Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Electric baths

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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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.

Electric baths

Do not try at home

Oddly, there are a lot of electric baths in medical history. Electricity was a wonderful way to make health ideas based on vitalism seem more real & science-y.

The fun email about Epsom salts never stop. This was one of the most interesting reader suggestions in a while: “Maybe there’s a ‘bio-electric’ function to epsom salts in water.

Er, no, I think not. It’s not inconceivable, but it is pretty far-fetched. It’s generally true that biology ingeniously exploits most properties of nature to get things done, including electromagnetism, and we likely still have things to learn about that. But whatever those systems might be, it’s super unlikely that they have any meaningful interaction with a slightly salty bath, let alone one that’s relevant to aches and pains. It’s even less likely that any such effect wouldn’t be much more obvious in, say, sea water. Even if salty baths just bestowed a vague feeling of well-being and vitality, like mountain air, that would be biologically remarkable … but still well short of a useful medical effect. And in fact salty baths do not have an obvious mountain-air like goodness.

The Epsom salts article has now been updated with this odd tidbit.