Education & Research, 48% of people in the United States "consumed less than the required amount of magnesium from food." And it's been getting worse over the last 30 years.
"[Magnesium] helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heart beat steady, and helps bones remain strong." (source)
Moreover, magnesium works side by side in the body with calcium. These two minerals work hand in hand to create balance in your body. Too much calcium means too little magnesium and vice versa. We live in a pro-calcium society, where calcium supplements are the answer to strong bones, healthy children, and easing gracefully into old age. Those sentiments aren't altogether wrong, but too much calcium is also not good. It creates inflammation in your body, tightens muscles, creates kidney stones and plaque that threatens the heart. (source)
In the end, we need to make sure that our magnesium and calcium levels are level and healthy.
in the bath
My favorite way, besides eating a diet rich in magnesium, calcium, and all of those wonderful minerals we need, is to take magnesium baths.
Absorbing magnesium directly through the skin is one of the most bioavailable ways to bring magnesium into your body, especially because it is being absorbed right next to your muscles where it needs to go for your muscle tension to go away. (source) Absorption through the skin is much more effective than taking magnesium orally. (source) You will often see powdered forms in stores that you can mix with water and drink.
You've all heard of Epsom salt
It's not actually salt at all. It is magnesium sulfate, a naturally occuring mineral compound that was named after the town of Epsom in Surrey, England where it was first discovered in a natural spring.
Few natural epsom salt deposits exist, so the epsom salt you buy at the store is most definitely made in a lab by mixing magnesium and sulfate compounds together.
Magnesium Chloride flakes
I prefer magnesium chloride flakes for a couple reasons.
They are a more potent version of magnesium that is more easily absorbed by the skin.
They are not made in a lab. Instead, they are sourced from ancient seabeds in northern Europe. For me, I choose a natural alternative any chance I can.
I haven't yet found a store that sells magnesium chloride flakes package free, but I like Whole Foods' 4lb case they sell at their stores. You can also find them here if you are a Amazon Prime Pantry member.
I always try to reduce packaging waste by buying the largest size I can, and this larger size comes in hard plastic which is recyclable, while the smaller size is a soft plastic bag which is not recyclable.
Set up a hot bath, and throw about 1-2 cups of magnesium flakes into the water to dissolve. Soak for at least 20 minutes!
How often should you soak?
As much as you want. I often do at least once or twice a week or whenever my back is sore or I've had a long day at work. A positive side effect of taking a magnesium bath at night is that it will help you sleep!
What have been your experiences with epsom salt or magnesium chloride flakes? Have you tried it?