Does bath therapy really work?

Gorgeous rose petal infuse bath, but could it cure an illness?
I believe there are little worries in the world that a long hot soak can’t fix. Diving into wondrous waves of bubbles, warming the soul and relaxing the mind; long hot baths are the answer. Yet I’m not the only person who holds this philosophy. Bath therapy has been used for years to aid those suffering. From mental health to physical injury, there are plenty of ‘recipes’ for your tub to tackle any negative ailments you may be experiencing.

It may all sound slightly wishy washy, but the results speak for themselves. Alternative therapists and trained physicians have spoken profusely of the benefits of bathing, so this isn’t just some old wives tale that beauty bloggers are now peddling.

Personally for me, my bathtub is the ultimate escape. Far beyond a little luxurious treat, I’ll often heave myself into the tub when I’m suffering from another crippling migraine. The heat instantly soothes the pain and whilst it’s no cure, I’m yet to find a better way to take my mind of the discomfort.

It isn’t just migraines though, giving your muscles a long soak can help to revive your body and repair any pulls and tears. However, you may find yourself turning your tap the other way for some aliments…

You’re hot then you’re cold
On the physical side of things, it’s the temperature we look towards to soothe our aches and pains. Heat is well known for subsiding pain, hence the use of hot oils in therapy and heated cushions for back pain. However, if you’ve found yourself going a little too hard in the gym, you may benefit from a colder sensation.

I know the idea of an ice bath may send shivers down the spine for many of you, but the health benefits may well be worth the goosebumps! I spoke to Tim Allerdyce, expert physiotherapist at SurreyPhysio, who had plenty to say on the matter “Ice baths actually cool the body’s core temperature and cause a vasoconstriction or narrowing of the blood vessels. This helps to reduce inflammation that occurs from exercising, and thousands of athletes find them beneficial to reduce DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS is that ache you get the following few days after a really hard work out.”

But what if you really, really don’t want to try an ice bath? Tim suggests easing yourself in gently, “Don’t simply pile a load of ice into a bath and then sit in it for 10 minutes, it will be far too cold. Start with simply running cold water and try to stay in the bath for between 5-10 minutes. As your body becomes more tolerant of cold baths, then start adding a little bit of ice to them after your first few cold ones. Monitor your improvement and see if it helps you. But ice baths don’t suit everyone, so if it doesn’t work for you, simply switch to a warm or hot bath and see if you get better results.”

Once you’ve found the perfect temperature for your aliment, things get even more interesting experiment with bath therapy recipes.

How do essential oils work?
Adding essential oils to your bath can also aid physical conditions and quell any anxieties. Aromachology is a truly intriguing topic that delves into how certain smells impact our mindset. We all know that lavender is said to relax, but did you know orange oil can help you focus and clary sage can work in the same way as caffeine? It’s not just a placebo effect either, research has suggested that oils such as lavender can have a direct impact on our autonomic nervous system function and trails have proven sedative effects (Hertz, 2009 & Matsumoto et al, 2013).

To dig a little deeper, I spoke to aromachologist Danièle Ryman whose research has gone some way to explain the link between psychology and scent “As the sense of smell is so basic a part of us, I’m sure we all could benefit from a greater awareness of the role it plays in our everyday lives.”

An expert in her field, she’s discovered that it’s the quality of the oil, not just the fragrance that makes a huge difference: “The quality of essential oils are very important and should be organic when possible, if it has to be applied on the skin or inhaled. Check the source and try to find a good reliable brand.”

“Check the expiry date, as for example the citrus essential oils can alter very rapidly and the smell can be nasty. The prices of some of them can be very expensive (take Rose or Neroli), make sure they have not been diluted with another essential oil or a carrier oil.”

I’d never considered the fact that essential oils could expire, as naive as that sounds, but when it comes to using them in the bath you’ll need to make sure you’re getting the highest grade possible. Remember you’re bathing in it, no matter how dilated it is, if it’s low quality then it could impact your skin. Always do a quick patch test when trying out new oils.

It’s also incredibly important to refer to your doctor when using essential oils in the bath when pregnant. Oils such as clary sage are out of the question for mums to be, so do be careful!

How to run the perfect bath

Bathing essentials
There’s no real artform when you’re trying to run the perfect bath. If you’re hoping to recreate the luxury setting of a spa, you’d be surprised at how little you’ll need.

Personally I don’t have a go to kit. I’m a huge fan of Lush which is of course no secret, but I’m really open to anything. From good ol’ Radox to plain epsom salts, theres a plethora of goodies I have to hand, but here’s a few of my favourites:

Coconut oil – Ah yes, the blogger’s choice. Using this in your bathtub can soften the skin and help aid psoriasis. Make sure you use it sparingly though, as too much can cause your bath to get dangerously slippy!

Coffee scrub – You can purchase a coffee scrub or make your own, but either way they are generally amazing. If you’re having a bath before a night out, the caffeine will really give you a much needed boost.

Mood candles – I’m a Yankee addict and I usually go for the sample sizes and buy in bulk, that way I have more scents to choose from.

Epsom salt – This might be salt, but it doesn’t dry out your skin. Quite the opposite actually! Chuck a handful in whilst you’re running the water so that all the grains disintegrate.

Your favourite towel – Treat yourself to a new fluffy towel and banish those sand paper scrubs you’ve got lurking in the cupboard. It really makes a difference, especially if you’re looking to prolong that spa feeling.

Snacks – Yeah, I’m not joking. Take a bar of chocolate or some frozen berries in with you. You’ll find yourself willing to stay in a little while long with some supplies. Invest in a plastic cup or bowel to serve them in too, they float!

You can really get creative with your own bath recipes. Especially when adding essential oils, bathbombs and bubble baths. I’ve pulled together a bath inspiration pinboard if you’d like some extra hints and tips!

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“But I find baths really boring.”
A common thing I hear is that no matter how good bathing is, it’s just not convenient. We’ve become so used to hopping in and out of the shower every morning, which can often impose negative connotations on bathing. If the one reason you use your bathroom is to force yourself awake in the morning, of course you’ll begin to resent the sight of it!

To make baths a little interesting find a space to prop up your laptop or tablet and watch your favourite TV show. Be sure to keep it far away from the water and be careful of the steam. Even I’m guilty of propping up my laptop on the bathroom shelf to watch Geordie Shore every now and again!

You won’t have time to watch a full length film, but if you can let your mind unravel whilst watching your favourite TV show or listening to relaxing music it may help you to distract yourself for half an hour or so. I guarantee that if you begin to experiment with essential oils, you’ll need less and less distractions to stay in the tub.

Can a bath cure my migraines? Maybe not, but using bath therapy to speed muscle recovery, overcome your anxieties or even having a bath when you’ve got a cold and need a little TLC; you’ll reap the benefits and have a gorgeous glow of hydrated skin to show for it!

With thanks to Dennis W of creative commons.

20 thoughts on “Does bath therapy really work?

  1. I love bath oils, but can’t ever seem to find the time to really indulge and enjoy a good bath haha! But that coffee scrub sounds amazing, can’t wait to try it! Great topic for a post, really enjoyed reading it 🙂 x

    Stacey Oriette

  2. i’m one of those people that never takes baths because i don’t really want to spend the time, but after reading this i may give it a go 🙂

    danielle | avec danielle

  3. I love baths rather then showers I find them so relaxing especially after a long day at work :)! Lovely post <3

    Sammie | sammiephotography.blogspot.com

  4. I love a hot bath, I usually take my laptop with me and watch a film! And candles are great too! I used to have ice baths after playing rugby, not a fan hahah

  5. I think it does work. I had hydrotherapy for a hip complaint and the warm water eased the pains and made me feel better. Now I use tepid warm baths for migraine, and hot baths with eucalyptus when I have a cold.

  6. How funny to run across this, as I just did a post on floatation therapy! But I do love a good bath and as I work with Young Living therapeutic essential oils, my baths always smell amazing too! Love your list of bathing essentials!

  7. I do absolutely love a good bath when I find the time. I find it definitely improves my mental health! Never tried one when I have a migraine however. I become too ill to move, so not sure I will try it any time soon. I also didn’t even know or consider the coconut oil in the bath thing. Might stick a little bit in my next Lush bath!

    1. Bless you Kaye, I completely know the feeling. The best thing is to try and sleep it off sometimes, not that you tend to get much sleep from the pain. Do you get ‘migraine hangovers’? That’s what I call them when I haven’t fully recovered and still feel like death whilst getting through the worst of it. That’s when I tend to have a bath, just to take the edge off and soothe the final aches.

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