18 June 2009

Baking Soda Poultice

My sports physician Dr Rob Reid (who knows everything there is to know about joints, tendons, bones, and such) recommends using a baking soda poultice on swollen and inflamed joints. I find this quite soothing on my sore knee.

He says : "A poultice using bicarbonate of soda is used to decrease the swelling in and around a joint or draw out fluid or oedema from under the skin. The joint swelling may be because there is fluid within the joint, or that the covering of the joint (the synovium which holds the fluid in the joint) is "waterlogged" and this produces a boggy swelling of the joint."

Here's how to make one!

1. Gather your equipment : a bag of baking soda, some water (warm or cold, up to you), a mixing spoon, a glass bowl, and a piece of scrap fabric (old shirt / t-shirt etc).

2. Mix roughly 2 cups of the baking soda with enough water to make a firm paste, roughly the thickness of bread dough. It should be soft and moist, but not runny.

3. Place the lump of baking soda onto your square of fabric.

4. Tie up opposite corners, to make a neat little bundle like so. There should be just one layer of fabric under the poultice.

5. Sit or lie down for an hour, with the poultice sitting or lightly strapped onto your swollen knee, ankle, wherever ... I usually keep a face washer or towel handy, as it can drip a bit.

After the hour is up, put the baking soda mix into a lidded container, rinse and dry the fabric, and reuse the next day (just add a bit more water to get the paste consistency again).

Dr Reid says you should refrigerate the poultice, and replace the baking soda after about 3 or 4 uses, but really, I don't see how that would be necessary, as it's never going to go off ... I've used the same batch of un-refrigerated baking soda for more than a week without problems, it still fizzes slightly when I add water.

He goes on to say : "The bicarbonate of soda poultice will draw the fluids out of the joint over a period of time, and this commonly takes 7 to 10 days, especially for a joint that has a boggy swelling for more than 1 or 2 days. The poultice can be used in association with any other treatment that is being used, and does not cause any skin problem."


  1. Doing it for a week already, Jejune - so does it work? I need to get some baking soda for this nasty wasp or bee sting I got yesterday. I guess I ought to take a picture of it and share with everyone - it's nasty looking. If it spreads tomorrow, I may have to see doctor.

    Anyway, I hope the poultice is working nicely!

  2. How interesting. I'll be bookmarking that bit of advice. Thanks.

  3. i love it. A poultice just sounds so medieval!

  4. That piece of advice will come in handy for DH. Thanks for sharing!

  5. What a great idea. I remember my grandmother using poultices and they were very soothing. I like the idea of it not being made of toxic materials.

  6. And I have never heard of a boggy joint, but how descriptive that is!

  7. Oh, this is a good tip. I have to try it on my ankle which always swells. Fell a number of years ago and it just goes up & down.

  8. Oh that sounds really interesting though I doubt I could be still for that long and I really need to line some shoes with it for my feet and ankles!!!! I hope it makes you feel better.

  9. Hi Jejune,
    I am a physio here in Canberra and also on suggestion of Dr Reid, pass on the idea of this poultice to my clients. This is a great blog with your great pictures. I am always losing the recipe, so will pass on this link to your blog to my clients if that is OK with you. Thanks again. Chris Bacchus - Southside Physiotherapy.

  10. You're very welcome to give out the link to your patients, Chris, I'm glad you find it helpful :)

    1. How often do you apply the poultice? Once a day for an hour?

  11. Thanks fellow Canberran. Son came home with a very swollen/fluidy knee today. His PE teacer had mentioned this approach. I had never heard of it then came across your blog when researching. Will gve it a go!

  12. Yes, once a day for an hour ... but it's such a mild treatment, I doubt it would cause any problem if you had two sessions a day.

  13. My father had old football injuries and my mum was an old school nursing sister. She would apply at night and leave it attached all night while he slept. Would keep in place by wrapping with glad wrap.