Minimise toxins: Natural treatments for muscle pain, inflammation, joint stiffness and swelling
I was diagnosed with arthritis about a year ago. My preliminary tests indicated Rheumatoid, but my rheumatologist was not entirely convinced. Maybe osteo, maybe oligo, or any of the other arthritis variations. He also considered fibromyalgia, but before he could make a definite diagnosis I stopped going to him. I was tired of being prodded and poked and just getting more and more pills while nothing else really changed. That really riled me - why is healthcare only defined by the medication that you can be prescribed? Why do our medical practitioners (most of them in any case) not consider other factors? And then recommend a holistic approach? Do the medical community not understand that inflammation is caused by something that irritates the immune system and that SOMETHING can be anything from physical activity to food allergens.
Living with arthritis sucks. Not only does it drain your energy and kills your mood, it also misleads the people around you. Some days you are fine (usually because you didn’t eat certain foods or took your meds or didn’t do excessive exercise and stretched and did yoga and had a full 8 hours sleep with no interruptions, or a combination of these things) and other days you are not. The problem is, there is no way of knowing beforehand. And when people see you one day running around with no problem, they tend to find it difficult to fathom why you are complaining about pain the next time.
Most of the inflammatory conditions are invisible, with only the sufferer and his or her closest people really understanding the breadth of the condition. The symptoms are also ever-changing, and they differ in severity. Today you can do something with little discomfort, tomorrow it is out. If I take myself as an example - yesterday I was fine. I could bend and walk and pick up the girls. No problem. This morning I got up stiff and sore. Usually that is an indicator that today most probably will only get worse. Good days and bad days. Usually I can tell why, and the reason for this flare up is no exception. I have been busy, moving and picking up heavy things. I have also had a very emotional time, and stress and anxiety quickly leads to a flare.
As I have been moving on this journey, I have tried a few different things, some with big success. Other with not so much. The natural treatment that works the best? Essential oils. But before I go into the different oils and their uses, let’s first take a look at muscle pain and body soreness in general.
Muscle pain and body soreness
We all experience body soreness at some point in our lives. That soreness can be as a result of exercising, muscle tension from stress and anxiety, symptoms of a larger medical issue such as arthritis, rheumatism or fibromyalgia, or even just because you sat or stood for a long time. Muscle pain is usually caused by microfractures in your muscles, and the body soreness that follows is the result of your body’s natural healing response triggered by these “injuries”. This causes inflammation, which is the body’s built-in response of dealing with this kind of “trauma”. If the inflammation continues, as a result of mechanical issues (bone scraping on bone, tom ligaments, etc.) or underlying medial issues such as arthritis or an autoimmune disease, the toll that it leaves on your body can be difficult to combat.
Muscular pain can occur from a number of reasons. You may be dealing with muscle pain as a result of:
• A long and particularly hard workout
• Fatigue or pain after an illness
• Tension or stress from work, especially in the neck, head, and shoulders
• A long road trip or flight
• A chronic condition, like fibromyalgia
• A chronic pain condition, such as lower back pain, arthritis or tendonitis
• An injury
Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that therapeutic essential oils can provide fast, natural relief by combatting the inflammation and improving blood flow to the area. Let’s look at a few of the best therapeutic essential oils to use for muscle and body soreness.
As always, talk to your doctor before trying any of these oils. And make sure to follow the safety advice listed here and on the bottle itself. Essential oils are non-invasive and generally safe to use, but too much can lead to skin rashes or other side effects. Further, never ingest these oils unless you’ve been advised to do so by your doctor.
The most effective oils for treating muscle pain, tension and swelling:
[disclaimer - I am not a medical doctor. All of the below treatments and remedies were tested by myself, not under the supervision of a qualified doctor. Any results, opinions or consequences are mine alone and I take no responsibility for anyone else who is brave (stupid?) enough to try them without consent of their doctor. I also acknowledge that everyone experiences things differently, and their body’s might not respond similarly to how mine did]
• Sweet almond oil:
A real all-rounder, packed with vitamins A, B1, B2 and B6, plus essential fatty acids.
• Cinnamon essential oil:
Cinnamomum camphora works hard to reduce pain and swelling.
• Peppermint essential oil:
Peppermint contains menthol, menthone, and methyl esters, which has a cooling effect on sore, achy muscles. It also has analgesic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties. For most, peppermint essential oil can: Calm and decrease muscle spasms; Relieve nausea; Relax muscles, especially in the lower back; Reduce tension, inflammation, and pain; Act as a decongestant and relieve pain from sinus headaches. The oil is especially beneficial for those suffering with muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, arthritis, and headaches. People with a salicylate sensitivity should use this oil with care. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Helichrysum essential oil:
Helichrysum relieves muscle spasms, inflammation, and pain. It is one of the most expensive oils in the aromatherapy world, and is praised for its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and analgesic properties, all of which work to reduce swelling in joints and muscle pain.
• Marjoram essential oil:
Majoram relaxes muscle spasms and tension, ease pain and fight inflammation.
• Lavender essential oil:
Lavender is prized for its ability to calm and relax, but it also relieves pain and inflammation. Lavender essential oil can: Ease muscular swelling; Improve blood circulation; Reduce stress and anxiety; Induce the calming response of the parasympathetic nervous system; Mildly sedate the body; Ease migraines, tension headaches, and other pain conditions.
• Eucalyptus essential oil:
Eucalyptus has a cooling effect on muscles and reduces pain and inflammation, the oil contains anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antiseptic properties, which provide significant relief from muscle and joint pain. It has cooling and refreshing effects, which may reduce stress and alleviate mental exhaustion. People with a salicylate sensitivity should use this oil with care. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Roman and German chamomile essential oil:
Chamomile oils help soothe muscle tension and reduce spasms that can lead to inflammation and have been shown to relieve pain by breaking down uric acid deposits surrounding joints. Chamomile is also a sedative and calms the nervous system, which helps reduce stress and promote sleep.
• Rosemary essential oil:
Rosemary is noted for its ability to ease pain and inflammation. The oil contains antioxidants, which help remove toxins from the body while boosting immune system function. People with a salicylate sensitivity should use this oil with care. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Clary Sage essential oil:
This oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic agent making it effective for the relief of aches, pains, and muscle spasms. Clary sage is also soothing for the skin, but because it is fairly potent, clary sage essential oil should only be used in small amounts.
• Ginger essential oil:
Ginger oil contains zingibain—an anti-inflammatory that works to reduce muscle- and backaches, pains, and swelling. People with a salicylate sensitivity should use this oil with care. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Frankincense essential oil:
This essential oil is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and a sedative.
• Yarrow essential oil:
Yarrow essential oil has potent restorative, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it one of the best essential oils for treating muscle and joint pain.
• Cypress essential oil:
Cypress calms and relaxes muscles spasms and works to soothe inflammation.
• Sandalwood essential oil:
Sandalwood alleviates muscle spasms, tension, and inflammation.
• Wintergreen essential oil:
The oil can be used to alleviating headaches, fever, rheumatism, and back pain. The wintergreen plant is among few of the world’s plants that contain high amounts of methyl salicylate, which contains pain-relieving qualities similar to aspirin. Its therapeutic properties make it effective for relieving muscle and joint pain. People with a salicylate sensitivity should not use wintergreen. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Cayenne Pepper essential oil:
The essential oil has excellent analgesic properties derived from the primary active ingredient capsaicin, which is particularly helpful when addressing inflammation.
• Thyme essential oil:
The thymol found in this essential oil has excellent antiseptic qualities that relieve both swelling and inflammation. It has also been shown to be an effective agent for addressing pain associated with dysmenorrhea, a condition that causes very painful menstruation. People with a salicylate sensitivity should use this oil with care. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Copaiba essential oil:
Copaiba essential oil has both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, some of which have been shown to reduce the body’s natural response to pain.
• Clove essential oil:
This essential oil has anti-inflammatory and anaesthetic properties that make it an especially efficient and effective remedy for various types of pain. Clove essential oil has also been shown to maintain healthy circulation and stimulate metabolism.
• Vetiver essential oil:
Vetiver oil has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine to relieve rheumatism, arthritis, muscle pain, and headaches. Vetiver essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties including the ability to reduce swelling, especially in the joints. People with a salicylate sensitivity should use this oil with care. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Lemongrass essential oil:
Lemongrass essential oil also has diuretic and astringent properties and can draw excess fluid out of body tissue. Thus, it may be used to relieve widespread inflammation.
• Birch essential oil:
Birch essential oil contains strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that come from its salicylic acid and salicylate content. The oil also has strong astringent properties, which may reduce swelling around the joints and improve range of motion. People with a salicylate sensitivity should use this oil with care. Do not use on children younger than 3 years of age.
• Black pepper essential oil:
This essential oil contains properties to relieve pain, help warm the body, and improve circulation. Black pepper is a great essential oil for muscle pain after an intense workout, sore muscles, arthritis, and other pain conditions.
• Arnica essential oil:
Arnica essential oil is an incredibly effective essential oil for a number of issues, especially osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel, inflammation, and exercise-induced muscle pain.
• Juniper essential oil:
Juniper essential oil has been used for centuries as a detoxifying agent, a stress reducer, an antioxidant, and a pain and inflammation reliever. It has powerful anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, and even analgesic properties which are all so beneficial to each and every one of us. It's important to note that juniper essential oil, in its distilled nature, is very strong and should not be used on its own. It also should not be used by pregnant women or children 3 years of age or younger.
• Turmeric essential oil:
Taken from the root of the turmeric plant, turmeric essential oil boasts strong anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. It is also known to have properties that help the body relax and heal. Many of these properties block harmful enzymes that could otherwise affect the muscular and skeletal system in a negative way, making turmeric a go-to for those who suffer from joint and muscle pain, as well as arthritis and other painful conditions.
• Epsom Salt & Magnesium
Although not oils, these two deserve a mention. Low magnesium levels, or deficiencies, have been linked with higher C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body. Signs of magnesium deficiency include muscle pain, fibromyalgia and leg cramps. By soaking your whole body or even just your feet in Epsom salt, you can increase your magnesium levels, increase your muscles’ efficiency and combat inflammation, pain and stiffness.
• Cannabis Oil
Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may prove useful in pain modulation by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways, making cannabis oil a smart choice for a natural muscle relaxer. The oil has the ability to relieve chronic pain and inflammation, which is why it’s sometimes used as a natural fibromyalgia treatment. If you use cannabis oil, make sure it’s purchased through a reputable company that sells pure and lab-tested oils.