Back pain, which can be anything from a sudden sharp pain or a dull lingering ache from the neck down to the lower back, affects millions of Americans each year [1, 2].

It can be caused by numerous factors such as aging, poor physical fitness, excess weight, frequent sitting, smoking, and diseases such as cancer and arthritis [1].

Aromatherapy and massage using essential oils are some of the natural remedies that work in alleviating back pain.

In this article you’ll learn about some effective essential oils and their uses in relieving back pain and its symptoms. 

11 Essential Oils for Back Pain Relief

1. Chamomile Oil

One of the most ancient medicinal plants that that have been used by man to cure ailments is chamomile [3].

This plant, which comes in two types (Roman and German), is loaded with flavonoids and terpenoids that give it medicinal properties [3].

For years, preparations made from dried chamomile flowers are used to treat rheumatic pain, menstrual discomfort, muscular spasms, inflammation, stomach ache and hemorrhoids [3].

As you can notice, most of the conditions it can treat are related to pain, so it’s no wonder this is also used to treat a sore back.

Its oil extract has been utilized since the sixth century to relieve an aching back [3].

Today, people still use it for these problems up to now, as chamomile has been scientifically proven as a sedative, antispasmodic, and anxiolytic [4].

Scientists recognize that by investigating the curative and therapeutic purposes of chamomile oil, people will be able to use it to more to promote health and wellness [3].

How to use chamomile oil for back pain:

Combine six drops of chamomile, four drops of cinnamon oils with 15 ml of olive oil. Store in a glass jar with a lid. Pour a few drops on your palm. Massage your back gently with this oil blend.

2. Ginger Oil

One of the most popular remedies for pain is ginger oil.

Studies have shown that the extract from ginger rhizomes worked as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent that can ameliorate back pain [5, 6, 7].

Researchers from Naples, Italy tested the effects of ginger oil on rats using carrageenan-induced paw swelling, and yielded positive results [5].

This makes it highly useful for back pains that are accompanied by inflammation.

Contributing to these beneficial actions is its active compound known as gingerol, the same one responsible for its pungent odor [6].

In a trial involving 56 patients with muscle pain, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, those who used ginger experienced great relief in pain [7].

Even after using ginger for a long time (from three months to 2.5 years), no adverse reactions have been reported [7].

In a study published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, meanwhile, ginger oil is one of the herbal solutions that have been proven effective in treating osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain [8].

essential oils for back pain

Recommended directions of using ginger oil for back pain :

Mix nine drops of ginger oil and three drops of chamomile oil with 15 ml. of jojoba oil. Store oil mixture in a glass jar. Each time you feel pain in the back, apply a small amount. Massage the back muscles gently.

3. Lavender Oil

Whenever you’re feeling burnt out or stressed, go and grab a bottle of lavender oil to inhale and you’ll feel so much better afterwards.

This is no old wives’ tale, it’s actually a scientifically proven remedy.

For many centuries, lavender oil has been used for sedation, relaxation and pain [9].

Its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties have been proven in bodies of research [10].

Iranian scientists studied the pain-relieving effects of lavender on rats and found that it can reduce the frequency of muscle constrictions and tone down swelling [10].

In 2004, researchers from Hong Kong assessed the efficacy of acupressure and application of lavender oil in treating acute and chronic low back pain [11].

Some of the participants were asked to engage in an 8-session relaxation acupoint stimulation and acupressure with lavender oil for more than three weeks [11].

The rest were given standard treatment for pain [11].

By the end of treatment, the group that received acupressure with lavender oil experienced 39 percent less pain [11].

They also had an improved walking time as well as more flexible range [11].

All these were achieved with no harmful side effects [11].

Lavender oil blend for back pain relief:

Dilute eight drops of lavender, 10 drops of rosemary, and six drops of juniper essential oils with ½ ounces of sweet almond oil. Apply oil mixture on the back. Do this three times a day for one week.


4. Eucalyptus Oil

With its minty aroma and cooling effects on the skin, it’s not hard to imagine eucalyptus oil as a potent pain reliever.

Its ability to provide pain relief has long been established in several studies [12, 13].

Using experimental models such as acetic-induced writhing in mice, it was proven that eucalyptus oil has analgesic properties that affect both central and peripheral parts of nervous system [12].

There was also sufficient evidence to prove its anti-inflammatory effects, which can also be beneficial for those who suffer from back pain [13].

In 2012, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a topical solution designed for treating acute upper or lower back pain, and took note that eucalyptus works to relieve not only pain but also stiffness of the back [14].

At the same time, it can improve physical functioning of the body [14].

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 drops of peppermint oil
  • 3 drops of oregano oil
  • 2 drops of lavender oil
  • 2 drops of cedarwood oil
  • 2 tablespoons of almond oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Put all ingredients in a glass jar.
  • Seal with a lid.
  • Shake to blend all the oils.
  • Massage mixture gently on your back each time you feel pain.

5. Peppermint Oil

A perennial herb native to Europe but now also grown in Canada, United States and other countries, peppermint is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint [15].

Like eucalyptus, it’s also famous for its refreshing minty smell and cooling effects.

Peppermint’s active compound called menthol causes a cooling sensation when applied on the skin [16].

This is also the same compound responsible for its analgesic and antinociceptive activities [17].

By blocking the pain signals from getting to your brain, peppermint can help reduce the pain felt in the back area.

This makes it a suitable natural approach for treating back ache, whether in the upper or lower part.

Simple peppermint oil recipe for treating back pain:

Mix ten drops of eucalyptus, eight drops of marjoram, and two drops of black pepper oil in one cup of olive oil. Apply a small amount on your back. Massage for a few minutes. Repeat as needed to get rid of back pain.

6. Rosemary Oil

Since the ancient times, rosemary has been cultivated in many countries in Europe such as Germany, Denmark, France, and England, and in some parts of Central America [18].

The oil extracted from the fresh leaves and flower petals of this plant through a process called steam distillation has been used by folk healers for many health problems [18].

Some of these include eczema, boils, wounds, respiratory ailments, colic, and dysmenorrhea, among others [18].

It has also been found to be highly effective in curbing pain-related conditions.

A study featured in the Psychosomatic Medicine journal pointed out that inhalation of essential oils with analgesic properties such as rosemary oil can reduce intensity of pain [19].

Many studies confirm that rosemary oil is a potent analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive, and can therefore work wonders in alleviating back pain [20, 21, 22].

All these are done using animal subjects induced with pain and swelling, but to further establish its efficacy and safety for this condition, more trials involving should also be conducted.

What You’ll Need:

  • 10 drops of rosemary oil
  • 1 pot of water

Recommended Directions:

  • Bring the pot of water to boil.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add ten drops of rosemary oil.
  • Transfer to a bowl.
  • Move closely to the bowl.
  • Inhale the steam.
  • Repeat several times a day for one to two weeks.

7. Thyme Oil

In the ancient times, Greeks used thyme as incense in the temples while the Romans added this herb to dishes [23].

Today, many people use this herbal remedy for various ailments including back pain.

Scientists have discovered that thyme works as an antinociceptive, blocking pain signals in the brain [24, 25].

It has been noted to have muscle-relaxing effects, which is why it works so great for your aching back [24].

As long as thyme oil is used according to directions, it won’t produce any harmful side effects such as skin irritation.

This usually only happens when thyme oil is used undiluted.

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 drops of thyme oil
  • 5 drops of peppermint oil
  • 3 drops of lavender oil
  • 5 ml of olive oil
  • Hot towel

Recommended Directions:

  • Add essential oils to olive oil.
  • Pour a small amount of oil mixture into a hot towel.
  • Gently press hot towel on your aching back.
  • Repeat as necessary.

8. Clary Sage Oil

Native to southern Europe, clary sage is considered as “one of the most important aromatic plants” in the world that possesses various medicinal properties [26].

One of the many ailments it can treat is back pain.

If you can no longer tolerate the stiffness and pain on your back that makes it difficult for you to perform even simple tasks, you can try use this pain-relieving essential oil.

As studies have shown, clary sage oil works as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, sedative and antinociceptive [27, 28, 29].

All these properties make it a viable treatment for back pain and other painful conditions.

Clary sage oil bath for soothing back pain:

Add 30 drops of clary sage oil to bath water. Soak in the bath for 30 to 40 minutes. Do this everyday until pain subsides.

9. Yarrow Oil

Yarrow is a “safe and well-tolerated” medicinal plant that’s widely used for resolving skin conditions, digestive problems and respiratory ailments [30].

It also works as a mild sedative, which is why it can also be used in relieving back pain [30].

On top of these, researchers reveal that it can relax muscles, reduce inflammation, block signal pains in the brain [31, 32].

That’s not all, this oil can also help tone down stress levels associated with pain disorders [31, 32].

How to use yarrow essential oil for treating back pain:

Add six drops of yarrow oil to one tablespoon of jojoba oil. Put mixture on a piece of cloth.

Attach cloth on the painful areas of your back. Secure with a tape.

10. Turmeric Oil

A perennial herb commonly grown in Asian countries like China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, turmeric is known for its efficacy in treating cough, diabetic wounds, allergies, indigestion, rheumatism, sinusitis, and many other problems [33].

It can also come to your aid when you can no longer the pain in your back.

Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is what contributes to many of its pharmacological effects, including being an analgesic and anti-inflammatory [33].

Its analgesia has been confirmed in an animal controlled trial that included 36 male wistar rats induced with pain [34].

Results show that the rats demonstrated less intensity of pain after being administered with turmeric oil [34].

Human trials, meanwhile, not only prove turmeric’s effectiveness but also its safety and tolerability [35].

essential oils for back pain

How to use turmeric oil for relieving back pain:

Combine five drops of turmeric oil with one tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl. Mix well.

Apply oil blend on your back. Massage gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat remedy two to three times a day until pain is gone.

11. Frankincense Oil

Many people have relied on frankincense oil for painful conditions like back ache.

You should also try it for yourself.

Its pain-relieving activities have been verified in numerous studies [36, 37, 38].

Apart from being an analgesic, it is also confirmed as a mild sedative [38].

These are enough to convince you that this remedy does indeed work, and more importantly, it doesn’t cause any harmful side effects.

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 drops of frankincense oil
  • 3 drops of lavender oil
  • 1 tablespoon of almond oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Put the oils in a bowl.
  • Transfer to a jar with lid.
  • Shake to blend well.
  • Use a cloth to apply oil mixture on your back.
  • Press gently for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Use this technique each time you feel pain in your back.

When to See a Doctor

The essential oil remedies discussed here are not the complete solutions to back pain. It’s necessary that you consult a medical professional to get yourself diagnosed properly and seek for necessary treatments. You should visit a doctor immediately in case you experience the following symptoms:

  • If the pain is constant and doesn’t relieve on its own.
  • Fatigue and numbness of the arms and spinal area.
  • The tingling pain is spreading down your arms and legs.
  • Intense pain at night.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Intense fever with back pain.

Bottom Line

Back pain can make even the simplest tasks difficult.

The problem can hamper your productivity. Some essential oils for back pain may provide temporary relief due to their potent analgesic, and soothing properties.

However, you should be concerned of the optimum health of your spine and consult a doctor for proper treatments.

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