Tag Archives: Pain management


Aromatherapy for pain, a look at the evidence.

Does Aromatherapy work for pain? I would imagine that just about every aromatherapist out there would say, “Yes it does!” This review on Pubmed  would seem to agree. I can’t quote verbatim from it currently as pubmed’s website is down right now.

However, statistics are one thing. What my clients with chronic or other pain want to know is, “Will it HELP ME?” They don’t care about whether it helps seven out of ten cats or whatever! Theyu want to reduce their own suffering.

In my experience, it is more likely to make a difference with severe chronic pain than severe acute pain. Acute pain is giving the body a message such as, “Take your hand away from the heat.” Chronic pain is often present long after an acute injury has healed or it may be from a condition such as Fibromyalgia etc. Here something is wrong with how the pain receptors in blood vessels are working. It is not a message to the body to sort something out. There is a need to disrupt the mechanism that these nerve pathways are using. That may be the pleasant sensations produced by a massage, the physiological action of the essential oils or even the emotional reaction to the aroma. All can play a part.


Abstract – now the site is back up!

“Background. Aromatherapy refers to the medicinal or therapeutic use of essential oils absorbed through the skin or olfactory system. Recent literature has examined the effectiveness of aromatherapy in treating pain. Methods. 12 studies examining the use of aromatherapy for pain management were identified through an electronic database search. A meta-analysis was performed to determine the effects of aromatherapy on pain. Results. There is a significant positive effect of aromatherapy (compared to placebo or treatments as usual controls) in reducing pain reported on a visual analog scale (SMD = -1.18, 95% CI: -1.33, -1.03; p < 0.0001). Secondary analyses found that aromatherapy is more consistent for treating nociceptive (SMD = -1.57, 95% CI: -1.76, -1.39, p < 0.0001) and acute pain (SMD = -1.58, 95% CI: -1.75, -1.40, p < 0.0001) than inflammatory (SMD = -0.53, 95% CI: -0.77, -0.29, p < 0.0001) and chronic pain (SMD = -0.22, 95% CI: -0.49, 0.05, p = 0.001), respectively. Based on the available research, aromatherapy is most effective in treating postoperative pain (SMD = -1.79, 95% CI: -2.08, -1.51, p < 0.0001) and obstetrical and gynecological pain (SMD = -1.14, 95% CI: -2.10, -0.19, p < 0.0001). Conclusion. The findings of this study indicate that aromatherapy can successfully treat pain when combined with conventional treatments.”

One area where a high quality study has been carried out is with Menstrual Pain, where the initial study compared abdominal massage with ginger essential oil compared with Thai Massage through clothes. The Abdominal massage group did considerably better. However this could have been the abdominal massage rather than the aromatherapy component . A further study was done comparing the abdominal massage with and without the ginger oil. Again the Aromatherapy group did significantly better.

So, if you wish to see how Aromatherapy Massage can help you with pain, do email me or phone. dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com or 07939273569 to book an appointment either in Trumpington or Central Cambridge.


An Holistic approach

Many therapists would have you believe that their approach is the best or that there is an impressive list of things they can cure.

My claims are a bit more modest. Yes there are lots of things that Aromatherapy combined with Massage can help with but cure? Sadly unless the underlying cause of a problem is addressed it is likely to recur. One client who has osteoarthritis in one knee gets three to four days without pain after a massage. Could I change my technique/the oils I use to improve on that? It is always possible but even then it is unlikely that I would get more than an extra day or two at the most.

This same client recently bought some shoes with built in shock absorbing insoles and tells me these have made a real difference virtually stopping the pain. I know that I will get clients in the future where I will suggest looking at changes in footwear to see if that helps. Most importantly, this change my client has made will reduce further damage to the joint. This may well extend the time she is able to carry on with a job that requires a lot of walking by many years as she is a determined woman and not likely to give up without a fight!


Lets hear it for pain!

I was struck by a news item today on BBC World Service which talked about medics having enabled someone to feel pain!

I know that many if not most of my clients’ instinctive reaction to this would be, “Why!?” Yet, not being able to feel pain puts the person in a lot of danger. They will not pull their hand away from heat be it a hot kettle or perhaps something even more dangerous. They are at danger of asphyxiating when sleeping at night and of getting pressure sores because they do not feel the discomfort that makes them turn over. Or at a very simplistic level if we break a leg, it stops us standing on it and damaging it furhter!

Paradoxically, those behind this research believe that it might also be useful in looking at ways to help those in Chronic pain which does not have a useful function. What they didn’t say was what the time scale for this was.

Until then, I will continue to use massage and aromatherapy to help those in Chronic pain. A question that therapists in pain clinics often ask is, “Is it better to feel the pain and still be able to get on with life or to feel the pain and not be able to do anything?”

I see part of my job working with chronic pain as to help people reach the stage where they can carry on with life as they wish to. For some this does mean a big reduction in the amount of pain they feel. For others it is more about helping with the depression that often comes with chronic conditions of all types.

Oils used for depression which almost always increases the level of pain felt include Bergamot, Lemon and Frankincense. Oils for the pain often include lavender, Marjoram and Ginger.

As always, I look to choose oils that have multiple functions. The culinary herb oils and the citrus ones are both useful in constipation, encouraging peristalsis. (Constipation is very common in depression.) As a general rule I try and ensure that every oil I choose for a treatment addresses at least two issues that a client has and also for each issue I wish to address, I use at least two oils. I take a similar approach in the massage I give to clients in my Cambridge practice.


Arthritis, Massage and Aromatherapy

Often thought of as an, “older persons'” illness, this is not necessarily the case. There are juvenile forms of the disease and osteoarthritis can be present at a relatively early age due to bad work practice or repetitive actions from sports. It can also be a consequence of sports injuries. The rheumatoid form of the disease is an auto-immune disease.

Nearly all are able to get some relief from massage but it is important to remember that massage and aromatherapy will not reverse damage that has been done. the cartilage once destroyed does not regrow. It is also important to remember that the pain an individual experiences does not necessarily reflect the amount of damage that shows up on x-ray. Some with very little damage experience a lot of pain and some with a lot of damage seem to experience a lot less. Massage and aromatherapy are able to reduce the amount of pain experienced by a client. However those with chronic severe pain may still require analgesia. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy also helps many with chronic pain issues.

Essential oils that can help with arthritis include Scots Pine, Lavender, Ginger and Sweet Marjoram.

As psychological issues have a great effect on the experience of pain, oils like Bergamot for depression, and Frankincense for anxiety are also often useful and I often use these alongside the oils that directly effect arthritic pain in my Cambridge Practice.