, L.C.S.W.R., and Deborah Guzzi

Treat Osteoarthritis with Aromatherapy Massage, MASSAGE MagazineOsteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects about 27 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Combining massage with the use of essential oils could be a great way to help ease pain in your clients suffering from osteoarthritis.

Most people deal with discomfort from osteoarthritis as part of the aging process. As we age, tissue breaks down from use or overuse, which leads to stiffness and pain. While osteoarthritis can damage any joint in the body, the disease most commonly affects joints in the hips, knees and spine; it can also affect joints in the hands and neck.

Osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time, and can place limits on daily activities and quality of life. No cure exists.

Typically, medication is the primary treatment for pain; however, routine treatments combining essential oils with massage can slow progression of the disease by stimulating circulation, relieving pain topically and improving joint function. Essential oils are applied physically during massage, and are absorbed through the skin.

Recommended essential oils

The following essential oils are good for osteoarthritis:

  • Black Pepper
  • Cedarwood
  • German chamomile
  • Roman chamomile
  • Cypress
  • Ginger
  • Helichrysum
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Eucalyptus radiata
  • Eucalyptus globulus
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Tea tree
  • Thyme linalol

You should only use up to four essential oils in a treatment. Any four of the aforementioned essential oils will suffice.

Making a blend

To make a blend, select up to four of the aforementioned essential oils or use the ones below. Incorporate a total of 10 to 30 drops to each 30 milliliters (1 ounce) of carrier oil . The number of drops will vary depending on the specific essential oils selected for treatment. Further training and education will allow a therapist to learn more about blending factors.

The blend:

  • Use 8 drops of Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
  • Use 5 drops of ginger (Zingiberaceae) or lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
  • Use 9 drops of helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium)
  • Use 8 drops of eucalyptus radiata (Eucalyptus radiata)

Total: 30 drops

Put the essential oils into a 1-ounce amber or blue glass bottle. Bottles can be found online or at a local holistic store that carries essential oils and supplies. Mix well by rolling the bottle between hands, or stir the oils together using a dropper.

After the oils are mixed together, add a carrier oil such as grape seed or sweet almond oil to fill the 1-ounce bottle. Please note that the massage blend may stain sheets and clothes. Then, roll the bottle between the palms of both hands.

This blend will serve as a supply. Note: This amount is not to be used all at once during a massage treatment. The blend can be used for massage sessions as well as for self-care after a treatment session.

It is important to take note during the intake process of any pain medications your client may be consuming. Some essential oils are contraindicated when combined with certain medications, so it’s best to know this information prior to determining a treatment. For example, if your client takes high blood pressure medication, then do not use rosemary essential oil; you can simply choose a different oil listed above.

Also, to be on the safe side, you may not want to use essential oils on your pregnant clientele, as some oils may produce unpleasant or negative effects. (Read “Proceed with Caution: Oils for Pregnancy Massage.”) Clients should consult with their physician about using essential oils for any medical concerns.

Massage treatment using essential oils

When you are in pain, you tend to tense your muscles; tense muscles restrict movement of joints. Hypertonic muscles pull the joint more tightly together and increase the grinding of bone on bone. Massage can help to alleviate this tension and free the joint, allowing for a larger range of motion.

Apply a few drops of the essential oil blend on the affected area, and perform gentle effleurage techniques used in Swedish massage. These strokes go from light touch to moderate friction. Relaxing the rest of the body may help to take pressure off the stressed joint.

Pay particular attention to swelling, redness and heat, since these are signs an infection may be present. If these symptoms occur, the affected areas should not be worked with massage at this time. Instead, a visit to a rheumatologist may be needed.

Jacqueline Bloom, L.C.S.W.R., is a licensed clinical social worker who is certified in medical aromatherapy. She has more than 20 years of experience, and maintains a private practice in New York and Connecticut. She teaches certification courses on aromatherapy with the East-West School for Herbal & Aromatic Studies. Also, she incorporates aromatherapy applications of essential oils in psychotherapy, when appropriate with clients, as an adjunct to primary treatment for emotional issues, stress-related problems, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and mood disorders. She can be contacted at Jacq1616@aol.com or (203) 227-7999.

Deborah Guzzi is a graduate of the Connecticut School for Massage Therapy. She supplemented her training in Swedish massage with classes in chakra balancing, and polarity therapy, as well as Master Level Usui Reiki. She has also received training in color therapy, lymphatic drainage techniques and lomilomi, and owns Empathic Touch (http://empathic-touch.com) in Monroe, Connecticut. Guzzi can be contacted ataleezadelta@aol.com or (203) 452-0919.