Lower back pain is so common that the majority of people (around 80%) will suffer from it at least once in their lifetime.
Most lower back injuries occur from strain in the spine’s supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. Though painful, these soft body tissues do receive nutrition from the blood supply to facilitate a natural healing process.
In other words, with time it should get better by itself.
This helps to explain why a prescription for pain relief is often the initial treatment that a conventional doctor will offer. Healing will come with time so, meanwhile, here's something for the pain.
Therapeutic essential oils for sciatica to enhance healing
In fact, essential oils and pure carrier oils can help for a range of lower back pain issues including sciatica, which can be related to one or more of the following conditions:
Degenerated intervertebral discs – wear and tear can create painful inflammation and compress nerves.
Disc hernia – a damaged or ‘slipped’ disc can create severe pain and nerve compression.
Sacroiliac Joint dysfunction – hyper or restricted mobility in the spine-sacrum joint can compress nerves and cause inflammation.
Slipped vertebra – from trauma, or more commonly from accumulative stress to lower vertebral bridging bones. Often without symptoms but can compress nerves.
Osteoarthritis – friction from worn facet joints can cause bone spurs, inflammation and nerve pressure.
Sciatica – a term often used loosely in self-diagnosis. Sciatica refers to any pain created by impingement on the sciatic nerve (it extends from lower back, down each leg to foot). Its cause can be related to various conditions (see above).
Should I wait to see if it goes away naturally before I seek professional help for back pain?
As a doctor of Osteopathy and Naturopathy, I approach the first month of back pain as a critical time for assessment and treatment, with a view to reducing the risk of recurrence or the development of increasingly chronic conditions.
The lower back gives us a large part of our capacity for multi-directional mobility. But as the weight-bearing structure for the torso as well, the lower back is also the area of the spine subject to the most strain.
It is especially the lowest vertebrae (L3-L4, L4-L5, L5-Sacrum), which are the biggest unfused vertebrae of the spine and their intervertebral discs, that bear the most weight. Therefore these are often most affected by injury and degeneration.
The body work used to help relieve back pain involves:
- Stretching muscles and ligaments
- Relaxing muscles
- Restoring and promoting movement mechanics
- Supporting blood flow and drainage
- Easing pressure on nerves
A complete assessment of diet, posture, exercise, work and lifestyle habits may also be important for an effective treatment plan.
Pure Essential Oils and Carrier Oils are excellent professional tools for treating back pain
One of the reasons I am so passionate about Therapeutic Plant Oils as both alternatives and complements to conventional medicines is that I have witnessed first-hand how useful they are in specific treatments.
I know that by using them in focused body work on a back pain issue, I am able to reduce the need for pain killers or eliminate them altogether. This means I can encourage a purer, more organic environment for optimum body healing.
This reminds me of a case that illustrates this topic well. A 45-year-old oil mechanic who tried to catch an engine before it fell on his foot came into the clinic bent over at 90 degrees, unable to straighten.
This man was in agony. He was only able to get up on the table with a great deal of assistance.
We applied Peppermint, Lavender True and Black Pepper, to a combined dose of 10 drops direct to the lower back. I worked on his back and by the end, he was able to walk out, upright. The area was still tender, but he continued to apply the blend three times a day for five days.
When he returned to see me, he was virtually pain-free. Even I was impressed!
Therapeutic Plant Oils contain active natural compounds that can enhance circulation and boost nutritional input directly to the site of an injury or strain for a more effective healing process.
At the same time, it is also possible to include analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. These help reduce the pain of the body’s response to injury without inhibiting the natural healing purpose therein.
Essential Oil Recipe for Sciatic Nerve Pain or Lower Back Pain
Pepper Black Piper nigrum
A stimulating and warming essential oil that enhances circulation to aid the transport of nutrients to muscles and tendons for effective tissue repair. Pepper Black contains analgesic properties to help manage pain in localised areas.
Blend 3-5 drops with ½ teaspoon of carrier oil, or on a hot compress. Not suitable during pregnancy.
Wintergreen Gaultheria fragrantissima
With a high content of the main ingredient used in aspirin (natural methyl salicylate), Wintergreen is well-known as a pain-relieving essential oil used for its cortisone-like effect. Wintergreen also has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties that offer benefits for joint and muscle pain.
Add up to 10 drops to a bath (15 mins), massage oil or hot compress. Combine also with Lavender True (5 drops each) for additional nerve-calming benefits. Not suitable during pregnancy.
Spruce Black Picea mariana
A stimulating essential oil on circulation to aid muscle and tendon repair with nervine, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties for support against painful symptoms. It is also a detoxifying body tonic that helps to fortify general stamina and immunity for chronic conditions.
Add 3-5 drops to massage blends (max 10 essential oil drops total for 1 teaspoon carrier oil). Safe during pregnancy.
Lavender True Lavandula angustifolia maillette
Proven to calm nerve activity with analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties, Lavender is a great essential oil to include in back care blends. Massage a few drops direct to area or blend with other oils to combine to maximum essential oil dosage.
Use 5-10 drops for bath and in a teaspoon of carrier for massage. Safe during pregnancy.
Peppermint Mentha piperita
This essential oil has both analgesic and stimulating properties that work simultaneously to enhance circulation for body repair and to create a numbing effect on pain. Peppermint can be used neat on localised pain (not sensitive skin) and has a cooling effect on inflammation. It is also fortifying and referred to as liquid ice.
Apply 1-2 drops direct or dilute 5-10 drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil for massage. Not recommended during pregnancy.
Castor Oil Ricinus communis
A powerful base oil to add nutrient-rich tissue care to body repair blends (make sure you use unsulphanated / organic). Castor Oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and immune-supporting properties and is especially beneficial for supporting lymphatic drainage. Castor Oil also promotes healthy circulation.
Up to 5 drops of essential oil/s to 1 tsp. Not recommended during pregnancy.
Arnica Oil: Infused
Deeply nourishing and easily absorbed to carry classic arnica healing properties into body systems. Analgesic, anti-inflammatory and circulatory benefits for damaged joints, muscles, tendons and areas of bruising.
Add 5 drops essential oil/s to 1 tsp. Blend also with Castor Oil 50/50. Not suitable during pregnancy.
For natural care of back pain during pregnancy:
Maternity Massage Balm is an action-formulated, body-ready blend for therapeutic care during pregnancy. Sweet Almond Oil is a great soothing carrier oil to use for blending with pregnancy-safe essential oils - see above for recommendations, and also Nutmeg and Spearmint.
Medicinal-grade essential oils must be 100% pure. At Absolute Essential we use certified organic or wild grown (sustainable) plants to produce our oils and all extraction processes are strictly controlled to produce the best quality oil with a maximum purity and therapeutic value. See more at Absolute Essential