Muscle pain and cramps happen to most of us at some time or other. If you are into sporting or heavy workouts, you could be experiencing muscle spasm and cramps often.
It is a very painful experience that makes us scream with muscle pain and stiffness. A severe incidence of muscle cramp and soreness can lead to prolonged pain and swelling for hours or even for a few days.
There are many effective ways through which you can overcome muscle cramps, sores, and spasm by adopting preventive steps and natural remedies.
When it comes to natural remedies, essential oils for muscle pain and cramps work well. There are several essential oils that are effective muscle relaxants.
Before going to discuss the essential oils for managing muscle sores in detail, let us look at the major causes of muscle pain.
Causes Of Muscle Pains
Muscle pains or aches can affect the muscle blocks on any part of the body. There are several reasons that can cause muscle pains.
When you have a strained neck, shoulders or back, they often cause prolonged muscle aches in the back and neck. This usually happens because of bad posture, strenuous exercises or works, cold, injury, tension or stress (1,2).
Some people get muscle aches because of health issues like arthritis, rheumatism, slipped discs or strained veins and nerves. A heavy bout of flu and microbial infections can also become reasons for aching muscles (3,4,5).
The most commonly occurring muscle pains are the following:
Muscles Spasm: – Muscle spasms occur when skeletal muscle contracts and does not relax. It is a painful involuntary and forceful muscle contraction that last for a little while before relaxing. It can occur in any part of the body including the abdomen, chest, and chin (6).
Muscle spasm does happen for reasons such as poor circulation of blood to the muscles, muscle fatigue, dehydration, alcohol, mineral deficiency, pinched nerves, pregnancy or overexertion of muscles (7).
A sustained muscle spasm is called a muscle cramp or charley horse. It is a painful involuntary contraction of one or more muscles, and it lasts for a little longer time before relaxing. It often occurs in the legs. Nighttime leg cramps are usually sudden tightening or spasms of muscles in the calf (8).
Some of the reasons for cramps are dehydration, over-exercising, depleted levels of potassium, magnesium, or calcium.
Muscle soreness is a result of too much muscle stress, tension, or exertions. It happens because of muscle tension in one or more areas of the body, excess use of muscle during physical activity or injuries inflicted on muscles while engaging in physically strenuous works or exercise (9,10).
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
The DOMS, also called muscle fever, is the pain and stiffness felt in the muscles several hours or days after performing strenuous exercises or unaccustomed manual labor. Most of the time, the DOMS comes into strong effect one or two days after the physical exercise (11,12).
Muscle aches can happen for reasons other than muscle tension, stress, and physical activity. Other causes for Myalgia are:
- autoimmune disorders such as dermatomyositis, lupus, and polymyositis
- infections, such as polio, flu, or bacterial infections
- use of certain medications or drugs, such as statins, cocaine or ACE inhibitors,
- hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- hypokalemia (low potassium)
After having seen the major causes of muscle aches, now let us move on to discuss natural remedies for muscle pain using essential oils, oil blends and methods of treatment.
Top 7 Essential Oils For Muscle Pains, Spasms, And Cramps
Essential oils have excellent therapeutic powers to heal health issues like pain, inflammation, and infections. The anesthetic, antiseptic, and inflammatory properties present in the essential oils are extremely beneficial for relaxing muscles and relieving muscle aches.
Let us first see some of the good essential oils for pain individually, and then we can discuss various oil-blends treatments for muscle aches.
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is a powerful natural remedy for several diseases and other health issues. Its health benefits include its ability to relieve pain, tension, and stress, fight infections on skin and scalp, improve blood circulation and solve common respiratory issues (14).
This oil is traditionally used for treating muscular pains and all types of headaches and stomachaches. It is very effective for treating muscle pain caused by cramps, spasm, muscle soreness, sprains, and rheumatism.
The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in Lavender oil are effective for treating pains arising out of muscle stress and tension. Lavender oil will also ease swelling and improve blood circulation. It is excellent for relieving the muscle spasm caused by mental stress and anxiety.
2. Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger essential oil boasts of powerful antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties that are useful for taking care of muscle cramps and spasms.
One of the research studies on ginger oil has reported that massaging this oil on painful areas works great for treating inflammation and joint pains associated with rheumatism.
The warming effect of ginger oil together with its analgesic properties help to comfort muscle soreness.
3. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus oil is a traditional remedy used for relieving muscle aches, joint stiffness, and rheumatism.
This oil contains anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic elements that are ideal for treating muscular spasm, cramp, and pain. The analgesic qualities of this oil can calm stress and tension on muscles and nerves (15).
According to a study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary And Alternative Medicines, Eucalyptus Oil inhalation is found to reduce pain and suppress edema and inflammation in animal models.
The best quality Eucalyptus essential oil is got from Australian eucalyptus trees; certainly, it is better to use the one sourced from Australia for the best pain relief results.
4. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint oil has a significant effect in relieving muscle pains because of the potential anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic elements contained in it. You can relax the muscles and relieve the muscle pains by just massaging the oil on affected muscle blocks. It is also commonly used as a natural remedy for getting rid of joint pains and headaches.
According to an article published by National Center For Complementary And Integrative Health, Peppermint oil is “used as a folk or traditional remedy for nausea, indigestion, cold symptoms, headaches, muscle and nerve pain, stomach problems, and bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (16).”
5. Wintergreen Essential Oil
The Native Americans have been traditionally using Wintergreen essential oil for getting rid of joint and muscle pain. This contains methyl salicylate which is one of the prominent ingredients in aspirin.
Some of the studies have pointed out the effectiveness of Wintergreen essential oil for pain relief similar to that of cortisone effect. This oil also contains anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic elements that are useful for treating muscle aches, cramps, spasm, and muscle soreness (17).
Wintergreen Oil must be diluted in a carrier oil before applying it directly to the skin for the powerful ingredients in them.
6. Clary Sage Essential Oil
Another good essential oil for muscle pain is the Clary Sage Oil. It is good for relaxing the muscles, especially in times of muscle spasms, cramps, and respiratory congestion. You can also prevent muscle cramps during exercise by massaging the oil on calves and thigh muscles before you begin the workouts.
Clary Sage oil aromatherapy has proven effects on pain management and relieving congestion; used along with other essential oils like Lavender and Roman Chamomile oils (18).
7. Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
According to one of the research articles published by the Molecular Medicine Reports, ‘Chamomile preparations are commonly used for many human ailments such as hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids (19).’
Roman Chamomile essential oil has antispasmodic properties beneficial for treating muscle spasm and cramps. It is popularly used as an ingredient in essential oil blends for relieving muscle pains and joint pains.
Five Essential For Pain Relief (Used In Oil Blends)
Besides the top 7 essential oils for sore muscle we have already discussed, there are few other essential oils that are beneficial for pain relief and fighting inflammation. They are most effective when used as ingredients in oil blends for pain relief. Here are 5 other essential oils you can use in oil blends to get relief from muscle pain and relax muscles.
a. Marjoram Essential Oil
Marjoram essential oil contains potential antispasmodic substances which can produce soothing and warming effects on muscle pain. It is also widely used for treating arthritis, rheumatism, high blood pressure, and indigestion. It can help in improving blood circulation that is necessary for faster recuperation of muscle soreness or muscle fever.
b. Black Pepper Essential Oil
Some of the eastern traditional medicines made use of Black Pepper Oil for treating muscle spasm and sprain. The produces a heating effect on muscle soreness and improves the blood circulation in that area. This oil also has antispasmodic properties that help in relaxing the muscles. Some of the popular pain-killer sprays used by athletes contain Black Pepper extracts as a prominent ingredient in them.
c. Thyme Essential Oil
The thyme essential oil has highly potential Antispasmodic, Anti-rheumatic, Antiseptic and Bactericidal properties. This oil is used for treating several common health issues like digestive and respiratory disorders. Massaging Thyme oil on the body helps to relieve muscle spasm, cramp, pains, rheumatism, and gout.
The heating effect produced by this oil on the body is beneficial for relieving joint pains and muscle soreness. The powerful chemical properties in this oil can cause irritation on the skin and thus this oil should be used after diluting in carrier oils.
d. Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Juniper Berry essential oil is popularly used in anti-rheumatic and anti-spasmodic treatment for relieving pain and stiffness. Applying the Juniper essential oil helps to reduce muscle spasm, cramps, and soreness. It is also excellent for relieving pains associated with fibromyalgia, arthritis and other similar ailments.
e. Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel essential oil is an age-old popular natural remedy for treating muscle pains. The antispasmodic properties in this oil relax muscles, nerves, and respiratory spasm.
This oil is very effective in reducing pain and inflammation associated with rheumatism. Fennel oil works well for reducing migraine pain and other headaches.
How To Use Essential Oils To Treat Muscle Spasms?
There are a couple of effective ways in which you can make use of essential oils for muscle pains.
You need to be very careful with essential treatment as they are powerful oil concentrates that contain strong natural chemical/therapeutic ingredients. Most of these oils must be blended with other carrier oils like coconut, olive or almond oils.
A few of the essential oils we have discussed above are most effective for treating muscle soreness when they are blended with two or more other essential oils.
Let us now see how to use essential oil for essential oils for sore muscles:
i) Massage Therapy
The easiest and most effective way to get rid of muscle pain and aches is by doing a gentle massage with the right essential oil blends. The oil massage is also beneficial for relaxing muscles to ease spasm or cramps. Massage therapy increases blood circulation and soothes the muscle blocks.
ii) Oil Bath Treatments
Fill your bathtub with warm water and add 10-15 drops of your chosen essential oils to the water. Then soak yourself in the warm water for 20 minutes. You should be paying special attention to the body parts where the muscle soreness has occurred. Oil bath therapy helps in relaxing muscles and eliminating pains.
Doing a hot or cold compress is an age-old folklore treatment for relaxing muscles and body pain. It is effective for soothing the tensioned muscles and easing out the pain.
Take a jar of warm water and add a few drops of your choicest essential oils to the water. Then soak a clean cotton towel in the warm water treated with oil and use this towel to do compress over the tensioned muscles.
For doing a cold compress; soak the towel in essential oil-treated cold water, wring the towel and wrap it around an ice pack; do a cold compress with it over the distressed muscles.
Essential oil aromatherapy helps in relaxing the body and mind and this intern gives some relief from muscle soreness. Aromatherapy using Lavender, Eucalyptus, or Rosemary essential oils are very effective in reducing mental and physical stress.
DIY Oil Blends For Muscle Pains And Cramp
Here are a few oil blends that you can make to cure muscle pains, cramps, spasm or soreness. The same oil blends can be used for massage, oil bath or compress.
1) Muscle Pain Massage
You can prepare a pain relief massage oil blend by using the following in ingredients
- Roman Chamomile (4 drops)
- Lavender (4 Drops)
- Marjoram (5 Drops)
- Black pepper (4 Drops)
- Carrier Oil (4 teaspoons, use any carrier oil of your choice)
2) Muscle Spasm/Cramp Relaxing Massage
Use the following essential oil blend for massaging Muscle Spasm affected area:
- Ginger (4 drops)
- Eucalyptus (5 Drops)
- Marjoram (4 Drops)
- Carrier Oil (4 teaspoons, use any carrier oil of your choice)
3) Soothing Muscle Soreness Massage
Use the following essential oils’ blend for massaging aching muscles:
- Ginger (4 Drops)
- Lavender (5 Drops)
- Marjoram (4 Drops)
- Carrier Oil (4 teaspoons)
4) Muscle Relaxing Massage
Use the following essential oils’ blend for a massage to relax muscles:
- Lavender (5 Drops)
- Juniper (4 Drops)
- Ginger Oil (4 Drops)
- Carrier Oil (4 teaspoons)
5) Rheumatic Pain Relief Massage
Use the following essential oils’ blend massage the inflamed joints.
- Lavender (4 drops)
- Ginger (5 Drops)
- Clary Sage (4 Drops)
- Carrier Oil (4 teaspoons)
DOs And DON’Ts On Essential Oil Treatment For Muscle Pain
Here are a few tips must be observed by you for getting the best results in getting rid of muscle pain:
- Repeat the essential oil therapy a couple of times to get the best results; just massaging the oil once is not enough. It goes the same with compress and oil baths as well.
- Do the massage and compress treatments with essential oils alternatively for a couple of times.
- Wash off the oils from the skin only after 30 minutes of doing the oils massage.
- Always dilute the oil in a carrier oil to prevent the harshness of EOs on the skin.
- If the muscle aches or soreness continuous relentlessly, you must seek medical treatment from a professional physician.
- Do not exercise or engage in strenuous physical activities until the muscle soreness is totally healed.
Preventive Remedies For Muscle Aches
If you are suffering recurring muscle cramps or spasm, then you need to adopt preventive measures to arrest their regular recurrences. Here are a few suggestions for preventing muscle soreness:
- Always do a mild warm-up exercise like jogging and stretching before you engage in heavy workouts or physical labor.
- Treat your bath water with Epsom salt or essential oil blends.
- Always keep your body well hydrated, it is highly recommended to drink a minimum of 8 glasses/cups of water daily.
- If you are new to Essential oil remedies, try out different oils to find which of them works best for you.
- Cold/hot compress treatment benefits a lot in relieving muscle pains.
- Make sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet to prevent muscle spasm and cramps occur due to a lack of essential vitamins and minerals.
The Bottom Line
Muscle pains arising out of cramps, spasm and soreness is a common problem for most persons engaged in strenuous physical activities. Muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in the muscles that occur because of overexertion. Aging factors, arthritis, poor postures, continue manual works can also cause muscle pain and soreness.
Essential oils for muscle pains and soreness work great. The list of essential oils we have listed in this article has therapeutic elements such as antispasmodic, antiseptic, analgesic, stimulant and anti-inflammatory properties which can relax muscles and relieve muscle pain, spasm, and cramps.
However, you should avail regular medication under the guidance of a physician if your muscle pain is intense and keep lingering for more than 48 hours.