Friday, September 25, 2009

Nourish Your Muscles with a Salt Bath

When clients leave my office, they usually carry a snack-sized zip lock® bag of salt, with a request from me to take a bath with them. I give the salts away to relieve muscle and connective tissues soreness and to support the body’s chemical balance.

My first introduction to salt baths was when I was in karate. After an intense workout our sensei would suggest (in that commanding way that Senseis make any suggestion) a bath with one to two cups of Epsom salts dissolved in the water. He didn’t know why, but would recommend it for every ache and pain. I sometimes wondered if I should just dunk my head in the bathtub when I had a migraine.

Then I became a Hellerwork practitioner and after a few years in practice (and no more migraines, by the way) I referred a client to another Structural Integrator, who gave her a bag of Epsom salts after the session. My client told me that every place that was in the bath didn’t hurt and every place above the water line was sore. So then I started giving my clients Epsom salts, too.

Clients asked me why they should use the salt baths. It didn’t seem professional to say “I don’t know” or “It’s a good luck charm,” so I did a little research. At first, my queries led me to believe the salts helped flush toxins like lactic acid from the muscles. While that is one small part of what Epsom salts do, they are more important for what they add to the body rather than what they take away.

A friend who is an acupuncturist extolls the virtues of Epsom salts and recommends it to her clients. Doing a little research via the internet, we found the Epsom Salt Industry Council’s website. Epsom Salts are made of magnesium sulfate, MgSO4 and according to the Council, magnesium aids in chemical reactions, especially those of muscles and enzymes, and sulfates flush toxins and improve the absorption of nutrients. The U.S. National Library of Medicine credits magnesium with:

* Contraction and relaxation of muscles
* Function of certain enzymes in the body
* Production and transport of energy
* Production of protein

One day I was very sore after an intense session of yoga and went searching in the bathroom cupboard for Epsom salts. There were none. Oh no. Would sea salt work? After all, swimming in the warm ocean is therapeutic; perhaps because of the salt. However, the main component of sea salt is sodium chloride, not the minerals muscles need. A bit more searching under the sink produced a small bag of hand-mixed bath salts given to me by a client. This ½ cup of salts was better than nothing so I tried it and was amazed. Amazed!

This small bag of salts was much more effective than two cups of Epsom Salts. They were Dead Sea salts. The chemical composition of Dead Sea Salts is more complex than Epsom Salts. According to the Saltworks website, Dead Sea salts, Bokek® brand are comprised of:

Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2) 33.3 %
Potassium Chloride (KCl) 24.3 %
Sodium Chloride (NaCl) 5.5 %
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2) 0.2 %
Bromide (Br-) 0.5 %
Sulphates (SO4) 0.15 %
Insolubles 0.03 %
Water of Crystallization 36.4 %

Perhaps magnesium chloride is more easily absorbed than magnesium sulfate or the addition of potassium and trace of calcium make the difference.

Recently I have new client with fibromyalgia who has been using Epsom salts mixed with fresh ginger. She finds that more effective than plain Dead Sea salts. So now my give-away baggies include a mixture of Dead Sea salts and Epsom salts, for the mineral formula from the Dead Sea and the boost of needed magnesium from Epsom salts.

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