The Top 17 Essential Oils for Muscle Pain Relief (Based on Studies)

The Top 17 Essential Oils to relieve Muscle Pain
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There are many effective essential oils for muscle pain that have relaxing and analgesic properties. You can experience muscle pain after strenuous exercising, a tired and stressful day at work, or you may suffer from chronic muscle pain every day. These situations can leave muscles feeling tight, tense, stiff and a feeling that you have knots in your muscles.

Massaging chamomile oil, peppermint oil, lavender oil or sage essential oil can help to ease tension in muscles and quickly get rid of the muscle pain. Using essential oils for muscle pain will not only help relax sore muscles but will also improve your mood and calm your mind.

You can use essential oils for all kinds of muscle pain, both acute muscle pain and chronic muscle pain. For example, essential oils can be used for helping to manage chronic back pain, relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, or help reduce inflammation caused by muscle overexertion. The benefits of using essential oils for helping to get rid of muscle pain is that you can try a combination of different oils together and they have fewer side effects than common analgesics.

Although most people can use essential oils to relieve muscle soreness, and you will find detailed instructions on how to use them later on, there are some precautions about using essential oils that you can read about at the end of the article.

What is Muscle Pain?

The medical name for muscle pain is myalgia. According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet, myalgia describes any kind of pain that occurs in the muscles and can be caused by injury, strenuous workouts, infections, or inflammatory conditions. Muscle pain can affect only one area of the body; for example, lower back pain is a common place to feel muscle pain. Or, you could suffer from general chronic pain like fibromyalgia.1

Muscle pain can range from a mild ache in one muscle group, or the pain can be debilitating and affect your daily activities. Because it can be difficult to find the real cause of what is causing muscle soreness, getting rid of muscle pain quickly can be a challenge.

Symptoms and Causes of Muscle Pain

The most common reason that people look for remedies to get rid of muscle pain is due to minor injuries. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that common reasons for feeling localized muscle pain are tension, stress, and overuse injuries.2

For example, you could experience localized muscle pain after working out or exercising. Doctors from the National Health Service say that muscle stiffness or aches are common a day or two after exercising. This can cause what is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and happens after rigorous physical exercise.3

Another cause of painful muscles is muscle contractions that cause muscle cramping. This can occur suddenly and last from a few seconds to several minutes. According to doctors from WebMD, muscle cramps can often occur at nighttime and result in painful spasms. Sometimes, poor blood circulation, a mineral deficiency, or not drinking enough fluids can be to blame for leg muscle cramping.4

Other reasons for general muscle pain that can affect one or more areas of your body are the flu virus, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis. Along with having sore and painful muscles, Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler says that you might have a fever caused by an infection, tenderness in the muscles, swelling or redness.1

Why Essential Oils are Effective for Muscle Pain Relief

Using essential oils for muscle pain has a long history as an effective remedy for getting rid of aches and pains in muscles.

Essential oils help in a number of ways to help relieve pain from aching muscles. For example, massaging essential oils helps to relieve muscle tension, gets rid of knots, and increases blood flow to the affected area. Essential oils also have an analgesic effect that helps to relieve muscle tightness and stiffness. Also, the aroma from many pain-relieving essential oils helps to change a person’s perception of pain.

The journal Pain Research and Treatment reported in 2016 that aromatherapy is an effective pain relieving natural treatment. Studies have found that using essential oils to treat the symptoms of pain helped reduce chronic pain. For example, using lavender, rosemary, and peppermint oils helped reduce pain by around 30% in people with chronic shoulder pain.5

Another study found that using black pepper, marjoram, lavender and peppermint essential oils helped to relieve neck pain when massaged daily to the painful area. The researchers of the study concluded that these essential oils showed significant improvement in the symptoms of neck pain.6

The Top 17 Essential Oils for Muscle Pain Relief

Let’s look at the best 17 essential oils for muscle pain relief. You will also see the scientific research behind these essential oils and why they are especially useful for treating the symptoms of muscular aches and pains. At the end of this article, you will see how to use these essential oils to get rid of your muscle pain.

1. Peppermint essential oil for muscle pain

The pain relieving and cooling properties of peppermint oil make this a great essential oil for natural pain relief for sore muscles. Peppermint oil contains menthol that can help to relieve arthritic muscle pain and, at the same time, help to relieve the symptoms of the flu that also cause aches in joints and muscles.

Peppermint oil can also help with chronic pain relief that is a symptom of fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome. The Indian Journal of Anaesthesia reported that the topical application of peppermint essential oil can relieve chronic muscle pain and help relax your muscles.7

2. Lavender oil

Lavender oil is a very popular oil when it comes to getting rid of muscular pains quickly. Lavender oil is a well-known essential oil for getting rid of headaches and easing anxiety. However, the muscle pain-relieving properties of lavender are also great to ease arm, thigh, or lower back muscle tension after a workout.

One of the reasons that lavender oil is good for muscle aches is that it is both anti-inflammatory and an analgesic. A study from 2015 into the medicinal properties of lavender found that it has powerful compounds that help get rid of tension from stressed muscles. Researchers found that lavender essential oil has pain-relieving properties similar to a popular pharmaceutical drug prescribed for reducing arthritis inflammation.8

3. Clary sage essential oil

To help get rid of muscle cramps after a strenuous physical workout or muscle injury, you can use clary sage essential oil. Clary sage oil has an analgesic effect when applied topically to tired and injured muscles and has a calming effect to help you relax and relieve muscle tension. Also, if you suffer from night leg cramps, then clary sage can be massaged into your leg muscles in the morning and evening.

According to studies published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, clary sage essential oil has many therapeutic properties. In fact, it was found that clary sage can help to relieve muscle cramps and ease tension. Because it also controls sebum levels on the skin, it is a great essential oil if you also suffer from acne.9

4. Chamomile essential oil

Another essential oil that is a natural muscle relaxer is chamomile oil. You can add a few drops of chamomile oil to sweet almond oil or other carrier oil to calm aching muscles. There are many health benefits to using chamomile oil and helping to soothe muscle tension and muscle spasms are just a few.

According to the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, chamomile contains beneficial compounds that are helpful to ease muscle pain. The study found that chamomile extracts help to inhibit neurotransmitter signals that are connected with pain perception and help to relax blood vessels.10

Other studies have pointed to the effectiveness of using chamomile extracts to treat chronic rheumatic pain and back pain.11

The fact that chamomile oil is easily absorbed into the skin makes this an effective essential oil to use with carrier oils for fast muscle pain relief.

5. Eucalyptus oil

You can use the cooling effect of eucalyptus oil to rub on sore muscles to help get rid of aches and pains after working out. Eucalyptus essential oil can also be used together with other oils to help treat the symptoms of various forms of myalgia like lower back pain, rheumatoid pain, and fibromyalgia.

Various studies into the medicinal properties of eucalyptus have shown that it has many uses in treating muscle soreness. For example, the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine reported that a topical treatment of eucalyptus essential oil can ease the muscle pain of rheumatoid arthritis and chronic muscle aches. You can also use eucalyptus to get rid of other types of pain like headaches, treat respiratory infections naturally, and get relief from joint aches.9

6. Rosemary oil

Rosemary oil is a natural muscle relaxer that helps reduce muscle pain that appears a day or two after exercising. Gently massaging massage oil containing rosemary essential oil can help relieve DOMS symptoms and speed up muscle injury recovery. Like many other essential oils, rosemary has an analgesic effect that helps to relieve inflammation from sore muscles.

Rosemary can also be used to effectively manage chronic pain and help reduce a person’s reliance on pain-relieving medication. For example, a research published in the journal European Review for Medicinal and Pharmacological Sciences found that rosemary has analgesic properties. In one study, rosemary boosted the effectiveness of common painkillers and had a therapeutic effect when used in conjunction with pain-relieving medication.12

7. Black pepper oil

Adding black pepper oil to your pain-relieving massage oil can help to increase its effectiveness and help ease tension from stressed muscles. Rubbing black pepper oil into aching muscles helps to warm up the sore area and increase blood circulation, which is important in chronic and acute pain management.

A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a massage oil containing black pepper helped relieve chronic neck pain. Patients applied the essential oil cream containing black pepper daily for 4 weeks. All reported a significant reduction in their painful symptoms.6

8. Thyme oil

Thyme essential oil is a very effective oil for muscle pain and easing muscle stiffness after exercising. Sometimes all you need to do is add some thyme essential oil to massage oil and gently rub into your lower back, biceps, thighs, or chest muscles to help release muscle tension.

Researchers have found that thyme contains compounds that work in the same way as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs work. The Journal of Lipid Research reported that thyme extracts contain enzymes that act as COX-2 inhibitors to help suppress pain perception and reduce muscle inflammation.13 The natural analgesic properties of thyme help get rid of muscle pain without causing side effects like some NSAIDs do.

9. Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood essential oil is especially useful in treating muscle spasms and helping to relieve muscle pain. Sandalwood essential oil works in a similar way to the pain-inhibiting properties of thyme oil and can be used to massage into painful muscles to get rid of knots and tension.

According to the journal Phytotherapy Research, extracts from sandalwood have an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect similar to ibuprofen and other analgesics. The researchers said that sandalwood has a beneficial use in reducing pain caused by inflammation.14

10. Ginger oil

Ginger has many uses in helping to relieve pain and inflammation and ginger oil can help to soothe sore muscles. Many people use ginger supplements to help treat arthritis pain in joints. However, ginger oil can be added to massage oil and use to treat painful muscle strains and pains.

Many professional masseurs use ginger oil to treat various types of muscle pain, including lower back pain. The journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine reported that ginger oil is an effective essential oil for muscle relaxation and treating sore muscles. It was found that there were “significant improvements in pain intensity” and that ginger oil can be used for short-term muscle pain relief and for treating chronic pain.15

11. Frankincense oil

Frankincense essential oil is an important pain-relieving essential oil to help ease soreness and tension from strained muscles. Frankincense also helps to reduce painful muscles because it is also helpful in reducing chronic stress and anxiety. So, frankincense  essential oil helps both relax muscle pain when applied topically and also remove some of the causes of muscle tension.

Scientific research also backs up the use of frankincense as a natural muscle pain reliever. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that frankincense essential oil has active ingredients that act as an analgesic. These properties help to reduce the feelings of pain and also reduce inflammation and stiffness in sore muscles.16

12. Arnica oil

Arnica is effective for reducing muscle pain and also helping to prevent bruising from an injury that has caused sore, aching muscles. Topical creams containing arnica or homemade arnica massage oils can be used to rub into painful muscles to help ease the pain quickly.

Arnica can also help to prevent and reduce muscle pain after a strenuous workout or another kind of physical activity. The European Journal of Sport Science wrote on the positive pain-relieving effect of massaging arnica to muscles after intense exercise. It was found that arnica helped to provide relief from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) 3 days after intensive exercising.17

13. Wintergreen oil

If you suffer from lower back pain, muscle aches due to fibromyalgia, or other types of sore muscles, then you should rub wintergreen essential oil to the sore areas. Wintergreen essential oil works in a similar way to aspirin; however, it gets rid of pain without any unpleasant side effects.

Scientific studies into the benefits of using wintergreen for relieving muscle pain found that applying it to the lower back helps to ease painful symptoms. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that wintergreen essential oil was just as useful as painkillers in managing lower back pain.18

14. Lemongrass oil

Lemongrass oil makes a refreshing home remedy to rub into sore and painful muscles. A massage oil containing jojoba oil or sweet almond oil and lemongrass is a great way to reduce pain associated with rheumatism and other long-term muscle pain conditions.

Compounds of lemongrass help to inhibit inflammatory responses that can result in muscle pain. The journal Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids reported that lemongrass contains enzymes that inhibit neurotransmitters that are associated with perceived pain. This essential oil can help to ease sore muscles and reduce inflammation when applied topically.19

15. Vetiver

You may not have heard of vetiver oil for muscle pain relief, but it is used in many countries to ease all kinds of muscle soreness and inflammation. Rubbing vetiver oil into your skin helps to improve your blood circulation and also has a positive effect on your nervous system – all of which can help to speed up the healing time of muscle pain.

According to doctors from WebMD, vetiver oil is used for muscle pain, helping to relieve stress and anxiety, and treating the symptoms of rheumatism.20

16. Marjoram essential oil

To get rid of muscle pain from a sore back, strained muscles, or fibromyalgia, add some drops of marjoram essential oil to your massage oil.

Studies have shown that marjoram essential oil together with black pepper oil, lavender, and peppermint essential oils helped to relieve chronic muscle pain when rubbed into the painful area daily.6

17. Helichrysum essential oil

Helichrysum essential oil is a powerful pain reliever that can also help to repair damaged skin. Helichrysum essential oil is anti-inflammatory and analgesic and can help manage many chronic pain conditions. You can also apply helichrysum oil directly to an injury to reduce muscle pain and prevent bruising.

The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology reported that helichyrsum was found to have a corticoid-like effect which helps to lower inflammation.29 According to doctors from Medicinenet, corticosteroid injection can offer fast-acting relief of inflamed muscles, joints, tendons, and bursa. However long-term complications of corticosteroid injections depend on the dose and frequency of the injections.30

Application of helichrysum can be done by using a few drops mixed with a carrier oil and massaging it into the painful area.

How to Use Essential Oils to Relieve Sore Muscles

When using essential oils for muscle pain, it’s important to remember that essential oils are too powerful to use directly on the skin. When rubbing essential oils on your skin for relieving muscle stiffness, tension, and soreness, you need to dilute the oils or a combination of analgesic essential oils in a carrier oil.

To make your own massage oil at home for treating painful muscles and other aches and pains, you can use any of the following carrier oils:

Jojoba oil is a very beneficial oil for your skin because its constitution is very close to sebum – the natural oil the skin produces to protect it. According to some studies, jojoba makes a great carrier oil for analgesic essential oils because it helps the oils get absorbed into the skin easier.21

Extra virgin olive oil can help boost the pain-relieving properties of many essential oils because it has an analgesic effect. Studies have also shown that olive oil has properties that can help reduce inflammation when applied topically.22

Virgin Coconut oil is an excellent therapeutic oil for diluting carrier oils because it also helps to ease pain and inflammation on the skin. Studies have shown that coconut oil easily penetrates to the skin and helps to provide deep healing when combined with essential oils.23

Castor oil can help to relieve muscle pain when used along with essential oils. Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid which has been shown in scientific studies to have similar properties to capsaicin.24 Research has shown that capsaicin also has the potential to help manage chronic muscle pain.18

Other great carrier oils which you can also use are sweet almond oil, avocado oil, peach kernel oil, apricot kernel oil, grape seed oil and rosehip oil.

How to use essential oils for muscle pain relief

It is very easy to use essential oils to provide deep pain relief to sore and aching muscles. This is what you should do:

  1. Dilute 10-12 drops of essential oil in 1 oz. (30 ml) of carrier oil.
  2. Massage the essential oil muscle pain remedy to the affected area 2 times a day.
  3. Make sure that the oil is absorbed well into the skin.
  4. Continue using every day until you no longer have muscle pain, stiffness, or aching.

You can experiment with a mixture of essential oils to find a blend that is perfect for you. Just remember to keep the proportions.

Because essential oils are excellent to prevent DOMS after exercising, you can massage your pain-relieving essential oil blend to your arms, chest, thighs, and lower back after showering.

Other Ways to Relieve Muscle Pain

Essential oils for sore muscles should be used in conjunction with other natural muscle pain relief methods. These pain relief options can help to manage chronic pain that you have to deal with every day or to help muscles recover quicker after injury or exercising.

Soak in a bath

One way to help relieve chronic muscle pain is to soak in a warm bath to relax your muscles. According to the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, soaking in a bath helps reduce pressure on muscles, joints, and bones. Also, the warm water can help relax muscles and have a significant effect on pain relief.25

You can also add 1-2 cups of Epsom salt to enhance the effect – Read more about it in my article about Epsom salt bath and foot soak – Benefits and recipes.

Heat therapy

If you have sore muscles for more than 2 or 3 days after strenuous exercising you can use heat packs to help promote muscle recovery and reduce pain. Heat pads can also be used on areas of your body where you have chronic muscle pain.

Dr. Jan Sambrook on Patient.info says that heat helps to improve blood circulation to help heal damaged tissues and reduce muscle spasms. You should make sure that the heat pack is warm, not hot. Heat therapy is a good solution for aching muscles, muscle pain from fibromyalgia, or cramping abdominal pain.26

Warm up before exercising

It is always important to warm up properly before exercising to help prevent muscle pain and injury. According to the Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, warming up before strenuous physical activity helps to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).27

For other ideas on how to treat muscle pain, read my article about the best home treatments for muscle soreness.

Precautions when Using Essential Oils for Muscle Pain Relief

Although essential oils are generally safe for everyone and they can help to quickly relieve muscle aches, there are some things to keep in mind when using essential oils.

Here are 3 essential precautions when using essential oils to get pain relief:

  • Don’t use essential oils directly on your skin without diluting them.
  • Don’t use essential oils if you are pregnant or on young children without first consulting with a certified aromatherapist.
  • Don’t use too much essential oil in the home remedy. 4 drops of essential oil for every tablespoon of carrier oil is usually strong enough.

Muscle Pain – When to See a Doctor

Usually, essential oils are effective home remedies to help relieve and manage acute or chronic pain. However, some types of chronic muscle pain shouldn’t be ignored and require investigation by a medical professional. According to Dr. Linda Vorvick on MedlinePlus, you should see a doctor for muscle pain in the following circumstances:28

  • Your muscle pain lasts for more than 3 days and natural remedies don’t help.
  • You have signs of poor blood circulation where the muscles are sore.
  • The muscle pain started when you started taking or changed medicine.
  • You have signs of infection around the area of the sore muscle.
  • You have muscle pains in your chest that radiate to your left arm or jaw.

If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy. This e-book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.

If you are interested to make your own oils to relieve pain, read my other articles:

Article Sources

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  8. An Acad Bras Cienc.2015 Aug;87(2 Suppl):1397-408.
  9. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2015 Aug;5(8):601-611.
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  11. Mol Med Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895–901.
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  13. J Lipid Res. 2010 Jan;51:132-139.
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  16. J Ethnopharmacol.2016 Feb 17;179:22-6.
  17. Eur J Sport2014;14(3):294-300.
  18. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Apr 1; 20(4): 219–220.
  19. Mol Cell Bio Lipids. Nov 2010;1801(11): 1214–1220.
  20. WebMD. Vetiver.
  21. G Ital Dermatol Venereol.2013 Dec;148(6):687-91.
  22. Z Naturforsch C.2000 Sep-Oct;55(9-10):814-9.
  23. Pharm Biol.2010 Feb;48(2):151-7.
  24. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol.2001 Aug;364(2):87-95.
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