Should you be using Epsom salt for plantar fasciitis? Or is this just a bunch of crap that is going to be a waste of your money?
If you are like I was, then you will try pretty much anything to get rid of that ridiculous pain that is often excruciating in the mornings and can sometimes be crippling. I had been to the doctors, I had gotten prescriptions for steroids, I had been using a spiky rollerball on the bottom of my foot, I had been wearing a medical boot for months, but nothing seemed to be able to get rid of this crap.
Plantar fasciitis is one heck of a strange problem and it seems that there are no doctors out there who have mastered cures to it… Largely due to the fact that there can be dozens of causes for this condition.
But could the cure really be something so simple? Is it really as easy as going and picking up some Epsom salt at the local supermarket and soaking your foot in it every day?
Well… It is said that Epsom salt promotes relaxation, reduces pain and swelling, and helps speed up healing… So based on some of the information quickly available online it seems that it could do the trick. However, in this short post I’m going to be explaining why it did NOT work for me. But first let me go over the theory of why it supposedly works…
The Theory Behind It
Epsom salt is very different from table salt. Yes, they both have the word “salt” in their names, but they are extremely different. Epsom salt is just magnesium sulfate and the magnesium part of it is why there are so many claimed health benefits.
Magnesium is very important, in fact so important that, according to the National Institutes of Health, it is involved in over 300 reactions in the body… That is a heck of a lot.
Upon doing research I also found that having a deficiency in magnesium is likely to make you more susceptible to certain tendon problems. And since the plantar fascia is a connective tissue as are the tendons, it seems reasonable to assume that it could apply to this as well.
It is no wonder why licensed doctors often suggest supplementing magnesium, along with other important minerals right before bed if you have plantar fasciitis.
The idea behind Epsom salt foot baths is that the magnesium and sulfate dissociate in water and are absorbed into your body through the skin… Right where you need it most.
Sounds good and all, but things are a bit more complicated than they sound at first.
3 Reasons It Didn’t Work
I will say that soaking my foot in an Epsom salt bath was always something that felt good. It would help my foot relax and just feel all around better for a period of time after soaking it. However, it wasn’t a solution and here’s why…
#1 – The location of pain isn’t the problem
It seems that there are 101 causes for plantar fasciitis, and the location of the pain isn’t one of them.
The problem with most treatments for PF is that they only treat the pain… Right where the plantar fascia is hurting. But that is not where the problem is originating and even if you do get the pain to go away it will just come back over and over again if you don’t get to the root of the cause.
Some of the many common causes of this condition include tight muscles in the lower leg (such as the calf) that place an unnecessary amount of tension on the plantar fascia, poor posture, damage to the posterior tibial tendon, and so on.
So while soaking your foot in a nice hot bath of Epsom salt may feel relieving, it sure as heck isn’t going to fix your posture or stretch out your calves, which could be the cause of your pain.
#2 – “Feels better… lets go for a walk”
Another reason the Epsom salt baths did not work for me is because they would make my foot feel better and I would then proceed to use it more… Which would likely just lead to additional damage and might have been causing more harm than good.
Now I know that this is completely my fault and has nothing to do with the Epsom salt bath itself, but I think it is still worth mentioning.
Your foot might be experiencing a sudden reduction in pain and you might think that can walk on it normally, but you have to remain disciplined and be careful with it. Healing takes time.
#3 – It might not work…. at all
And the third reason that it didn’t work for me is that it MIGHT NOT WORK AT ALL.
As I was doing my research I found a publishing in the science journal called Nutrients titled Myth or Reality – Transdermal Magnersium?.
This report explained that, while magnesium does have many proven benefits that could aid in recovery, there is no good proof that exists out there showing that magnesium can be absorbed effectively through your skin.
In the case of Epsom salt foot baths, it is all about absorption. You can have all the magnesium you want in that water but if it isn’t being absorbed through your skin then there are no benefits coming from it.
There are a lot of different magnesium supplements out there that you are supposed to apply to your skin and unfortunately there just isn’t any good proof that this is effective.
Conclusion – You Need Magnesium… But I’m Not So Sure Epsom Salt Is The Way to Get It
Epsom salt foot baths may help to some extent, but it might just be the hot water that is helping and not the actual Epsom salt. It makes perfect sense that this could be the case. After all, applying heat to a condition like plantar fasciitis will help loosen up the connective tissue, promote circulation, ease pain and so on.
Getting enough magnesium is very important, but you might be better off just going the proven route of taking magnesium supplements orally, or just getting more natural magnesium through your diet. If you are going to go the route of supplements, it is suggested that you take 200 mg of magnesium in combination with 1000 mg of calcium right before bed. This is said to help relieve the morning pain and stiffness that PF is so notorious for.
Now I’m not saying that Epsom salt foot baths do not work for sure, I’m just saying that there isn’t enough evidence out there to really say that it does work… And even if it does help reduce pain and aid in the recovery of the plantar fascia, the problem is just going to keep coming back if the cause is due to something else, such as tight calves, posture, etc.
As I said earlier… things are more complicated than they seem.
But anyways, I hope you enjoyed the short post and found it informative. I just wanted to share with you my short story and some research I have gathered while trying to find a cure to this ridiculous problem that can seem impossible to get rid of.
Please leave any questions or comments down below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can 🙂