One unsexy aspect about pole dancing is all the muscle pain that comes with throwing one’s self up, down, and around the pole. It’s tough on the body! And sometimes we overdo it, resulting in muscle tightness and discomfort. After feeling perpetually achy and stiff, I started experimenting with different treatments. One that I swear by for overall body maintenance is a muscle soak. However, when I have a specific area giving me trouble, I like to spot treat with a castor oil pack.
I discovered this last year when, one week before my studio showcase—for which I had been training for three grueling months—I overexerted a muscle in my groin, making it impossible to walk without a limp, less yet straddle invert or drop into a split! I was on the verge of a muscle pull, and devastated that I wouldn’t be able to perform at 100%. However, after diligently doing castor oil packs (and staying off my feet) for a few days, my muscle drastically loosened and, praise the Lawd, I was able to perform and execute some purdy fan kicks with very little discomfort!
Castor oil has been used therapeutically since the days of ancient Egypt, and is highly recommended today in Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and Naturopathy. Castor oil applied topically can promote healing, reduce swelling and inflammation, increase circulation, and allow overall relief from muscle pain. Another cool fact: do you guys know Edgar Cayce? The late-19th/early 20th century mystic and “sleeping prophet”? If not, look into him: he’s fascinating! Besides predicting countless world events, he developed and prescribed a large number of holistic treatments for patients while in an unconscious sleep state. And in almost all instances, these patients claimed success in healing their aliments by following his advice. Point being, one treatment he recommended over and over again was the castor oil pack (and another was massage therapy: so treat yo’self, girl!)
How does one make and use a castor oil pack? It’s actually fairly simple! Instructions outlined below:
• Castor oil (cold pressed)
• Glass bowl
• Wool or cotton flannel (just search for it on Amazon: I had no idea what the hell this was, either) or a clean, soft, cotton hand towel (understanding that castor oil will stain)
• Heating pad or hot water bottle
• Large towel (again, understanding castor oil will stain)
Note: apply this away from the good furniture, wearing old clothes you don’t mind messing up, because if you missed it before, castor oil STAINS!
1. Prepare a “place of rest” that is covered—perhaps with a large garbage bag, old sheet, or towel—where you will lay while the pack is workin’ it’s magic.
2. Place your flannel or cotton towel in a glass bowl, and pour castor oil over it until it is saturated (it doesn’t need to be dripping, but should be well-covered).
Note: Some sources recommend heating the castor oil beforehand, though do not use the microwave if you choose to do so!
3. Apply the saturated flannel or cotton towel over the area being treated, then wrap with a large towel to keep it warm and contained.
4. Lie in your place of rest then apply a heating pad or hot water bottle over the affected area.
5. Read, meditate, take a nap, watch outrageous videos of Russian pole dancers on YouTube—whatever activity you fancy while not moving—for at least 45-60 minutes, and for as long as 90 minutes.
6. When you’re all done, clean the area with water and some baking soda.
In terms of frequency, it is recommended to use a castor oil pack three days in a row, then take three days off, for three weeks. You can use the same flannel or towel for this entire process, just store it in a sealed jar or bag after each session and add an additional tablespoon of oil before using again.
Disclaimer: if you are in serious pain, go see a doctor! But for general muscle aches and soreness, you should find that castor oil packs provides immense relief!
Have you ever used a castor oil pack? Share your experience in the comments below!
Illustration appropriation: Young Love #80 (1970)