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What is a Wax Bath?

By Mary Margaret Peralta
Updated May 21, 2024
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A wax bath is a treatment that involves the submersion of hands, feet, or elbows into a container with melted paraffin wax to relieve pain, treat or prevent muscle injury, or deep clean and moisturize the skin. It is a natural way for people to relieve pain, a method used for several centuries, and does not use any drugs. Besides treating conditions such as arthritis, muscle injury, and rheumatism, wax bath therapy can also relieve conditions such as inflammation, fibromyalgia, eczema, bursitis, psoriasis, and tendinitis.

Pain is a way for the body to indicate that something is wrong and while the body releases endorphins to the site of the pain for relief, the pain will persist if the path is blocked and the endorphins cannot get through. Endorphins travel through the blood, airway, and the sub-cutaneous layer — a watery layer between the muscle tissue and skin. The sub-cutaneous layer is accessible through thousands of tiny holes in the skin. Slowly raising the temperature of the skin around the affected area warms the sub-cutaneous layer and triggers a gland at the base of the brain to release endorphins to the site of the pain, thereby bringing relief.

Wax baths date as far back as the Roman Empire. In fact, Romans would pour hot wax on their bodies as a preparation for massage. The French made use of melted wax on wounds to enhance the healing process. During World War I, paraffin wax therapy was used to treat orthopedic disorders.

Hot wax bath treatment involves specially formulated wax that is heated in a container. A regulator maintains a safe temperature for the skin. Once the wax is melted, a hand, foot, or elbow is dipped in the wax, removed, and allowed to air-dry for two minutes, with the procedure repeated for five to ten minutes. After there are enough wax layers, the hand, foot, or elbow is wrapped in plastic to protect clothing and furniture and left to stand for 15 minutes. Once hardened, the wax is ready to peel off.

There are some health benefits to wax bath treatments. In addition to treating numerous medical conditions, they are also used to treat sport-related injuries and are an effective treatment for diabetes sufferers because it helps increase circulation. Additionally, wax baths moisturize and clean the skin, improve circulation, open pores, and invoke a sense of calmness. Before having a wax bath treatment, it is necessary to consult a physical therapist. People with varicose veins or hypertension should avoid wax baths.

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Discussion Comments

By stoneMason — On Apr 19, 2013

@anamur-- I'm sure a wax paraffin bath will help relieve your tendinitis symptoms. My wife has arthritis and she has found some relief with bi-weekly wax baths. I think the warmth of the wax helps with inflammation and pain.

There aren't any negative side effects of wax baths, so I think you can get it as often as you like. But it would be too expensive if you were to get it at a spa each time.

You should get a wax bath unit for the home like my wife did. It's available online. It's a basin and you melt the wax inside and dip your feet and hands in it. My wife keeps hers on all the time because it takes a while for the wax to melt after it has become solid.

I used it once too, it was nice.

By burcidi — On Apr 18, 2013

Paraffin wax baths are great. I love them! It feels wonderful and my skin feels so soft and smooth afterward. The only downside is that it's kind of costly. Whenever I have some extra money, I go to the spa and spoil myself with a wax bath for my hands and feet.

By serenesurface — On Apr 18, 2013

I have recurrent tendinitis. My feet and ankles are aching and painful most of the time. Pain relievers and creams only work for a short period.

Would I benefit from a paraffin wax bath? How often would I have to have it done?

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