Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

More than a decade of debunking Epsom salts 

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
Get posts in your inbox:
Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

The oldest perenially popular article on is, oddly, about putting Epsom salts in your bath. Does that really help aches and pains? I first tried to answer that question in late 2006, motivated by an earnest desire to find out for my own sake. My preliminary answer was, “Nope!” And that became my first attempt at a thorough debunking, and my first trip down the surprisingly deep “rabbit hole” of a seemingly simple topic. These days I know that essentially all the topics are like this, no matter how simple they seem. It was the article that taught me that an article is never really done, and will always need updates.


Within a year of publication, it achieved another first: a high search rank and a global audience. (And so it was also my first article to generate a lot of kooky hate mail. You would not believe.) For years, it was by far the most-read thing I’d ever written, finally yielding to another surprise hit in about 2012 (see shortness of breath). Many other pages have had their turn at the top of since then, but Epsom salts has usually been in the top 10%. It has attracted roughly a half million readers.

The article stagnated from about 2012 to 2016, but then a series of unusually sharp reader questions inspired me to read it with fresh eyes, and I found myself cringing, as I so often do when I review anything I wrote long ago. My quality standards have risen steadily over the years, and it just didn’t measure up anymore. I resolved to reboot it, which took about two years. I wrapped that up to my satisfaction last week. There are many improvements, but the most significant is that it now discusses magnesium supplementation, a sub-topic that was strangely missing throughout most of its lifespan. Better late than never!

Of course, I can already see opportunities for further improvements…