Back pain affects millions of people every year. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Back pain can be acute or chronic. Certain essential oils have been found in scientific studies to help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with back pain.
If you are unfamiliar with the use of essential oils, consult a certified aromatherapist before using them and read our safety guide for essential oils. Also ask your doctor, especially if you are taking other medications (either prescription or over-the-counter medications).
Symptoms of back pain
Back pain can include, but is not limited to, the following conditions:
- muscle pain
- Pain running down your leg
- Stinging pain
- Stinging pain
- Dull pain
- Walking and standing for a period of time can make back pain worse
- Lifting objects and stooping can make back pain worse
- Resting can relieve the pain.
5 best essential oils for relieving back pain
1. Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) essential oil is extracted from the rhizome root of the ginger plant. Ginger is a perennial herb with white or pink buds that ripen to yellow flowers. It is a medium-sized herb at three feet in height.
Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It acts as an analgesic in reducing acute and chronic inflammation, as demonstrated in this study, which tested the use of Swedish massage and ginger oil in adults with chronic low back pain. The results showed a significant improvement in pain intensity and disability in Swedish massage and ginger oil treatment compared to traditional Thai massage.
Ginger essential oil is best used in a massage mix for back pain. Due to the low risk of photosensitivity and skin sensitization, dilute ginger oil in a carrier oil such as almond or jojoba oil or carry out a patch test. Combine essential ginger oil with frankincense (Boswellia carteri) essential oil for a relaxing back massage.
Buy it: Plant therapy ginger root essential oil – 10 ml
2. Lavender essential oil
The lavender essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the evergreen herb. It has a sweet, floral, slightly woody aroma that goes well with most other essential oils.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil is used for a variety of diseases in aromatherapy practice, but one of its lesser known properties is its use in relieving back pain. Lavender oil is analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
Studies have shown that the use of lavender essential oil has helped relieve symptoms for back pain. In a randomized control study, an intervention group underwent eight sessions of acupressure and acupuncture stimulation with lavender oil in addition to the usual care. The intervention group experienced a 39% reduction in pain intensity, improved walking time and a larger area for lateral flexion of the spine compared to the group that received only the usual care.
Dilute the lavender essential oil in a base carrier oil such as apricot kernel (Prunus armeniaca) Oil. Combine with Roman chamomile in a blend for the greatest effect (Chamaeleum nobile) and sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorana) essential oils. Massage into the affected area if necessary.
Buy it: Plant therapy lavender essential oil – 10 ml
3. Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil is probably the most popular of the mint oils, but it may also be the “most effective”. It contains a higher proportion of the chemical components menthol and menthone, which are responsible for its effectiveness. The essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the small perennial herb.
Peppermint oil in combination with other oils can help relieve the symptoms of back pain. Peppermint oil has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect like other essential oils for back pain.
Peppermint essential oil should be avoided during pregnancy. It should also never be used with or near babies and toddlers. It can cause breathing difficulties in this age group. In all cases, dilute in a carrier oil before use on the skin and use in moderation.
Buy it: Plant therapy bio-essential peppermint oil – 10 ml
4. Roman chamomile essential oil
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is a small, unremarkable herb with daisy-like flowers. The essential oil is extracted from these flowers. Do not confuse the Roman chamomile with the German chamomile of her botanical cousin (Matricaria recutica) although the two can often be used for similar purposes.
Chamomile has traditionally been used as an anti-inflammatory and can be useful in the treatment of osteoporosis. I personally used it in a mixture with lavender and incense (Boswellia carterti), in a base of apricot kernels (Prunus armeniaca) Oil for temporary relief of the symptoms of back pain caused by fibromyalgia.
Buy it: Plant Therapy Roman Chamomile Oil – 5 ml
5. Sweet marjoram essential oil
Sweet marjoram (Origanum marjorana) is another little herb related to peppermint, lavender and peppermint. The leaves and flower tips are extracted for the essential oil.
Sweet marjoram oil has a warm and spicy aroma, but is camphor-like and less spicy than essential ginger oil. In combination with other essential oils, sweet marjoram has been shown to have a calming effect on back pain.
Sweet marjoram has analgesic, antispasmodic, soothing and calming properties.
Avoid using sweet marjoram oil during pregnancy.
Buy it: Plant therapy marjoram Sweet essential oil – 10 ml
Use of essential oils for pain relief
Always dilute essential oils in a base like vegetable oil before applying them to the skin. Read our guide to carrier oils to see twenty-one different base oil options to try.
Apricot kernel (Prunus armeniaca), sweet almond (Prunis dulcis) and Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) In my experience, oils are a good base for blends to relieve back pain. Dilute with 2% if used regularly. Only use a 1% dilution for seniors (over 65 years). Consult a certified aromatherapist for use in pregnancy or in infants and young children before using an essential oil blend.
If you notice any side effects of the essential oil blend (such as nausea, rash, headache, or others) stop using it immediately and consult a doctor.