Two months ago, I was working on a project that had my full attention and motivation. I’m a writer, and obviously, that entails long hours of sitting at a desk in front of my computer. One thing I can’t stress enough: A good desk chair is vital for your back! Well, long story short, sitting 10 hours per day on a small stool brought back my sciatica, which had initially started with a snowboard accident ten years ago.
Two-Stage Care Plan
When blending essential oils for a musculoskeletal issue, I always consider the healing happening in two different stages, each using essential oils with a particular therapeutic focus.
Stage One: This stage is the very first response to inflammation, pain, possible tissue swelling, and heat. I tend to choose cooling oils here; all you need is to calm down the inflammation and the “fire” going on. For example, this can mean placing an icepack on an injury immediately after the accident. For me, my back did not respond well with icy cold, so I just massaged in a cooling aloe vera gel containing my oils.
Stage Two: The goal here is to promote healing of the tissue, once the initial inflammation response is under control. For this, I usually blend warming oils. Enhancing circulation, and blood flow (using “rubefacient” essential oils) will insure delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged area. A massage oil is preferred in this stage, as oils and butters are usually associated with heat and warming.
Oils to Consider for Stage One (First Aid)
Following the start of back pain from minor injury (First 24 to 48 hours):
Wintergreen (Gaultheria fragrantissima):
One of the best essential oils for the musculoskeletal system, and one that I have used my whole life as a “first aid” life-saver. Anti-inflammatory, cooling, anti-rheumatic, and a powerful analgesic.
Safety Information: Due to a content of 98% methyl salicylate, never ingest wintergreen and avoid undiluted application, do not use with children, pregnant women, elderly people or pets. Acute use only, for a limited period of time.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum):
Although it reminds us of warmth and sun (from Greek helios, “sun”, and krysos, “gold”), Helichrysum is actually cooling and healing – a strong anti-inflammatory and analgesic – and one of the best first aid oils for musculoskeletal and skin trauma.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):
Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and cooling, Lavender helps relieve aches and pains, and promotes relaxation thanks to its antispasmodic activity.
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita):
A deep blue, cooling oil, German Chamomile contains chamazulene and α-bisabolol, two of the strongest anti-inflammatory molecules found in essential oils.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita):
An excellent analgesic, this oil reduces tissue swelling and pain, is a vasoconstrictor, and excellent for immediate application after an injury.
Safety Information: Mucus membrane irritant, keep away from eyes and fragile skin.
Other essential oils to consider: Roman Chamomile, Yarrow, Sweet Marjoram
Stage One Cooling Gel
To use directly after minor injury and for first 48 hours.
(60ml, 8% dilution)
- 50ml of Aloe Vera Gel (I use Aloe Vera “Gelly” by Lily of the Desert)
- 5 ml of Peppermint Hydrosol
- 5 ml of Helichrysum Hydrosol
- 1 tsp of Jojoba Oil (for dilution)
- 10 drops of Wintergreen Essential Oil
- 15 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
- 15 drops of German Chamomile Essential Oil
- 20 drops of Helichrysum Essential Oil
- 30 drops of Lavender Essential Oil
Oils to Consider for Stage Two (Healing) in Your Back Pain Care Plan (After 48 hours):
Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora):
Its high amount of the aldehyde citronellal makes this oil a strong anti-inflammatory, and analgesic, excellent to treat any kind of musculoskeletal condition.
Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia):
Unlike Lavandula angustifolia, Spike Lavender contains camphor and 1,8 cineole, two molecules that exhibit analgesic and warming activities.
Safety Information: Due to the presence of camphor, do not use Spike Lavender with children or pregnant women.
Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis):
A wonderfully warming, energy-moving oil, strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory, Juniper helps remove toxins and waste after tissue injury.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale):
Ginger is warming, and stimulating – a great oil to move cold or stuck energy. It is also a strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus):
This is a great, warming, anti-inflammatory and analgesic oil due to a high amount of 1,8 cineole.
Safety Information: Due to a high amount of 1,8 cineole, do not use with children (prefer Eucalyptus radiata).
Other essential oils to consider: Rosemary ct. camphor, Rosemary ct. cineole, Laurel, Lemongrass
Stage Two Warming Oil
To use after the first 48 hours when initial inflammation has calmed.
(60ml, 5% dilution)
- 20ml of Arnica-infused Sunflower Oil
- 20ml of St John’s Wort-infused Sunflower Oil
- 20ml of Hemp Seed Oil
Note: Arnica and St John’s Wort have great rubefacient and wound healing properties, Hemp Seed Oil is anti-inflammatory and analgesic
- 10 drops of Eucalyptus globulus essential oil
- 10 drops of Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil
- 10 drops of Spike Lavender essential oil
- 15 drops of Juniper Berry essential oil
- 15 drops of Ginger essential oil
This suggested care plan is not a replacement for visiting your doctor for diagnosis. If your pain persists, consult with your physician.
Tisserand, Robert; Young, Rodney, (2014). Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition)
Shutes, Jade. Essential Oils Materia Medica & Therapeutics.
Shutes, Jade. Foundations of Aromatherapy.
Schnaubelt, Kurt (1998). Advanced Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Art Press
Festy, Danielle (2008). Ma Bible des Huiles Essentielles. Paris, Leduc S. Editions