The versatility and effectiveness of essential oils is simply heaven sent. But then it should come as no surprise because ancient civilizations tapped into the healing power of essential oils for healing, soothing and relaxing the body.
The botanical world of plants has great healing mysteries and essential oils are one of them. Although the ancient medicine men did not have the sophisticated technology available to us today, they used essential oils as well as other different herbs with great efficacy, to treat many ailments.
With today’s advances, the surface that ancient civilizations scratched about essential oils, is now being explored even further with amazing advances and discoveries.
We know for a fact today that essential oils are beneficial for reducing anxiety, treating acne, encouraging bowel movement and that they are largely used in cosmetics for their astringent, nourishing and healing properties.
Essential oils in aromatherapy have taken off as the world embraces and discovers its benefits.
You can now experience the wholeness of essential oils in your car, for moistening the dry air, soothing flu and cold and for pleasant relaxing aromas through innovative gadgets like essential oil diffusers. Also, you can sleep better by diffusing selected essential oils in your bedroom at home or in a hotel room by using portable diffusers.
These are just but a few examples of how these oils add health goodness to our everyday lives.
But you have to wonder, for all the praise that essential oils have received, can they work for more complex medical situations like nerve pain?
- What is nerve pain?
- What are the most common types of nerve pain?
- Can essential oils be of help for nerve pain?
- How to use essential oils for nerve pain?
- Essential oils for nerve pain relief
- Essential oil blends for nerve pain
What is nerve pain?
In defining nerve pain, it’s important to understand what role nerves play in our body and the fact that there are different types of nerves with various vital functions throughout the body.
The human body is intricately constructed, and the nervous system is at the very heart of the proper functioning of the body. Nerves are involved in controlling your muscles, regulating your breathing and sensing heat or cold.
There are three types of nerves in the body:
- Autonomic nerves – these nerves are responsible for controlling those body actions that are partially voluntary or are completely involuntary including: digestion, blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature regulation
- Motor nerves – these type of nerves are responsible for passing information from your brain to the spinal chord and to your muscles and play a major role in controlling your movements and actions
- Sensory nerves – these types of nerves are the ones responsible for feeling pain and other various sensations. They do so by sending communication from your skin and muscles back to your spinal chord and the brain
Nerve pain radiates along the nerve path and originates from one or more damaged nerves. Nerve pain is also referred to as neuralgia or neuropathy.
What is known to cause nerve pain?
The many different types of nerve damage with varying symptoms and requiring different types of treatments.
One of the most common types of nerve damages is called peripheral nerve damage and is a result of age. A huge number of people suffer from diabetes, nearly 70% of people with diabetes will have some sort.
Nerve pain can be a symptom of many other ailments including but not limited to:
- Cancer – as well as other tumors, can press around the surrounding nerves
- HIV – is a cause of painful nerve damage
- Diabetes – high levels of sugar in the blood can injure the nerves over time
- Shingles – can cause a nerve pain that can be severe and sudden
Probably nerve pain is the worst pain imaginable. For most people nerve pain may be uncomfortable but for some, it is life changing.
Living with nerve pain can totally alter your lifestyle both at work and at home. It can affect your ability to move and over time it can completely confine you to the bed.
Nerve pain can manifest as pinpricks which are felt as burning sensations or sudden shocks of electricity. Most people suffering from nerve pain will also tend to have sleeping problems, anxiety and depression.
If you have a terminal disease like cancer or HIV, your daily movement may be difficult enough without having to deal with additional pain from nerve damage. Although nerve damage and pain cannot be cured, the good news is that there are a lot of options that can help manage the pain.
The main function of the nerves is to relay sensation messages experienced by the rest of the body to the brain. Such that if you stood too close to fire without knowing, the heat sensation to your skin through sensory nerves will be quickly relayed to the brain and cause you to take an action like moving away from the fire.
This, in a nutshell, is how the nervous system is supposed to work, but not so for people with nerve pain. For them, a pain sensation will be transmitted to the brain by the nerve and you will feel the pain, however, there is no obvious cause.
The pain is there but you cannot make out what is causing it. As such, it becomes very difficult to relieve it.
Symptoms of nerve pain
Symptoms may vary from person to person. Damage to the sensory nerves can not only cause pain but can also include:
- Loss of reflexes
Nerve pain in the neck may be as a result of a compressed or pinched nerve.
The body usually let you know through pain and it is prudent not to ignore this warning signs by seeking medical attention. Pain associated with a pinched nerve will range from mild to severe and can be temporary to long-term.
The sooner you get a diagnosis the better as you can then start treatment for nerve compression and experience relief. In some cases, the damage of a pinched nerve cannot be reversed but treatment usually relieves pain and other symptoms.
A pinched nerve can occur as a result of a repetitive motion or by staying in the same position for too long especially when sleeping. Nerve compression often occurs when the nerve is pressed between tissues such as ligament, tendon and bone.
Lower back pain can be as a result of many different things, and it can be mostly associated with a spinal disc problem.
Usually, it would mean the source of pain is from a nerve being irritated by a protruding disc or is from the disc space itself.
Determining where the actual pain is coming from in the lower back will take the know-how of an expert. Some of the terminologies you will hear doctors use will include pinched nerve, slipped disc or degenerated disc.
The most common cause of lower back pain will occur after lifting a heavy object, sudden movement, sports injury or poor back posture. While it is true that sprains and strains do not pose serious medical problems, they can cause long-lasting acute severe pain.
More often than not, lower back pains are caused by mechanical issues and soft tissue injuries. These may include compression of nerve roots or injuries to the intervertebral discs.
3. Sciatic nerve pain
You might be wondering what is the sciatic nerve?
The sciatic nerve is formed by the nerve roots coming out of the spinal chord into the lower back. It extends through the buttocks and branches further down to the back of the legs to ankles and feet.
What is sciatica?
It is the pain, tingling or numbness associated with irritation of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve.
In many cases, sciatic nerve pain will be as a result of spinal nerve compression which can be caused by spinal disorders such as:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – often affecting older adults, it is a nerve compression disorder that results in leg pain similar to sciatica. Classic characteristics of this condition are positional pain often as a result of walking or standing and are usually relieved by sitting down.
- Spinal tumors – Spinal tumors are abnormal growths that may be benign or cancerous (malignant). Although spinal tumors are rare, when they do develop in the lumbar region, there is a risk of nerve compression and development of sciatica.
- Bulging or herniated disc – a herniated spinal disc not only causes direct compression to the nerve root of the interior of the spinal bony canal but the disc material itself contains an acidic chemical irritant (hyaluronic acid) that is a cause of nerve inflammation. A bulging disc can cause sciatica because the bulging disc presses against adjacent nerve root and compresses delicate nerve tissue causing sciatica.
- Trauma – sciatica can also result from trauma to the lower back or spinal chord through external forces that cause direct impact to the lumbar or sacral spinal nerve roots. These kinds of impact may injure the nerves or in some occasional cases, fragments of broken bone may compress the nerves.
The first step to relieving paining from sciatic disorder is a proper diagnosis from your doctor.
Post operation nerve pain is commonly more associated with abdominal, back and pelvic conditions.
During a surgical operation some nerves may be stretched or cut or otherwise damaged during common abdominal surgeries like an appendectomy, gynecological or some type of hernia repair.
Post operation nerve pain can range from mild to severe and be quite disconcerting. Due to subtle anatomical differences in people, even the most skilled of surgeons are likely to sever a nerve or two.
5. Pinched nerve
All nerves are susceptible to compression. However, a pinched nerve is common with a neck injury and back pain.
A pinched nerve is simply a peripheral nerve (a nerve outside the spinal chord or brain) that has been compressed leading to nerve damage which may result in pain, numbness or a tingling, prickling sensation.
Peripheral nerve itself or the protective covering, known as myelin sheath, or both can be compressed due to applied pressure. Then the nerve is unable to conduct impulses to the brain appropriately. When this happens, a sense of numbness will follow.
The same can also cause a tingling and prickling sensation.
It is important to note that if the nerve has been compressed for a short time, it will likely repair itself and this may take a few weeks to months for symptoms to disappear.
If compression remains present for a long time, permanent damage or injury to the nerve may occur.
7. Chronic nerve pain
Chronic nerve pain will need immediate attention by a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Chronic pain in the case of post-surgery patients may be unusual because usually stretched nerves will heal well on their own with proper care.
Nerves that have been entrapped will also resolve on their own once sutures have been absorbed by the body. If you are experiencing nerve pain three months post surgery then this is considered to be chronic pain.
Essential oils are used as the natural counterpart to medication. Neuropathy or nerve damage can be a source of pain or numbness in affected areas for many people.
For persons with diabetes, the legs are mostly affected. Heart rate and digestion can also be affected by more severe cases. Although more research is required essential oils are thought to be of help in relieving some of the symptoms.
Limited research suggests that essential oils, such as Roman chamomile, peppermint and lavender, may assist with nerve pain, however, more research is still needed to fully substantiate potential, benefits, risks and efficacy.
A study conducted in 2010 to this effect showed that among 60 patients with foot pain as a result of peripheral nerve damage, 56 patients reported a decrease in pain within 30 minutes. The essential oils in the blend that was used for the above research included geranium, eucalyptus, lavender, bergamot, and tea tree.
How to use essential oils for nerve pain?
For neuropathy pain relief, essential oils can be administered in a number of ways including:
- Essential oil compress – by using a clean damp warm/cold towel and adding selected diluted essential oil(s), you can compress to the affected area. This has been known to bring nerve pain relief.
- Essential oil creams and lotions – creams and lotions are known to relieve nerve pain by simply rubbing into the affected area, you can buy or make your own with desirable essential oils, cold cream, and shea butter or any suitable carrier oil.
- Massage – when using the topical approach, essential oils ought to be diluted by a carrier oil of your choice, like coconut oil or olive oil. One ounce of carrier oil for every 12 or so drops of essential oils. This will help prevent any skin irritation. Massaging into the affected areas will help in bringing pain relief.
- Aromatherapy – lack of sleep is a condition associated with neuropathy. Diffusing specific essential oil can very helpful in inducing sleep.
- Bath – by adding some essential oil(s) into your bath will also help soothe the pain as the oil permeates the skin into the affected area bringing a calming soothing effect.
- Decreases swelling and inflammation
- Promotes blood circulation
- Helps support healing of nerves, joints and muscle tissue
- To avoid skin irritation, you must to dilute it with a carrier oil
Ailments of Helychrisum italicum oil include:
- Pain relief
- Skin inflammation
- Inflammation of the muscles and joints
Also, this oil is known to bring pain relief to muscles.
- Very effective in treating wounds
- Helpful for treating acne
- Helps in reducing nerve pain
- Quite strong, so it’s advisable to use with a carrier oil to avoid irritation to the skin
- It is not advisable to use it neat as it may cause irritation some skin types
Peppermint oil has many uses, among them is pain relief including nerve pain relief. It is an anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory and an analgesic all wrapped up in one.
A study conducted in 2002 shows how peppermint played a huge role in treating neuralgia in the elderly. What you will find most interesting in this research is the fact that the patient in the study was not responding to other therapies but peppermint would offer pain relief for up to six hours after topical application.
- A cool and calming effect in treating nerve pain
- Helpful in relieving sciatic nerve pain
- Best to dilute with a carrier oil before topical application to avoid any skin irritation
- Used for pain relief because of its ability to improve communication and transmission of messages to the brain.
- Excellent for skin renewal
- May be too strong to use at full strength and is best to dilute with a carrier oil
- Beneficial in soothing localized pain and nerve tenderness.
- Ginger oil is one of the few oils that can be administered in a variety of ways: inhaling, topically and ingestion
- When using topically, it is recommended to dilute with a carrier as it may cause skin irritation if used at full strength
- Not only does it act as a fast pain reliever but can help relax the muscle and improve blood circulation.
- It is versatile as it can be applied topically to suppress muscle soreness or inhaled to soothe a headache.
- Must be diluted with a carrier oil to avoid skin irritation
Ylang Ylang is an amazing oil for anxiety and stress relief with a mild relaxing scent.
It is remarkable for pain relief particularly for nerve afflictions due to its unique ability to repair damage as well as generally boost the health of the nervous system.
- It has nervine and sedative qualities
- Must be diluted with a carrier oil to avoid skin irritation
- Effective in relieving nerve pain
- Relieves muscular pains
- Needs to be diluted with a carrier oil to avoid skin irritation
- May need to be diluted using a carrier oil as can cause irritation in some people if used neat
- Use for back pain
- Known to be helpful in relieving sciatica pain
- Not advisable to use at full strength and is best to dilute with a carrier oil to prevent skin irritation
- Minimizes discomfort of inflammation
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Can cause irritation to the skin if not diluted
- Effective for treating back pain
- Reduces inflammation
- Increases blood circulation
- Avoid getting this oil in your eyes as it can be very irritating
- Pain relief for aggravated muscles and nerves
- Helps reducing symptoms of neuropathy such as a numbness
- May take some time to kick in as it waits for the blood circulation to get better
Marjoram oil is a unique essential oil in that it is edible with a spicy flavor.
Its properties are very helpful in relieving nerve pain. They include being anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-spasmodic.
- Strengthens the nervous system
- Speeds up healing for injured nerves
- Massaging this oil in affected areas helps with lumbago, backaches, spasms and muscle pain
- Like most essential oils, may need to be diluted when applying topically to avoid chances of skin getting irritated
Essential oil blends for nerve pain
Blend for sciatica
Place 3 drops black pepper in almond oil or any other suitable carrier oil like coconut or jojoba and slowly massage in the back area for soothing nerve pain relief.
Marjoram oil can be used undiluted by applying a drop or two on the aching tooth. However, for those who may find it too strong, you can dilute it with a half teaspoon of olive oil. You can use your finger or a q-tip to dab at the painful tooth.
Apply in the morning and night before bed. Wet your hair and then dry off the excess water before application.