9 Essential Oils for Muscle Pain & Inflammation

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

When muscles begin to ache, millions of people around the world turn to essential oils for muscle pain, given their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, healing, sedative, and anti-spasmodic nature. Muscle pain is basically defined as soreness or aching in the muscles and tendons in the body and tends to come in acute and chronic varieties. Acute muscle pain is typically short-term and is likely caused by a minor injury, strange movement, lifting something beyond your capacity, exercise after a long absence, or some other type of strain. While this pain can be serious, it tends to disappear relatively quickly. Chronic muscle pain may be caused by a more serious underlying condition, such as an infection or chronic disease, including lupus, flu, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and Lyme disease, among many others. While the symptoms (pain) can often be treated, it will inevitably return if the root cause isn’t addressed.

Muscle pain can come in many different forms and will vary in severity from a minor annoyance to a debilitating situation. The most common symptoms of muscle pain include tenderness of certain areas, redness, swelling, inflammation, itching, and pain ranging from dull aches to sharp, stabbing sensations. Clearly, everyone experiences muscle pain in different ways, but there are a number of proven ways to counter this discomfort. Natural remedies include everything from cold and hot compresses, massage, acupuncture, and yoga, but one of the most effective and popular approaches is essential oils. Using essential oils for muscle pain is an easy and natural solution to a global, seemingly universal problem! [1]

List of Best Essential Oils for Muscle Pain

If you are looking for effective essential oils for muscle pain, look no further than marjoram, clary sage, lavender, ginger, thyme, cypress, clove, black pepper, Roman chamomile and peppermint oils.

A young woman facing the wall suffering from a muscle pain with her hands on her neck

Muscle pain Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Black Pepper Oil

Although most people think of black pepper as something that makes you sneeze, and inflame your nostrils, black pepper oil and its active ingredient, piperine, is able to soothe inflammation and relieve pain when used properly, and in small doses. [2]

How to Use – You can apply this oil directly to the site of your sore muscles and it can quickly suck out the pain and swelling. It may cause a bit of skin inflammation in some, but generally, it is highly effective for muscle pain.

Roman Chamomile Oil

Muscle pain can be caused by everything from stress and tense muscles to indigestion or excessive exercise. Roman chamomile can address many of the potential causes behind muscle pain, ranging from its analgesic properties to its digestion-stimulating ability. It helps your body run normally while soothing inflamed tissues. [3]

How to Use – Mix Roman chamomile oil (4-5 drops) in a carrier oil, such as almond oil, and then apply it directly to the sore muscle area. You can also add 1-2 drops of the oil to a warm cup of tea for a reduction of inflammation from the inside out.

Sweet Marjoram Oil

Traditional use of sweet marjoram ranges from eliminating headaches and sore joints to relieving the pain of childbirth and gastrointestinal distress. Clearly, this oil is able to soothe both the body and mind and since it can help the gut return to normal, this can often impact the rest of the body. [4]

How to Use – One of the best ways to use this oil is for athletic performance. You can apply a few drops of this oil (undiluted) to the muscles before and after a workout to ensure top performance and a quick recovery.

Clary Sage Oil

This essential oil contains a number of active ingredients that are closely linked to reducing pain and preventing inflammatory reactions in the body. It also has anti-spasmodic properties, meaning that it is very effective for reducing menstrual and muscle cramps, which can often generate pain. [5]

How to Use – Many people choose to add 5-7 drops of this essential oil to their bathwater and then soak for 20-30 minutes. This will soothe the mind and clear up any uncomfortable inflammation in the muscles.

Cypress Oil

If you suffer from nervous tension or anxiety-induced muscle pain, cypress oil is an excellent anti-spasmodic and natural muscle relaxer. If you suffer from chronic stress or struggle to get normal sleep due to your muscle pain, use this oil for rapid relief. [6]

How to Use – The best way to benefit from this oil is to add 5-6 drops to warm bathwater before taking a nice long soak. This can prevent inflammation throughout the body and also is a topical pain reliever.

Clove Oil

Cloves are packed with pain-relieving compounds and active ingredients, and its essential oil is no different. It can remove pain quickly, while also delivering antioxidants to the tissues to repair any potential damage or small tears. Using this oil following workouts is a very popular solution for athletes. [7]

How to Use – You can mix clove oil with a carrier oil, such as almond oil or coconut oil, and then topically apply it to a sore area on the body. Furthermore, adding this oil to a bath before an evening soak can soothe muscles to induce good sleep.

Thyme Oil

Famed for its ability to soothe muscle and joint pain, particularly in cases of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, thyme oil has an active ingredient named thymol that has been widely researched and found to be an effective anti-inflammatory agent. [8]

How to Use – This oil is popular for the treatment of acute muscle pain, as it works quickly, and can be topically applied in an undiluted form directly on the muscle that has been strained or pulled.

Ginger Oil

Boasting analgesic, warming and muscle relaxant properties, ginger oil has long been used for sore muscles and inflammation, particularly in the stomach. However, the rich antioxidant content is also beneficial for topical applications and can be rubbed into sore muscles after being diluted with coconut or jojoba oil. [9]

How to Use – Adding a few drops of ginger oil to a cup of ginger tea can quickly soothe muscle inflammation and induce a calming feeling throughout your body, particularly your stomach.

Peppermint Oil

As one of the most famous essential oils for muscle pain, peppermint oil is a naturally soothing and cooling agent that can remove the heat from a strained muscle, while also reducing swelling, redness and inflammation of a strained muscle. Most importantly, it can numb a particular area that may be in pain, allowing for good sleep and time for the body to recover. [10]

How to Use – Unlike many essential oils, you can consume peppermint oil in small amounts, particularly in tea, and this can help treat inflammation from the inside out. However, it can also be applied in an undiluted form to a sore area of the body to relieve the discomfort of muscle pain.

Word of Caution: Applying essential oils for muscle pain may seem like an obvious and easy solution to an uncomfortable problem, but be cautious about the types of oils you use. Essential oils are highly concentrated substances, packed with active ingredients, some of which cause skin inflammation and allergic reactions, and can be dangerous if ingested (some oils, not all). Therefore, before you begin using essential oils for muscle pain, talk to your doctor about any particular health concerns, especially if you are already prescribed pain relievers or muscle relaxers. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, some chronic muscle pain is caused by more serious health conditions, so if these at-home treatments don’t relieve your muscle pain, be sure to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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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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