Epsom salt soaks are one of oldest go-to home remedies for a wide array pains and inflammation.
But does science back up the impressive claims of their effectiveness? Are epsom salts really a miracle cure? What about epsom salts and essential oils?
While epsom salts come highly recommended as a home treatment for plantar fasciitis, evidence suggests you’ll want to take these claims with a grain of, well, salt!
In this post we’ll explore how epsom salts work, the evidence for their effectiveness in treating plantar fasciitis and heel pain, and other at-home remedies to try:
Do Epsom Salts Really Work?
The short answer to “Do epsom salts really work?” is yes! The active ingredient in epsom salts, magnesium sulphate, has been approved for use as a laxative by the FDA. Studies have also shown magnesium sulphate’s usefulness in treating heart arrhythmia, tetanus, and eclampsia.
Unfortunately, the evidence for epsom salts’ effectiveness at treating pain–including plantar fasciitis and heel pain–is more meager. While there’s no conclusive evidence that epsom salt baths or foot soaks are detrimental to plantar fasciitis, there’s also no real body of evidence that epsom salt baths are significantly more effective that a regular bath or soak.
Does this mean you should give up on a soak with epsom salts if you suffer from heel pain? Not so fast.
Benefits of Epsom Foot Soaks for Heel Pain
While it’s true that claims about the effectiveness of magnesium sulphate in epsom salts don’t have much basis in peer-reviewed studies, there’s no reason to discount the large body of anecdotal evidence for epsom salts and soaking your feet in general.
Taking a long, hot soak in the bath gives your feet time to rest and rejuvenate (something almost all podiatrists and doctors recognize as one of the most important parts of recovery!). A soak in the bath–especially with epsom salts, which can soften the skin–can also have tremendous benefits to your mental health, relaxing your body and reducing levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which can be a major player in inflammation.
If you’re interested in trying epsom salts, there’s very little reason why you shouldn’t. At worst, you’ll enjoy a warm, relaxing bath and softer skin. At best, you may find that your heel pain does, in fact, improve. After all, an entire box of epsom salts, found in the pharmacy section of your local grocery store, will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $2!
Most websites and individuals who recommend the use of epsom salts recommend adding two or three tablespoons of epsom salts to a shallow bath meant for a foot soak alone. The water should be hot, but not uncomfortable, and feet can be soaked twice a day for about fifteen minutes. If you prefer a whole-body soak, add approximately one cup of epsom salts to an entire bathful of water.
Epsom Salts and Essential Oils
Epsom salt baths and essential oils are a popular combination. And while, like epsom salts, the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of essential oils in treating plantar fasciitis is meager, there are still many potential benefits to using essential oils in combination with epsom salt baths, especially if you find a particular scent soothing or pleasant.
A relaxing soak with epsom salts, followed by a self-massage session with essential oils can calm the mind and body, as well as improving blood flow to the feet and heels. The pleasant smell and feel of essential oils can provide extra incentive to massage the feet regularly, one of the most important aspects to healing!
Other Home Remedies to Try
In addition to (or in lieu of) soaking with epsom salts, try the following proven home remedies to reduce heel pain and treat the underlying cause of plantar fasciitis. It’s also worth noting that while home remedies like epsom salt baths and essential oils may indeed improve symptoms, the true healing of plantar fasciitis begins with treatments that address the damage and inflammation to the plantar fascia and surrounding muscles and ligaments.
Treatments for plantar fasciitis like these stretches and simple exercises can have a big impact in the amount of pain you feel on a daily basis (especially in the morning!). While these stretches may seem simple, they can be incredibly effective in improving blood flow, strengthening the plantar fascia and surrounding tissues, and increasing flexibility. Many people also find success with icing their feet regularly to reduce inflammation and pain.
Affordable, specialized orthotic inserts are one of the most effective at-home treatments for plantar fasciitis. These inserts can be added to almost any pair of shoes and stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities by targeting pressure points and raising your arch to the optimal level.
The good news is that because treatments like epsom salts, essential oils, orthotic inserts, and stretching are both affordable and low-risk, you should try any combination of these treatments to find what works best for your pain and lifestyle.