Using essential oils externally can ease pain from many causes including muscle tension, neuropathy, migraine, and inflammation. There are many helpful oils, so even if you happen to be sensitive to one, there are many other options to try.
CAUTION: Never use a pure essential oil on your skin, and even blends should be kept away from the eyes. Most essential oils are very strong and must be diluted with a “carrier oil” before use or they will cause burns. (Lavender and tea tree essential oils are among the very few that are safe to use undiluted.) Essential oils should never be taken internally, they contain extremely concentrated amounts of the active compounds of the plants they have been extracted from and can be toxic if taken internally.
The are many methods of using aromatherapy to ease pain, and essential oils are useful in many different kinds of pain management, and for many different types of pain. Essential oils can be used in massage oils to increase the pain-relieving and relaxing effects of the massage, in bath salts or oils, or in pain relief creams and lotions.
Whether purchased in prepared products or as the pure oil and then prepared at home, essential oils are a wonderful addition to your pain management program, and can reduce your need for prescription pain medications. The following list provides a few of the most useful oils, and their most common uses for pain relief.
Lavender oil is relaxing, pain relieving and antimicrobial. Inhaling the vapors; either directly from the bottle, or diffused into the air through the use of a diffuser; relieves stress and helps reduce muscle tension, both of which increase pain levels. It can also help ease pain due to tension or migraine headaches, either by inhaling the vapors or by placing one drop of oil on the temples.
Lavender used in the bath is also very helpful for stress and muscle and joint pain. Used at bedtime it can help you to fall asleep, and to get better quality sleep. Studies have shown that poor sleep increases pain levels, and improving the quality and amount of sleep you get will help reduces those levels. (In combination with chamomile, there is an increased benefit for sleep, stress reduction and pain relief.)
Try this lavender and chamomile bath soak to help relieve stress, relax you and reduce pain. Or grab a bottle of pure lavender oil and add a few drops to your bath.
Chamomile is a highly effective anti-inflammatory. It’s used for headaches, muscular and low-back pain, neuralgia, and TMJ; as well as PMS and stress that causes digestive problems. It is especially effective blended with lavender, although it works well in blends with many other oils as well.
Clary sage is especially useful in massage oils for relieving muscle spasms, muscle aches and cramping; but should be used in very small amounts. Clary sage should never be used with alcohol or before a night when you plan to have cocktails or a glass of wine, since it increases the effect of all alcoholic beverages and can be dangerous. Used with chamomile, it is very effective for PMS and menstrual difficulties.
Juniper essential oil has many uses, but the ones most relevant to pain relief are its antispasmodic and antirheumatic properties. Applied in a cream or lotion (such as this one), juniper will help reduce muscle spasms, as well as the muscle and joint aches and pains associated with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and similar illnesses. Juniper also strengthens the nerves, and may also be helpful in neuropathic pain with regular use. Because juniper also has stimulant properties, it should be used early in the day, and not near bedtime as it could interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
Eucalyptus oil has similar properties to juniper, being analgesic and anti-inflammatory when used topically. It can be used as a cream or lotion massaged into painful areas, or in the bath as a bath salt or oil. It is recommended for the treatment of muscular aches and pains, strains and/or sprains, and nerve pain. It also works well in combination with other essential oils such as lavender, but should be used with care since large amounts can be toxic.
This concoction of eucalyptus, chamomile and rosehip oil from Village Natural Therapy has been proven to effectively relieve pain.
Rosemary oil is helpful for headaches as well as for muscle and joint pain. It is also used to enhance mental alertness, concentration, and memory; and has an antidepressant effect as well. It blends well with lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and clary sage; but should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women.
Peppermint oil is especially useful for headaches, including migraine. This is rather odd, since eating peppermint is a known migraine trigger for many, and can intensify the pain of a migraine that you already have. For headache, 4 drops of peppermint oil can be blended with one tablespoon of a carrier oil like olive or jojoba oil. Apply a small amount of this blend to the temples, staying well away from the eyes, and massage in gently. (Adding a few drops of lavender and/or one or two drops of rosemary oil can enhance the effect.)