Essential oils, used in aromatherapy treatments, are extracted from various plant parts and used for their varying healing properties. There are over one hundred different essential oils and several of these are very beneficial in soothing muscle pain.
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Aromatherapy and essential oils should never be regarded as a substitute for professional medical care, but only as a complement to it.
Causes of Muscle Pain
There are three main causes of muscle pain. According to the website Medline Plus, these are: “Injury or trauma including sprains and strains; overuse: using a muscle too much, too soon, too often; tension or stress.”
It’s easy to overuse a muscle or group of muscles by suddenly taking on an activity which the body is not used to or not warming up and cooling down properly after a work-out. Lactic acid builds up in the muscles affected, making the muscle fibers sticky so that they are difficult to move. This is what causes stiffness and pain.
Stress or anxiety can also make your muscles tense, particularly in the shoulder area and neck, and this can cause pain, too.
How Essential Oils Can Help
There are several ways in which the use of essential oils can help. Says the International Federation of Aromatherapists: “Essential oils can be antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious and so on. They can be used to stimulate or sedate, and their powers to heal can be applied to physical, mental and emotional conditions.”
A synergistic blend of three oils in a carrier, where all the oils work together to enhance healing, can be used in a number of ways.
Massage, combined with a blend of essential oils, is probably the most effective way to relieve pain in overworked muscles. The massage warms and manipulates the muscle tissue, increasing the blood circulation and helping disperse the build up of lactic acid, whilst the oils help to relax, provide pain relief, or warmth. As the website Health Care Center says: “The oils' scent enters the body through the olfactory nerves in the nose and into the lungs where its benefits can be absorbed by the blood, carrying the oils’ benefits throughout the body.”
An excellent blend to use in massage for stiff and painful muscles includes 5 drops pine, 7 drops lavender, and 3 drops eucalyptus in 60ml (2fl oz.) sweet almond carrier oil.
A cold compress is used to help reduce swelling and is particularly good for a sprain or strain. To help soothe inflammation, add 4 drops sweet marjoram, 1 drop of basil and 4 drops of citronella in 100ml (20fl oz/1 pint) of cold water in a bowl, along with six ice cubes. When the ice has melted, soak a flannel in the water, wring out, and place over the affected area.
To ease aches and pains away, fill a bathtub with warm water; add 3 drops sweet marjoram, 2 drops ginger and 4 drops rosemary; and lie back and relax. If the pain is due to stress or anxiety, substitute chamomile for the ginger.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Medline Plus; Muscle Aches
- International Federation of Aromatherapists; What Are Essential Oils
- Health Care Center; Aromatherapy Massage Relieves Muscle And Mental Aches
- Practical Aromatherapy; Penny Rich; 1994
- The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils; Julia Lawless; 1995