Many of your clients sit still for the majority of their day, and then try to cram a condensed workout into their busy schedules. This fluctuation between quick physical exertion and hours of stagnation can easily result in tight, cramped muscles that will eventually hinder performance and possibly cause injury.
In addition to a sensible stretching routine before and after exercising, which very few people take the time to incorporate, another way to bring warmth, relaxation and pain relief to tense, overworked muscles is through the application of essential oils.
When your sports or deep tissue massage clients come to you with tired, aching, overworked muscles, add a touch of the spa to their treatments by including aromatherapy. The following essential oils are especially well-suited to deep-tissue modalities, and can help address your clients’ specific conditions.
Relax muscles & relieve spasm
Sweet marjoram and German chamomile have proven to relax the muscles with their natural antispasmodic properties. According to studies in Phytotherapy Research (2004) and Inflammation Research (2000), sweet marjoram contains terpinen-4-ol and a-terpinene. German chamomile contains bisabolol oxides, all of which demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions in clinical testing (Planta Medica, 1979).
Warm muscles & ease pain
Juniper and ginger are warming oils that bring fresh oxygen to overworked muscles, and also work as natural analgesics, blocking pain receptors. They contain the natural component a-pinene; and a-pinene acts as an anti-inflammatory, according to the 1993 Planta Medica study “Anti-inflammatory activity of the essential oil of Bupleurum fruticescens.”
B-myrcene, a naturally occurring component in juniper, inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines, making it an effective painkiller and analgesic, according to 1990 research published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmacology. D-limonene, another natural component, stimulates the immune system by activating white blood cells and inhibits pain-inducing cytokines, providing an analgesic effect, said results of a 2007 study published in Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin.
Helichrysum naturally contains y-curcumene, which has anti-inflammatory properties, while myrrh, composed of a large amount of furanoeudesma-1,3-diene, has been shown to affect opioid receptors in brain membranes, which influence the perception of pain, making it a great choice for its analgesic properties. Both oils are wonderful for bruised areas, as they are noted to help with vein integrity, and are naturally anti-inflammatory.
Reduce muscle inflammation & pain
Peppermint has a cooling effect on overheated and inflamed muscles. According to 2002 research in Physiology & Behaviour, it naturally contains a high percentage of menthol, which has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and, antispasmodic effects due to its stimulating and cooling effect on the central nervous system. Menthone, also present in peppermint, inhibits the pro-inflammatory cytokines, which gives it anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities (Chinese Journal of Physiology, 2008).
Rosemary contains a-pinene, as well as a high amount of camphor, which is a topical analgesic that desensitizes TRPV1 channels, a major type of pain receptor, according to the same 2007 Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin study that examined d-limonene. Rosemary also contains bornyl acetate, which shows analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties due to its inhibition of nitric oxide production.
Adding oils to deep tissue massage
As shown in studies in Natural Product Communications (2011), the International Journal of Cosmetic Science (2012), and the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology (2014), essential oils absorb directly into the bloodstream when applied topically; meaning they allow for deeper penetration into the tissues, with results that are almost immediate. Essential oils, blended into an unscented lotion or oil and applied during massage, will affect your clients’ muscles directly—and the effects can last long after the massage.
Cary Caster, L.M.T., is a botanist, certified clinical aromatherapist and founder of 21 Drops Essential Oil Therapy. She sits on the board of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and has been featured as an essential oil expert in the Huffington Post, Vanity Fair and Martha Stewart Living, among other publications.