It’s estimated that about 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point during their lifetimes. Depending on the severity, back pain and its accompanying inflammation can be so debilitating that you might find work, hobbies, and everyday movements difficult.
Acute (short-term) back pain might require bed rest and pain medications, but chronic (long-term) cases require lifestyle modifications. One such solution could be the use of essential oils.
Essential oils are extracted from the leaves, seeds, flowers, fruits, and bark of some plants. Essential oils are used in aromatherapy or diluted and topically applied. Clinical research has shown that some of these oils can alleviate various ailments in the body, including pain.
With all the essential oil choices available, it can be confusing to know which ones can actually help with your back pain. The following oils could help.
1. Peppermint oil
Perhaps best-known for its menthol undertones, peppermint oil is one of nature’s most potent analgesics. Pure peppermint oil has at least 44 percent pure menthol content, which has been widely used for pain of a variety sources.
2. Wintergreen oil
A close relative to peppermint, wintergreen oil carries similar analgesic properties. Specifically, wintergreen
3. Lemongrass oil
Lemongrass oil has been widely studied for its antifungal properties. One study in mice also evaluated its notable anti-inflammatory properties. Reduction of inflammation may lead to reduced pain, but studies are needed in humans.
4. Ginger oil
5. Lavender oil
As one of the most widely studied and popular essential oils, lavender acts as a multipurpose oil for a variety of ailments. According to one clinical review, lavender oil can help alleviate headaches and muscle pain. Such benefits may transfer to back pain as well.
6. Eucalyptus oil
Known for both its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, eucalyptus oil can have analgesic effects in muscles and joints. A 2015 clinical review found that the oil has promise in treating ailments like arthritis, the flu, and wounds.
7. Roman and German chamomile oils
While chamomile is best known for its soothing and calming properties (the reason why many people drink chamomile tea when sick), the essential oil has other noted benefits. These include reduced muscle spasms and overall inflammation. Take care when using chamomile if you have a ragweed allergy, as the plants come from the same family.
8. Rosemary oil
Rosemary is more than just a cooking herb. Rosemary essential oil has clinically proven benefits. These include reduced pain from rheumatic disorders and menstrual cramps. Such anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects may also be helpful for back pain.
9. Sandalwood oil
Sandalwood oil contains anti-inflammatory properties. Such effects have been studied for their similar effects to over-the-counter medications. Reducing inflammation in the back with sandalwood oil could possibly decrease pain, too.
Finding the right essential oils for your back pain is just the beginning. Next, you need to know how to use them properly so you don’t get skin irritation or other side effects. Essential oils may be inhaled in aromatherapy or diluted and applied to your back topically or used in a bath.
Apply them topically
Essential oils can be used during a massage or rolled directly onto your back, but you must dilute them first.
Mix up to 6 drops of your selected oil with 6 teaspoons of a carrier oil, such as jojoba or olive oil. Do a patch test of your diluted oil on a small area of skin. After 24 hours, if no irritation develops, it’s likely you can safely use the oil on a larger area of skin, such as your back.
Apply your diluted mixture to the back liberally, massaging in lightly for more absorption. Be sure to wash your hands before touching your face, as you don’t want to irritate your eyes. Also, make sure the oil does not enter your mouth.
Inhale them throughout the day
Inhaling essential oils for pain and inflammation is another method. Add several drops of pure essential oils to water in a diffuser and leave it running in your home or office. You can add more oil or water to the diffuser throughout the day as needed.
Take an essential oil–infused bath
For a sore back, a warm and relaxing bath can help alleviate pain and inflammation. As a bonus, you can add diluted essential oils to your bathwater too, adding 10 drops to running water. Take care getting in and out of the tub in case the oils make surfaces slippery.
When used as directed, essential oils shouldn’t cause any major side effects. Skin rash and irritation can occur without proper dilution or patch testing ahead of time.
Talk to a doctor if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any underlying medical conditions. Keep in mind that aromatherapy can effects pets, children, and others in the area. Remember that essential oils are extremely potent. Also, don’t take them by mouth or use them on or near your eyes.
The complexity of back pain requires a comprehensive treatment plan. Not only should you focus on alleviating pain, but you’ll also want to fight the underlying inflammation that could be contributing to your back ailments.
Other treatments include
- an anti-inflammatory diet
- core exercises to build muscle and strength to protect your back
- ice and heat therapy
- physical activity
- physical therapy
- turmeric to reduce inflammation
- yoga and other exercises that incorporate stretching and flexibility
Scientific research and anecdotal evidence are increasingly supportive of essential oils for a variety of ailments, including back pain.
It’s important to use these safely to avoid allergic reactions. Essential oils are not a cure-all for back pain. You will need to implement other remedies like exercise to strengthen your back.
See a doctor if your back pain persists or gets worse despite treatment.