Essential Oils for Soothing Muscle Pain and Soreness

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The scents of essential oils—extracts from flowers and other plant parts—are said to ease tired, sore muscles. Adding a drop or two of these fragrant oils to a bath soak, massage oil, or compress is a nice way to soothe achy, sore muscles at home.

Popular Essential Oils

Here are some popular choices, which can be used individually or blended together. 

  • Basil is used to alleviating feelings of tension. It can release spasms and reduce inflammation.
  • Birch has a long history of use for releasing muscle spasms and fighting inflammation to treat sore and tired muscles.
  • Black pepper is known for its warming properties as well as analgesic and antimicrobial effects.
  • Chamomile (manzanilla) is calming and is used to relieve muscle discomfort and aches through its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. There are different types of chamomile essential oil. Roman chamomile is believed to relax muscles, while German chamomile is thought to be better for inflammation.
  • Clary sage is said to be useful for relaxing muscle spasms and pain, warming and soothing. It is a nerve tonic and is anti-spasmodicClove is known for its pain-relieving and immune-stimulating properties. It is also antimicrobial and antiviral.
  • Cypress helps with muscle spasms and is antibacterial.
  • Eucalyptus has antibacterial and lung-protective properties.
  • Ginger has warming, digestive, and antiseptic properties.
  • Lavender has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Marjoram is relaxing and calming for tight muscles.
  • Peppermint can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and release spasms.
  • Rosemary is stimulating and is used for all muscular conditions, including sprains and sore muscles. It is also anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial.

Instructions for Use

When you're using essential oils, it's important to know how to use these powerful oils safely. It also helps to know what to look for when buying essential oils. For sore muscles, essential oils are typically integrated into a topical method for soothing muscle tissue. Consider these methods:

Essential oils are highly concentrated, so you only need a few drops with any of these methods.

  • Add a few drops into a bath. Hot water can help ease sore muscles, and adding some fragrant oils may help to further relax aches. 
  • Put it in a compress. Cold compresses may help with sprains and localized swelling. After adding a few drops of essential oils to cold water, place a clean piece of muslin or cloth into the water, wetting it completely and then wringing it out. 
  • Use it in massage oil. Mix a few drops of essential oils into a carrier oil, like sweet almond oil. When massaging it onto muscles, the heat of your body will warm the oil and release the scent into the air.

Essential Oil Recipes

While pre-blended oils for muscles are available, they can also be combined at home. Here is a sample blend for muscle soreness and pain.

Essential oils should always be diluted before being applied to the skin. To make a massage oil, you will need a bottle that holds between 4 fluid ounces (1/2 cup or 125 mL) and 8 fluid ounces (1 cup or 250 mL), depending on how much you would like to make.

Ingredients

To make this sample essential oil blend, you will need:

  • An appropriate-sized dark glass bottle with cap
  • Clary sage essential oil (1 drop)
  • Lavender essential oil (4 drops)
  • Massage oil (4 ounces)
  • Peppermint essential oil (3 drops)
  • Roman chamomile essential oil (4 drops)

Add the essential oils to a bottle. Then add the massage oil and cover tightly. Be sure to label the bottle and list the ingredients. Clearly mark that the contents of the bottle are for external use only.

To convert measurements:

  • 1/8 teaspoon = 12.5 drops = 1/48 oz. = approximately 5/8 mL
  • 1/4 teaspoon = 25 drops = 1/24 oz. = approximately 1 1/4 mL
  • 3/4 teaspoon = 75 drops = 1/8 oz. = approximately 3.7 mL
  • 1 teaspoon = 100 drops = 1/6 oz. = approximately 5 mL

Safety Tips

While essential oils in baths, massage oil, or compresses may provide some pain relief, it's important to know when to see your healthcare provider. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Bleeding, bruising, or tenderness following an injury
  • Pain that lasts more than several days (without getting better)
  • Redness or swelling
  • Sudden or severe pain

If you are pregnant or nursing or have a health condition, check with your healthcare provider before using essential oils. They shouldn't be used as a substitute for standard care. And even though they are natural, they're quite potent and should be used with care.

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