Relax Your Sore muscles With These Bath Tips

I have persistent muscle pain including tension headaches, foot pain, hip pain, back pain… you get the idea. Honestly, for a long time I have been sort of half-heartedly trying to reduce my pain; for example, I got exercises from the a physiotherapist, but then never complete them. I have gotten pretty tired of being in pain, and I recently promised myself that I was actually going to start making significant life changes. One of the things I have always heard is that baths are good for muscle. Personally I have always HATED baths, but being that it is what my body needs, I set out to find a way to both make the bath more effective, and more pleasant.

How do you go about the best bath soak for sore muscles? The best way to soak aching muscles is in a warm bath, with epson salts and essential oils, for 15-30 minutes. The bath isn’t just good for soothing aching muscles, but can also relieve cramps and loosen stiff joints. 

Of course, personal preferences are always going to be a factor, but you can read below to find out more about these recommendations

Note: With any health-related issue, you should always consult your Doctor or other healthcare professional for what is best for your particular situation; for example, people with diabetes should avoid Epsom salts. This is because the salt can dry out feet, which can become infected.  If you are pregnant or have heart problems, you should check with your Doctor before taking a hot bath. Children and the elderly should be cautious with using essential oil.

Is a Hot Bath Good for Sore Muscles?

Yes, hot baths are good for sore muscles, but it depends on why the muscles are sore. The first question that you want to address is whether heat or cold is the best for your situation.

Heat vs Cold

Generally speaking, cold treatment is good for recent injuries. If, for example, you sprained your ankle, you will want to apply a cold pack to the area (for the first 48 hours). The reason for this is that cold can help with inflammation and swelling.

If you are looking to treat something like chronic pain, or general aches and pains, then a hot bath is good to treatment. One reason that heat helps is that it increases circulation, which removes lactic acid from muscles.

How Hot?

If you’re going to have a “hot” bath, what temperature should you have it at? While there are some that believe that a piping hot bath is good for what ails you, the water should be warm, not hot.

If the water is too hot, it can actually have negative effects because it can stimulate your nervous system. Basically the opposite of a nice relaxing bath! Also, a hot bath just is not very pleasant because being overheated is unpleasant.

A recommendation for the ideal bath temperature is between 92 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (33 and 37.7 degrees Celsius). Short off using a thermometer, getting the correct temperature can be a little difficult. So here’s a tip: the average temperature for a person is 37.0 °C (98.6 °F). Using this comparison, you can see that you don’t want the bath to be too hot at all. In other words, you actually want the temperature to be pretty close to your own body temperature. One good way to test the temperature of the water is by placing your wrist in the water. The reason for using your wrist is that your wrist is quite sensitive. If the water is too hot for your wrist, then it is too hot! You want the water to feel roughly the same temperature as your wrist. Not too hot. Not too cold.

Avoid Overheating

Another tip you may want to consider is putting a cold cloth on your head and/or keeping your head, hands and feet out of the water. This tricks can help you from overheating, and make your bathing experience more enjoyable. You may also want to bring a cold glass of water.

Recipe for Bath Soak for Muscle Pain

Another question you may be wondering is what (if anything) you should put in the bath. You don’t NEED to put anything into the bath. The water on its own will have a therapeutic effect; however, there are several products that help ease muscles pain, namely epsom salts and essential oils.

Epsom Salts

One of the “go tos” for relaxing baths are epsom salts, which can help relax you, and help soothe aching muscles.

Using epsom salts is easy. You simply sprinkle about 1 cup of epsom salts in the bath water and let them dissolve.

You can usually purchase epsom salts in Walmarts, Dollar Stores, drug stores etc.

Self-Massage Tools

Again, self-massage tools aren’t a “must”, but they certainly can help. If all you want to do is have a nice soak in the tub, you are all set, but if you want to add in a little extra healing, a self-massage can really help. You can use your hands, or you can bring in any self-massage tool that you want. A simple tennis ball can be effective. You can use it to roll under your muscles. Some people find this method very helpful because their body is buoyant in the water, which lets them have better control over how much pressure to apply to a muscle. The heat of the tub will help relax your muscles, which will make the massage easier. You’ll want to wait until you’ve been in the tub for about at least 12 minutes before starting this to ensure that your muscles are warmed up.

Essential Oils

Another product that you may want to add to your bath is essential oils.  One essential oil, lavender, has robust scientific evidence to support that lavender helps increase relaxation (as well as other benefiets such as helping with insomnia and reducing anxiety). Lavender is a great additive to help relax your muscles, which will aid in pain reduction.

One thing to remember is that essential oils is that they need to be diluted. If you don’t dilute them, they will irritate your skin. One common way to dilute essential oils is by adding the oils to a carrier oil. Some examples of carrier oils are coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, sesame and sunflower oil. You will want to add 12 drops of the lavender oil to 2 tablespoon of carrier oil. After you’ve combined the oils, add them to the bath, and, if possible, stir the bath to allow the oils to disperse.

There are numerous recommendations online that oils such as  Sandalwood, Rose, Chamomile, Peppermint and Yarrow will help with relaxation, pain reduction, and inflammation. While these oils may well help, we recommend using lavender, due to the scientific data that shows that it does in fact help with relaxation. If you want to add additional oils, it probably won’t hurt and could very well help.

Bath Bubbles

Do yourself a favour and pass on the bath bubbles! While the idea of having a nice relaxing bubble-filled bath may sound enticing, many bubble baths actually contain ingredients that can be bad for your health. These ingredients can cause skin irritation and allergic skin reactions.

How Long Should I Sit in the Tub?

You will want to stay in the tub for at least 15-20 minutes. This will give your muscles the time that they need to warm up, and to start relaxing. If you decide to use essential oils, you will want to stay in the tub for 30 minutes. There is not hard data on the “dose” that is needed for aromatherapy to be effective, but most studies use 30 minutes, so you will want to stay in for that time frame to ensure that you get the full effects.

Again, because the tub overheats you, which is uncomfortable, you probably don’t want to stay in the tub for too long. You may want to set yourself a timer for when you want to get out (30 minutes is a good amount of time); although, a loud alarm can be quite jarring and totally ruin your relaxed state of mind. A better trick can be to put on some relaxing music, which is 30ish minutes long, and then get out of the tub when the track stops. You could do the same thing with a playlist of your favourite songs.

Some added benefits of some shorter baths is that you may want to get out of there before the water starts to cool, and your fingers get all pruney!

So, you’re in the tub. Now what?

If you are the type of person who cringes at the idea of sitting in the tub doing nothing for 30 minutes, then you might want to consider keeping yourself entertained. You may want to bring a good book, listen to an audiotape etc. Although, there are great benefits to just sitting with yourself, and listening to your body. So, if it all possible, we strongly recommend that you try to spend the time listening to yourself. Let your body tell you if it is too hot, or where the pain is.

The Ultimate Bath for Easing Sore Muscles

The ultimate bath is whatever feels right for you.

If you like to use essential oils or epsom salts, then use them. If you just want to jump in the tub right now, and start feeling better, then do that. If you absolutely hate baths, and you don’t want to take one, then don’t take one. There are plenty other ways to apply heat therapy (such as a heating pack). There are also other ways to help relax your muscles, such as massage, a shower or stretching. In fact, one way to help y0ur muscles is to do nothing at all. This will give your muscles a chance to relax. In short, anything that you do to help your muscles relax is going to be beneficial.

A big part of self-care is listening to your body. What do you like? What do you want to do? Whatever works for you, is perfect.

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