7 Best Essential Oils for Back Pain & Sciatica


doll on a beach knee pain

Back pain and backaches are an all too common complaint of people in the modern age.

No it’s not new (we’ve always dealt with back issues), but it’s a challenge we humans face that gets exacerbated by today’s lifestyles.

There’s a wide variety of conditions associated with back pain complaints, including:

Millions of working days are lost each year due to a variety of pains and disorders of the back.

Back pain comes along uninvited, but it does not have to stay; regardless of what you may be have told.

Whether your back pain comes from a specific misalignment of the spine – like a slipped disc, or simply from prolonged strain – there are ways to find a resolution for your pain and discomfort.

The spine is one of the most important parts of the body and needs to be cared for. Luckily, essential oils can help your back pain feel better.

In this post, you’ll learn a great deal about how you can apply essential oils to improve your back pain.

But you might find that the most important takeaway will come from the additional recommendations about changing your lifestyle to support your spine.

It’s important to remember that you’ll need to fix what brought about the pain in the first place to really stop the pain at its root to feel lasting relief from back issues.

(Clue: slouching over a keyboard for 52 weeks in a year could lead to trouble. If you keep it up, you’ll likely experience an only temporary respite from back pain using essential oils.)

More on that later.

For now, let’s cover essential oils – which provide a fantastic solution for flare-ups of back pain.

7 Essential Oils for Back Pain

The 7 essential oils below are tried and true aids in relieving bodily discomfort. If you use even just a few of these oils for your back pain you will be in better shape.

1.) Marjoram

wild oregano marjoram

Marjoram is a great oil for back pain because it is warming, soothing and eases the joints and muscles. It’s also emotionally calming, stress easing and generally soothing. It reduces inflammation as well (great for arthritis).

2.) Basil

basil

Basil is an ideal oil for tight muscles. It helps to relax and loosen up any muscular tension wherever applied. Basil is also a great oil for the nerves / mental fatigue. In cases of neuritis, it’s a highly recommended oil to rub into the spine, lower back and up into the neck area.

3.) Eucalyptus

eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus is a warming, soothing oil that contains some strong anti-inflammatory qualities. These anti-inflammatory properties, paired with its strong analgesic effect make it effective at relieving aches, pains, and stiffness.

4.) Ginger

ginger powder root candied

Another warming oil, ginger essential oil is perfectly fit for the application on sore, tired, and painful back muscles. It’s quite effective for tightness, rheumatism, and arthritic conditions. If you experience discomfort and/or any spasms make sure to have ginger on hand.

5.) Lavender

lavender

Lavender is a wonderful all-around oil. This oil is particularly indicated for use in cases of stress, restlessness, hyperactivity, fatigue, and anxiety. While not as warming or hot as some of the other oils listed above, lavender still contains some powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities that are great for backaches.

6.) Peppermint

peppermint

Peppermint is a refreshing and uplifting oil that contains analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (notice a theme here?). You’re probably familiar with peppermint oil and have some on hand. It’s great stuff!

7.) Rosemary

rosemary

Rosemary, like lavender, is another great all-around oil. It’s effective for aches, pains, arthritis, among many other things. Its analgesic and tonic qualities make it a top-rated oil for backaches.

Honorable mention EO’s for back pain/sciatica

The following oils listed below are all also great options for back pain. Use them if you have them!

  1. Anise
  2. Peruvian Balsam
  3. Clove
  4. Cypress
  5. Fennel
  6. Geranium
  7. Niaouli
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Thyme
  10. Camphor
  11. Chamomile
  12. Vetiver
  13. Benzoin
  14. Juniper
  15. Angelica
  16. Oregano
  17. Sage

Essential Oil Back Formulas and Blends for Back Pain

essential oil bottles sunset with a candle

3 Synergistic essential oil formulas for back pain

Below are your bread and butter blends that you could make up for regular back pain treatment.

Most of the oils in these blends are common and there’s a good chance that you will already have them in your EO collection.

Formula 1

Formula 2

Formula 3

For each formula combine your essential oils with 2 tablespoons of carrier oil.

The best way to apply essential oils for back aches and pains is via message. It’s best if you can get a message from a friend or done professionally, but if not you could still do a good job of self-massaging your lower back.

The upper back is a bit more challenging for self-massage, but it’s good to at least apply the oils onto your skin – even if you can’t reach to give yourself a full on massage.

TIP: You can use aids to more thoroughly self-massage your back (especially the upper back). I recommend absorbing your massage blend into a back a massage loofah (like this one) and using the pressure it provides to get the oils absorbed deeply into your skin.

TIP #2: Another great massage aid is to use ice. This is especially helpful for those with upper back complaints, especially those afflicted with lumbago, sciatica, and fibrositis. For an ice massage simply freeze water in wax paper cups or styrofoam cups. Once your water freezes simply cut the tops of the cup down so that the ice is left protruding. Apply your massage oil and rub with ice over the sore areas in circular movements.

EO massage blend for a slipped disc

A slipped (or ruptured) disc occurs when there is a break in the ligaments surrounding a vertebra (disc).

When these happen you should check in with a doctor.

But in the meantime, there are some things that you can do to ease the discomfort and relieve your spine.

For the first three days after a slipped/ruptured disc occurs you should treat the area with ice intermittently throughout the day.

After three days have passed you can apply the following massage oil directly to the area. But be sure to apply it very gently!

Slipped disc massage blend:

Ingredients:

Apply it throughout the day.

TIP: If you’re still uncomfortable you might consider applying hot and cold presses using a cloth and hot and cold water, alternating between the two. For added effect you can put 2 drops each of basil and peppermint essential oil on the compress. Follow up your hot or cold compress with a gentle massage treatment. Three times a day is a good amount, but even just once should help.

EO treatments for a general (acute) back strain

If you’re dealing with an acute muscle strain in your back you can follow the same directions above from the slipped disc recommendations.

But in the case of an acute strain, it’s recommended that in the first few days after your injury that you hold an ice bag wrapped in a towel against the affected area for 10 minutes at a time. Do this intermittently throughout the day.

EO treatments for Lumbago (painful lower back condition)

For lumbago, I have a blend that is best applied with massage and in the bath.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a 5mL glass dropper bottle combine your essential oils
  2. Shake to blend

Ways to use your Lumbago blend

As a cool compress:
  1. In a small (non-reactive) bowl combine 2 cups of cold water with 12 drops of your lumbago blend
  2. Stir water and oils well
  3. Soak a cloth in the mixture. Wring out your cloth so it doesn’t drip but is fully saturated
  4. Apply your cold cloth compress to the painful areas of your lower back
  5. Apply once every two hours, alternating in cold packs in between
Massage:
  1. In a small (non-reactive) bowl combine 4 tsp (20mL) grapeseed or sweet almond oil with 8 drops of your Lumbago blend
  2. Mix together well and massage over your back
In the bath:
  1. Fill your tub with warm water
  2. While the tub is filling combine 1 tsp milk and 4-6 drops of your Lumbago blend in a non-reactive bowl
  3. Add the milk and oils to your tub once it’s filled
  4. Agitate the water to disperse the oil/milk mix
  5. Soak in the tub for 20 minutes (or more, if desired).
  6. Rub any floating droplets of oil into your skin

EO treatments for Sciatica

Sciatic pain is any pain or discomfort localized to the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica can be felt in the buttocks, behind the hip joint, down the back and front of the thighs – all the way down to the calf and into the foot.

Sciatica is often caused by poor posture (especially while sitting) over time.

Sciatica Massage Blend

Directions:

  1. In a 5mL glass dropper bottle combine your essential oils
  2. Shake to blend

TIP: If the pain is severe direct massage should be limited. With severe pain likely comes inflammation – so cooling treatments like cold compresses are recommended.

Ways to use your Sciatica massage blend

In the bath

  1. Fill your tub with warm water
  2. While the tub is filling combine 1 tsp milk and 4-6 drops of your Sciatica blend in a non-reactive bowl
  3. Add the milk and oils to your tub once it’s filled
  4. Agitate the water to disperse the oil/milk mix
  5. Soak in the tub for 20 minutes (or more, if desired).
  6. Rub any floating droplets of oil into your skin

Massage

  1. In a small, non-reactive bowl combine 4 tsp (20mL) grapeseed or calendula-infused oil and 12 drops of your sciatica massage blend
  2. Mix well and massage over your back after inflammation has gone down some

Additional (Non-Essential Oil) Recommendations for Back Pain & Backaches

Sae Arc Lumbar & Back Stretcher

sae arc back stretcher

The Sae Arc is a minimalist, yet highly effective tool for the back. To use it you simply lay on it 🙂

It’s made up of a curved, arched piece of wood which reduces your back pain by allowing your back/spine to self-align using your body weight. It’s good for both upper and lower back and great for reducing the pain of compressed discs.

Using it can be a bit uncomfortable – at first; especially if your back is particularly tweaked. But over time (daily use) you will eventually feel much more comfortable while lying on the Sae Arc.

I started using it with the recommended 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening directions. The Sae Arc was not comfortable at first, I must say, even with the foam padding (Note: the Japanese version doesn’t even have the padding!). But over time I started to look forward to laying down on this funny piece of wood. I even fell asleep on it once! (Not recommended.)

The best part really is the simplicity of it. It’s just a board.. but when you lay down on it you’ll engage every joint in your spine – from neck to tailbone – giving your back a gentle, straightening push.

All in all, this is a pretty good tool for those with back issues, and even those who don’t have back problems (yet). My whole family likes to use it. Prevention is the best medicine!

Tip: if you’re at the computer a lot you can use it as a lumbar support in your chair. This is what I do as I write these articles!

Shiatsu Massage Pillow (with heat)

shiatsu back massager with heat

This is another highly effective (and inexpensive) gadget for your back. I was kind of skeptical myself about a “massage pillow” at first. But this massage pillow is the real deal!

Now, nothing beats a real massage. but they are pricey and can be tough to work into a busy schedule. This pillow offers you a nice, deep massage in the comfort of your home (or car) anytime you want. It’s really convenient.

When I first got my pillow I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much in the way of strength/kneading power. But the motor in this little guy really kicks, which surprised me.

Laying with all of my body weight (using some fine-tuned additional pillow adjustments to make it comfortable) I was instantly impressed just how much this things digs into your muscles using it’s four massage “nodes”. I didn’t realize just how much my tight muscles and ligaments were playing a role in my back discomfort. Now that I’ve used this pillow, teamed with some topical essential oil blends for the back, I’m feeling a lot better.

The heat from the pillow (takes a few minutes to really warm up) was great too. Especially with the essential oils.

All in all a shiatsu massage pillow is a really handy tool for your back, neck, shoulders, legs, head, butt, feet… anywhere in need of relief.  Careful – you might get addicted to this thing! It’s a hard thing to share with the family when you want to use it all the time… haha.

Tip: this is a great way to make use of our essential oil knowledge! Using an oil blend and a cold compress before/during/after getting massaged by this pillow is very nice a relieving for the back. Also heavenly on the feet. Try it!

Conclusion

young woman doing yoga on beach with waves 2

So there we have it. Some essential oils, some ways to use them and some complementary tools to get your back feeling better and get you feeling more mobile and at ease.

While this post covered a lot of ways to reduce the pain and get you feeling better now, we didn’t touch on prevention or dive into ways to seriously treat your condition (to prevent it from recurring).

Essential oils are great for pain management and soothing discomfort associated with backaches – but you’ll want to keep learning about your condition if you want to be free from back pain for good!



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