Arthritis and the painful inflammatory conditions associated with it plague millions in our country and more around the globe. For those who are plagued with arthritis in some form, pain is a regular – often daily – occurrence.
Managing pain and helping to prevent flare ups is a constant struggle when you have arthritis. Fortunately, lifestyle changes and supportive essential oils can help to ease the strain of day to day life with arthritis.
How Arthritis Works
Typically, we refer specifically to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis when we speak generally of arthritis. One is primarily related to aging, while the other is genetic. One lays down calcium deposits while the other attacks joints and tissues with painful inflammation.
Really, though, arthritis refers to any of around a hundred different diseases that cause pain in the joints, bones, and surrounding tissues. It affects nearly one in 10 adults in the US, and far too many children. (1)
Arthritic diseases can be either inflammatory – like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia – or non-inflammatory – like osteoarthritis. Some basic lifestyle considerations apply for all types of arthritis, like getting good exercise and dropping extra weight, while others will depend on the inflammatory nature of a specific diagnosis.
Pain Relieving Essential Oils
If you could address arthritic pain without prescriptions, would you?
The most immediate and pressing need for arthritis relief is that of pain relief. Struggling against an illness defined by its various manifestations of pain isn’t easy. Often, the medications tied to relief are also laced with unpleasant and even dangerous side effects.
Unfortunately, they are often necessary – and even more unfortunately, they are often unable to eliminate or even scratch the surface of pain related to arthritic illness.
You may not be able to replace your arthritis medications with these essential oils, but they are likely to help take the edge off, sooth sharp pains, and relieve secondary conditions like insomnia.
A soothing oil with cooling effects, peppermint essential oil is a go-to for pain relieving applications. In one study on arthritis and essential oils, peppermint was part of a blend intended to relieve arthritic pain and depression associated with it. (2) The results were good – the pain relieving and stimulating effects of peppermint make it a valuable part of your natural arthritis remedy toolkit.
Inflammation is among both the most prevalent conditions in our society and the most difficult to treat. Natural solutions for inflammation are prized and sometimes life-changing substances. (3)
Because of the connection between inflammatory processes and pain, oils that are anti-inflammatory (as we will see below) are often analgesic, as well. Frankincense plays this double role well. The pain relieving ability of aromatherapy massage was tested with patients struggling with cancer. Treated with an aromatherapy hand massage that included frankincense, pain was relieved significantly. (4)
While the trial might have been directed toward cancer rather than arthritis, the hands are a common site of pain for people with arthritis, and the analgesic effects can be enjoyed by all.
Use these pain-relieving essential oils in diffusers, topical body care products, and directly inhaled.
Anti-Inflammatory Essential Oils
With pain relief in the making, a focus on the cause is warranted and necessary in order to build a lifetime of health. For inflammatory arthritic illness, anti-inflammatory oils, herbs, and even foods are more than welcome!
Incorporate these anti-inflammatory oils into your regular, daily essential oil use routines in order to begin chipping away – so to speak – at the very cause of your arthritis.
As an anti-inflammatory oil, lavender can help to relieve the painful swelling and inflammation that arthritis in its various forms creates. Not only is it helpful in this way, but it is also an analgesic as well, tackling arthritic pain from multiple angles. (5)
Revisiting its uses for anxiety and depression, lavender may also help to relieve secondary issues that arise in a life of chronic pain.
Its gentle nature makes lavender a reliable choice for most people in many application forms.
Roman chamomile essential oil is a must have for its calming, soothing, and anti-inflammatory effects. (6) As a whole herb, chamomile is renowned for its healing, soothing, and calming effects. The essential oil isolates some of these abilities, especially as an anti-inflammatory substance.
Add roman chamomile to topical massage oils to work the anti-inflammatory compounds into the skin and onto joints and other sites of pain. Additionally, you can diffuse chamomile for relaxing an anxious or depressed mind.
As a soothing and healing herb, yarrow essential oil also carries anti-inflammatory components that can be beneficial for arthritic ailments. As part of the Ayurvedic tradition, yarrow essential oil is used in many preparations, anti-inflammatory included. (7)
Topical preparations of yarrow can help to improve anti-inflammatory and pain relieving combinations. Making the most of synergistic reactions – oils working together to make each other more effective – creates one of a kind blends that help to relieve pain and inflammation for your specific arthritis conditions.
Known as “liquid aspirin wintergreen oil is another traditional analgesic that has helped countless arthritis patients. Used with peppermint, it is particularly potent to reduce inflammation. In the words of 2014 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,
“The predominant natural ingredient in wintergreen oil is methyl salicylate, which is a compound closely related to acetyl salicylic acid, or aspirin. When applied to the skin, including tissues at the site of pain, wintergreen oil has analgesic properties… A combination of wintergreen oil and peppermint oil is commonly used because it is believed to give far better pain relief than either wintergreen oil or peppermint oil alone. In addition, the combination of the two oils may potentiate the individual effects of each oil, thus enabling the use of lower doses of each, which, as a consequence, is likely to produce fewer side effects.” (8)
Arthritis or Fibromyalgia?
Distinguishing the type of inflammatory joint disease you have is important for treatment protocols. If, for example, you have osteoarthritis, your body is likely depositing calcium around joints – probably a specific joint – and has gotten worse with age.
On the other hand, you may have fibromyalgia, which is not inflammatory by nature, and affects women primarily
Now, an anti-inflammatory medication is probably on your list, and anti-inflammatory herbs and essential oils are most likely not a bad idea in general. But the specific approach that works for an inflammatory arthritic illness might not be the same as for a non-inflammatory arthritis.
Pursue a diagnosis and understand what it means so that you can most effectively choose the whole-body approach that will work for you.
Dr. Eric Z