10 Best Essential Oils for Back Pain Relief

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Using essential oils for back pain is a popular practice, as there are many anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic benefits to using these natural oils. Back pain, however, comes in many different forms, and is caused by many different things. Back pain can be acute, and the main causes of this include strained muscles or ligaments, often through lifting heavy objects or moving in rapid, unusual ways. Some of the more chronic or long-term back pain problems stem from arthritis, bulging disks, pinched nerves, osteoporosis, curvature of the spine, sleep disorders, spinal infections, poor posture or an uncomfortable mattress. Furthermore, habits like straining the neck, bending down for long periods of time, carrying large items, bending, twisting, sneezing, coughing and extended periods of driving or standing can also cause back pain.

Given the wide range of causes for back pain, there are obviously a number of natural remedies as well, if not for the underlying condition, then certainly for the symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of back pain include inflammation, fever, numbness near the buttocks, sharp stabbing pains, incontinence, pain stretching into the legs or difficulty in urinating. These symptoms, even if they are temporary, can indicate a more serious injury or condition in the back, including some that may affect the nerves or spinal cord. In these cases, seeing a doctor is highly recommended. However, using essential oils for back pain can be a rapid and reliable solution, both acute and chronic. [1]

List of Essential Oils for Back Pain

Many of the most trusted essential oils for back pain include pepper, lavender, juniper, chamomile, clary sage, ginger, rosemary, peppermint, basil and mustard oils.

A young woman getting an essential oil massage to relieve back pain

Aromatherapy with essential oils helps relax during a massage. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Clary Sage Oil

Using this oil is a simple way to reduce the pain, inflammation and spasms of muscles and ligaments. When your back hurts, the muscles are often locked up and cannot be stretched out. Clary sage oil soothes those muscles and makes it easier to enjoy your full range of motion. [2]

How to Use – Blend 4-5 drops of clary sage oil with a carrier oil, such as almond oil or coconut oil, and topically apply it to the area that hurts. Gently massage the area to improve oil absorption for best effects.

Lavender Oil

As one of the most famous essential oils on the market, lavender is able to reduce back pain by eliminating spasms and easing tension, while also calming the mind and reducing inflammation. [3]

How to Use – You can topically apply lavender oil in its undiluted form (only a few drops) to the site of your pain, or simply diffuse lavender oil throughout your room/home to provide a relaxing atmosphere all day.

Chamomile Oil

This legendary essential oil has been used for stress relief and anxiety reduction for thousands of years, but it has physical as well as psychological effects. It is an effective analgesic and an anti-inflammatory substance. [4]

How to Use – You can add a few drops of chamomile oil to a cup of chamomile tea for an even more potent punch of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, or you can blend this oil with a carrier oil and gently rub it into the affected area.

Ginger Oil

Ginger is well known for its impact on the stomach, and soothing that type of inflammation, but it is also a warming substance that can be applied to the back to ease muscle tension, prevent spasms, promote healing of strains and pulled muscles, and can directly impact the severity of arthritic conditions. [5]

How to Use – Due to the high potency of ginger oil, it is best to combine this with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or jojoba oil, and then apply it topically to the site of the pain on your back.

Peppermint Oil

This soothing, cooling and anti-inflammatory oil is ideal for back pain, as it can rapidly numb the pain from an acute injury or strain, while also offering long-term protection against inflammation and tightness in the lower back.

How to Use – You can use a diluted form of peppermint oil directly on the back, while many people enjoy the relaxing and refreshing aroma of this oil in their home, and therefore choose to diffuse it.

Mustard Oil

If your back pain is the result of an acute injury, mustard oil may be the best solution. With the ability to summon blood flow to the surface of the skin, the use of this oil can stimulate the healing and repair of muscles and ligaments that might be strained and causing you discomfort. [6]

How to Use – The most popular use of this oil is in a heated form, and then applied as a back massage oil. You can do this on your entire back (diluting the mustard oil in a more common carrier or massage oil) or personally massage it into areas of the back you can reach.

Pepper Oil

Although pepper is associated with spice, it is actually an anti-inflammatory substance, due to the presence of piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper. That means that this oil, with its potent smell, can rapidly suck out the inflammation from your back muscles, returning you to your pain-free self! [7]

How to Use – You don’t need to dilute pepper oil, unless you have very sensitive skin, and the most direct way of using this for treatment is to apply it right to the inflamed or painful area on the back.

Juniper Oil

The soothing, sedative and anti-spasmodic qualities of this essential oil make it perfect for soothing back pain and inflammation. It can also relieve mental anxiety, which can manifest in tightness of the muscles around the body, including the back. [8]

How to Use – Add 5-10 drops of juniper oil to your warm bathwater and then soak for 20-30 minutes, allowing your whole body to benefit from the anti-inflammatory capacity of this powerful oil.

Rosemary Oil

More popularly used for arthritis and fibromyalgia pain, this is also one of the best essential oils for back pain. Rosemary contains rosmarinic acid, an incredible antioxidant that can stimulate healing and soothe pain at the same time! [9]

How to Use – For analgesic effects, mix 5 drops of this potent oil with a tablespoon of coconut oil and then rub thoroughly into the painful area on your body, ensuring that the oil fully absorbs.

Basil Oil

When you are feeling both physical and mental fatigue, it can be easy to forget about posture, physical behavior, and muscle clenching. Basil oil can help to ease the body and mind, ensuring that tension isn’t the source of your back pain. [10]

How to Use – Add 3-4 drops of basil oil to a warm compress and apply it directly to the painful area of your back. Some people also like to simply sniff from the bottle, as the aromatic compounds in this oil are also highly effective for pain relief and mental clarity.

A Final Word of Warning

The anti-inflammatory and analgesic potential of essential oils for back pain is obvious, but using such potent oils does come with some modicum of risk. These oils are extremely concentrated, and some of the active ingredients can cause inflammation and irritation on the skin when used topically. This may also be due to an existing allergy. Furthermore, back pain cannot always be treated with at-home remedies; in the case of severe or debilitating back pain, or if your personal treatments do not alleviate the pain, it is best to speak with a medical professional and ensure that the pain isn’t being caused by a serious medical issue that requires attention.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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