We all know that after a long, hard day or a strenuous workout, relaxing in a nice, warm bath can be one of the best ways to soothe our aching body and help it to recover. What many people may not know though, is that there are things you can add to your bath, to get even more benefits out of it.
While common cosmetic bathing products often claim to be able to do this, adding various different salts or essential oils to your bath could not only help to soothe your muscles and bones, but could even encourage better recovery, helping you to repair any injuries much faster.
With such a huge range of options available though, how could you possibly know where to start? Well, in today’s article, we will be examining the best soak for sore muscles and going through a range of the best things you can add to your bath to keep your body pain free and healthy.
So, if you want to optimise your bathing routine and make suffering with muscle pains and minor injuries a thing of the past, this is the article for you.
How Do Soaks Help Sore Muscles?
Exactly how a soak will help to soothe sore muscles depends on both the ingredients used for the soak, as well as the type of soak it is.
Many soaks work as they have the ability to help dilate the blood vessels throughout the body. This will improve circulation and allow more blood to flow towards the muscles that are sore, ensuring they have plenty of oxygen and nutrients to help them heal and ease the pain.
Another major benefit that comes with improved blood circulation is that it speeds up the removal of accumulated waste products like lactic acid in the tissue of the muscle. This can aid with speeding up recovery but only in cases where the muscles are sore due to strenuous physical activity.
The soak may also be able to help relax the muscle tissues directly. This can help to reduce or even eliminate any stiffness or inflammation. This will lead to improvements in soreness, pain symptoms, mobility, and range of motion.
Epsom Salts For Sore Muscles
Epsom salts are among the most popular ingredients for creating soaks and have been used around the globe for decades, as they are thought to be highly effectively, while being relatively affordable.
The main component of Epsom salts is magnesium sulphate heptahydrate, a chemical also known simply as magnesium sulphate. Studies show that when the Epsom salts are added to the water, the salt breaks down into the two compounds, magnesium, and sulphate.
In their base forms, each of these chemicals are able to enter the body much more easily than they can while they are combined. This helps to ensure that both of the chemicals are able to reach the muscle tissue quickly and efficiently, in order to effectively induce a state of maximum relaxation.
To ensure Epsom salts are properly dissolved, it is widely recommended that you add the Epsom salts to your bath while the water is still running. This will allow the natural movement of the water to gently mix it in, breaking the salts down much more effectively.
The ideal dose of Epsom salts will depend on the size of your tub, the amount of water you use, and how sore your muscles are. That said, most adults using a standard size tub will want to use between 1 and 2 cups of Epsom salts to achieve maximum effects, without any risk of adverse reactions.
Epsom Salts Vs Other Salts
The primary reason that Epsom salts became the preferred option to use in soaks was because they are cheap and readily available. This obviously makes them a popular choice for a wide range of people with all different budgets.
Many people have also reported that Epsom salts not only dissolve faster but that the results they offer can be seen much earlier as well. This means they require much less prep time and can help to soothe your pain and soreness much faster
Then there is the fact that beyond just helping with sore muscles, Epsom salts are able to produce some other benefits that can be extremely helpful for a variety of the body’s other functions as well.
Epsom salt soaks can help to reduce stress, improve relaxation, and even help some people to sleep better. This is ideal for improving your overall health, wellbeing, and quality of life, but is particularly beneficial for people trying to help their muscles heal and recover after a strenuous exercise session.
By speeding up recovery, the Epsom salts will help you to perform better during your next exercise session, while limiting the amount of rest time needed between the sessions themselves. This will improve workout consistency and dramatically improve the speed at which you achieve results.
The magnesium sulphate content can even potentially help to improve the functions of the nerves throughout your body. This can be incredibly helpful for everything from improving your workouts to enhancing your ability to perform daily tasks as efficiently as possible.
Other Salts To Add To A Soak For Sore Muscles
Other popular salts you can add to a soak include dead sea salt, fleur de sel sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, and pure magnesium salt. These all work in the same basic way as Epsom salts, yet have wildly differing prices and chemical makeups from product to product.
While Epsom salts are the most well rounded, those looking for something a little more specific should weigh up their budget and the exact effect they are hoping to achieve with their soak and consider whether one of these salts may be a better option for them.
Essential Oils For Sore Muscles
There are certain essential oils that can also be used to effectively help to relax sore muscles and relieve the pain in them. These oils will generally be made from natural extracts and offer a safe yet effective remedy for a whole range of different aches, pains, health problems, and ailments.
Peppermint oil is considered to be a highly effective option for relieving pain and reducing soreness in the tissues of a muscle. This makes it a great option when trying to recover from a strenuous workout or minor injury.
Peppermint oil has also been shown to possess benefits for people with arthritis, as it relieves the inflammation that builds up in the joints. This can not only ease the pain but can also slow or even prevent the progression of their symptoms.
Lavender is a purple, flowering plant in the mint family, which is native to the Mediterranean and parts of western Asia. Synonymous with its beautiful scent, lavender has long been added to various cosmetic products, due to both its aromatherapeutic and healing properties.
Taken directly from the flowering part of the plant, lavender oil is well known for its relaxation and calming properties. This can help to reduce tension in muscles, which may also assist with soreness.
Yarrow is a plant found throughout the northern hemisphere, which is part of the Asteraceae family. Also known as achillea millefolium, it comes in a wide range of colours, including red, purple, white, and yellow.
Yarrow essential oil can be obtained from both the flowers and the dried leaves of the plant. It is effective as it contains natural anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. When added to the soak, it gets into the joints and muscles, relieves swelling, and allows healing to begin.
Roman Chamomile Oil
Roman chamomile is a yellow and white flowering plant found in dry fields throughout Europe and the Americas. Roman chamomile oil is taken from the flowers of the plant and helps to soothe sore muscles by helping them to relax and reliving spasms.
German Chamomile oil
German chamomile is a subspecies of the normal chamomile plant and German chamomile oil is again sourced from the plant’s flowers. German chamomile is considered the better of the two, as it has greater anti-inflammatory properties. It also has a much sweeter smell and a higher cost.
Rosemary is an evergreen shrub in the mint family native to the Mediterranean that features needle-like leaves and blue, pink, purple, or white flowers. Rosemary oil comes from the flower of the plant and soothes the damaged area to ease pain while penetrating the muscle to reduce inflammation.
Eucalyptus is a blanket term used to describe over 700 different plants in the myrtle family. The oil is taken from the leaves of the plant and has a cooling effect. This helps to numb the area, relieving pain, while also bringing down any inflammation, speeding up the healing process.
Thyme is a herb in the mint family that is indigenous to the Mediterranean. The leaves of the plant are converted into thyme oil using steam distillation and studies have shown that it can reduce pain and inflammation by as much as 75%.
The juniper is a range of trees and shrubs in the Cypress family that produce dark blue berries. These berries can be converted into juniper oil, which is able to reduce soreness in multiple ways.
It eases muscle pain by relieving spasms, while helping with joint pains due to its analgesic and anti-rheumatic properties. It can be used to treat various conditions, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Turmeric is a flowering plant in the ginger family that is one of the oldest and most widely used herbal remedies on Earth.
Turmeric oil is sourced from the root of the plant and the powerful blend of antioxidants it contains helps to relieve inflammation and heal any damage caused by oxidative stress or resistance training.
Cypress is a type of tree common to parts of eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and middle east.
Cypress oil is made using a number of different parts of the tree, including the leaves, stems, and twigs. Cypress oil soothes muscle pain as it is an antispasmodic, meaning it helps to ease cramps, spasms, and tension in a muscle.
Aloe Vera Oil
Aloe vera is a range of more than 500 evergreen plants native to the Arabian peninsula that grow in virtually all tropical climates around the world. Aloe vera oil is taken from the gel in the leaves and helps to ease cramps, while hydrating the muscles to help them recover quicker.
Ginger is a flowering plant and spice, the roots of which are either dried and ground up or converted into oil. Ginger oil offers a warming effect that radiates throughout the body to soothe aches and pains in the muscles, joints, and bones.
Citrus oil can be sourced from many plants in the citrus family, although most commonly comes from different types of lemons and oranges. The oil is taken from the peel of the fruit and helps to ease spasms, while also warming and soothing the afflicted area directly.
Cloves are name given to the flowering buds on trees in the myrtaceous family. Clove oil is extracted from these buds and can be used to relax muscles and reduce inflammation, making it helpful for both muscular and skeletal conditions, including pulls, spasms, sprains, strains, and even arthritis.
Arnica is a flowering plant from the sunflower family that produces bright yellow flowers. These flowers are converted into arnica oil and can improve blood flow, helping to ease pains associated with things like bruising, swelling, muscle soreness, and arthritis.
Ylang-Ylang is a tropical tree native to Australia and parts of southeast Asia that produces thick, yellow, almost fruit-like flowers. The oils extracted from the flower are great for improving blood flow, which helps to relieve pain and encourage healing in damaged muscles and bones.
Hibiscus is a genus of plant from the mallow family that contains hundreds of plants, most of which are known for their large, brightly coloured flowers.
Hibiscus oil is sourced from both the flower and leaves of the plant and is full of antioxidants, which help to repair any damage caused by oxidative stress. Its circulation boosting properties then help to restore blood flow to damaged areas, reducing swelling and inflammation and promoting recovery.
Magnesium is a mineral and alkaline metal element. Magnesium flakes can be obtained from some water sources, and these can then be converted into magnesium oil. Much like when it is used in salt form, magnesium helps reduce soreness and it eases inflammation and swelling in the joints.
Wintergreen is a range of plants known for their green leaves and red berries. Wintergreen oil is obtained by fermenting the leaves and helps to soothe the body through a process known as counterirritation.
This mean’s that the oil causes a mild irritation in a healthy part of the body, redirecting blood flow there. This will lead to a reduction of swelling and inflammation in the damaged areas, soothing pain in the muscle or joint and giving it an opportunity to heal.
Marjoram is a herb and shrub known for its sweet and sour flavour. The flowering leaves and the tips of the stem are converted into marjoram oil, which relaxes muscular spasms and tension, helping to soothe the damaged muscle and relieve any pain.
Copaiba is a type of resin taken from leguminous trees from South America. Known for its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the resin is converted into an oil which helps to ease inflammation and reverse oxidative stress damage, soothing pain and promoting recovery.
Lemongrass is a type of grass found in Africa, Asia, and Australia, as well as a number of tropical islands. The oil sourced from the leaves and stalks is known to relieve inflammation and aid recovery, while its fragrant smell has a range of aromatherapy uses as well.
CBD oil comes from the flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant. A powerful antispasmodic, it is proven to stop spasms and relieve tension in muscles, helping to alleviate any pain.
Other Things To Add To Your Soak To Heal Sore Muscles
While the majority of muscle soaks rely on salts and essential oils to be effective, there are a few other things you can add to a bath to ease pain and help you recover. That is why, before we finish, I want to show you the best other things to add to your soak to heal sore muscles.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an acidic liquid made from fermented apples. Known to have both alkalising and anti-inflammatory properties, it can reduce the swelling around an area to ease pain, before directly enhancing the healing process itself, promoting a faster recovery.
Mustard seeds can be obtained from any type of mustard plant and can be black, brown, white, or yellow in colour.
Mustard seeds promote the release of acetic acid in the body, which is required for muscular contractions. By doing this, it helps to prevent cramps and tension, relaxing the muscle and soothing many types of pain.
Hot & Cold Soaks For Sore Muscles
While adding different oils, salts, and various other things to a bath can create an effective soak, the water itself can do a great job on its own if required. How exactly the water will soothe your muscles will depend on its temperature.
Soaking in a hot bath will relax the muscles, reliving cramps, spasms, and tension, and directly soothing the muscles. On the other hand, an ice cold bath will help to relive inflammation and can promote better blood flow to stimulate recovery.
You can even add any of the muscle soak options we have already looked at to your hot or cold bath, to get the best of both worlds.
If, however, you would rather try thermotherapy by keeping it separate from your bathing experience, perhaps you should consider a cold plunge tub or a personal home sauna instead.
Muscle soaks are a time tested way to heal and soothe your tired or damaged muscles and joints in the most relaxing way possible. With the water itself offering benefits of its own, you can simply slip into the tub and let it wash all of your troubles away.
You will now hopefully have a good idea of what to add to your soak, to get the best results and experience, based on the affliction you are personally dealing with. So, all that’s left is to go and purchase your chosen oil or salt and see how it can boost your bathing experience for yourself.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost