Have you ever felt a tingling sensation in your back or perhaps a numbing pain that felt like it would break your spine in two? Everyone, at one point or another experiences body pains, back pain being the most prevalent. The pains and aches we feel occasionally come from all sorts of daily activities. Maybe you are a truck driver and you frequently have to sit for long periods while driving long distances, or perhaps your work requires you to be slouched over a computer every weekday, all year round. Or maybe your back pain is as a result of responsibilities that require more physical exertion, say you are body builder and gym instructor or you work in construction. Bad posture or maintaining one position for unaturally long periods can cause back aches that if not addressed can develop into something chronic.
Back and spinal discomforts have been addressed in different ways — some of them not advisable — from over the counter pain relievers to surgical procedures. Perhaps one of the most effective, natural methods to treat back pain is by using essential oils. There are a myriad of essential oils available in the market, for a plethora of uses: body pains reliever, anti-aging, hair growth, treatment of skin allergies, indigestion, anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant functions, culinary tasks and a lot more.
The proof of the effectiveness of essential oils can be seen in the demand for them. The global essential oils market had a value of $5.5 billion dollars in 2014 ( translating to a volume of 160 kilo tons) and is expected to hit $9.8 billion come 2020.
While treating back pain using the right essential oils is a step in the right direction, you must understand that no treatment will be enduring without an intentional lifestyle change. Make a commitment to adopting better posture habits, no matter what you’re doing — whether it’s sitting or carrying weights, do regular exercises that improve your body’s core strength. These along with the right essential oils will address your back pain problems at the roots.
Pros and Cons of EOs (Essential Oils)
When these oils are used within reason, they open us up to a world of advantages. Nutritional benefits, skin remedies, home care and medicinal facilitation are just a few of the benefits they offer — and there are as many as there are varieties of essential oils. Indeed it feels sometimes like everybody is already using at least one variant of these oils and singing its praises on social media.
However, like almost every other thing there is, overapplication or misapplication of many of these oils can cause us a lot of problems. And no, you shouldn’t believe everything you read online from essential oil “experts” or you could very easily be misled. Essential oils come in very high concentrations so overuse is a very real and present danger. One drop of peppermint oil, for instance, is the same as about 26 cups of peppermint herbal tea. If that isn’t a giant red flag to warn you of the danger of excessive application, I don’t know what is.
Another problem would be the danger of increased skin irritation and photosensitivity. For those who enjoy spending time in the sun, it is advisable not to put any photosensitizing oil on your skin immediately before stepping outside. Wait at least four hours before exposing yourself to the UV rays of the sun. Any sooner than this and you stand the risk of anything from slight reddening of the skin to inflammation, a blistering burn and often damage such as permanent loss of skin pigmentation. Essential oils that are considered photosensitive are generally of the citrusy persuasion such as lemon, grapefruit, bergamot, orange, lime oils, etc.
Pregnant women (especially during the first trimester) and nursing mothers too should avoid certain oils as they can cause anything from hormonal imbalance to reduction in milk supply (peppermint oil). Not to mention these oils can cross the placenta and find their way to the baby which can lead to serious complications. While there are many oils that are considered safe during pregnancy, just as many have been recommended by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy as oils to absolutely avoid during pregnancy. Oils such as sage, birch, wintergreen, taragon, camphor, hyssop, parsley, mugwort, aniseed and wormwood oils, etc. Pregnant and nursing mothers must always check with a professional aromatherapist before using any essential oil.
Many professionals would usually advice that you stay away from all essential oils if you’re taking a prescription drug, on multiple medications, a weak immune system or even liver or renal disease. For mothers with small children, it is advised that you restrict essential oil use on your children to external application only; they should never ingest it. Also when using the approved oils on them (chamomile, lavender, lemon, frankincense, orange) they should be diluted twice as much as you would for adults, because your children’s skin are thinner and more sensitive than yours. Still in doesn’t hurt to first meet with a doctor and perform a skin test.
In pets, it’s just not worth the risk as the downsides far out weight the benefits. Oils like pennyroyal and tea tree for instance for all their good can bring about organ failure along with the unpleasant symptoms of weakness, tremors, vomiting, depression and the likes.
Certified aromatherapists would tell you that unless you are instructed by an expert to take an oil internally, you should stick to external use. While some can be taken sparingly, taken too much — and it is very easy to cross the line here — or taken too often can cause serious problems from high levels of irritation to fatal developments like the burning of the oesophagus (possible when you ingest citrus oil).
Applying Essential Oils for your back pain
There are a myriad of conditions connected with back pain, from general weakness and tension to more serious issues such as arthritis, scolyosis (curvature of the spine), slipped discs and lots more. Essential oils are a good remedy for these such problems. However, you must understand that even when an oil is labelled as safe by experts, that doesn’t mean it is foolproof; even water can be harmful when misused.
Because of their high level of toxicity, it is usually not a bad idea to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil. While it’s true that according to sensitivity guidelines, there are some essential oils that can be applied NEAT (directly) to the skin, dilution does not reduce the potency of the oil and it helps the oil to cover a wider area of your skin, so dilute them all anyway. This is especially helpful when you are not certain of your skin’s sensitivity level.
First, ensure that you are using a 100% pure essential oil; there should be no additives, adulterants or prior dilutions. Then test how your skin will react to it by diluting a portion of the essential oil into the carrier oil — generally this should be done in a 3 to 5 solution. That is 3 to 5 drops of essential oil to a teaspoon of carrier oil. Rub it into a portion of the inside of your upper arm and wait a few hours, if there’s no sign of any skin reaction, then the oil is likely safe to use.
Without applying too much pressure, put the solution on your palms and gently rub into the back and the affected areas. Work into your back joints, muscles and tissues and as much as possible, avoid the spine area or at least work over it with minimal pressure.
Ever heard of reflexology? This is probably the best and most gentle method of essential oil application for children, the elderly or people with extra sensitive skin. Work the oil (still diluted) into the different areas of your hands, feet or ears that correspond to the different organs and systems in the body via the nervous system. The feet are usually preferred because they absorb the oil quicker into the blood stream but the skin there is thicker and tougher and so is less prone to skin reactions. And you can always put on a sock to mask the aroma of the oil if you don’t like it while also shielding it from direct contact with UV rays. To know which parts of the hands or feet to massage for your back pain, find a reflexology visual guide to help you identify the reflex points to massage the oil into.
Top 3 Best Essential Oils for Back Pain
Whatever your back problem is, it can be treated. Here is a list of 3 top rated essential oils that can alleviate bodily discomfort effectively and leave you feeling fit and strong again.
1. Ginger Oil
Ginger feels warm to the skin and is a perfect oil for rejuvenating back muscles, whether they are tired, sore or painful. It also eases tightness in the back and also helps with athritis and rheumatic conditions. It’s a good item.to have handy in case you begin to notice any discomfort and/or spasms.
2. Lavender Oil
If you constantly feel the signs of anxiety, restlessness or you are stressed out, overworked or extremely tired, lavender oil should be your go to. Lavender may not feel as physically pleasing to the skin as other oils that are warming or even hot, but it is a great choice thanks to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties making it a perfect all round oil.
3. Marjoram Oil
Marjoram has all the usually sought after benefits of essential oils in this category. Just like ginger and a number of other oils, it has a warm feel and soothes the joints and and reduce inflammation. However, it also has a slight edge above its contemporaries as seen in its ability to calm the emotions.