Tag Archives: Pain


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.


Aromatherapy for Sleep Problems


When I see clients for problems with sleep Roman Chamomile and Lavender are oils that can be useful. However even more useful is addressing the issues that are behind the sleep problems. Only occasionally is sleep a primary cause for a client seeing me, even if that is what they talk about first a little questioning usually lets us explore what is behind the sleep problem.

So treating the stress, depression, grief or pain issues for example will help with the sleep far more than treating it alone in fact only treating the sleep issue rarely works if there is something more urgent behind it.

A recent example of this was a client I saw recently in Trumpington, Cambridge who had recently had a 14 year relationship end. I used Lemon for clarity of thought, Frankincense and Rose. Frankincense also helps aid a meditative state of mind and has been used as a funeral herb. Rose is legendary as an oil that is helpful in working with grief.

The massage was also less intense than I do for muscular problems, instead being more nurturing. A slow abdominal massage was particularly enjoyed by the client, helping them let go of emotions she was holding there.

For a massage to help with problems that lead to lack of sleep or any other reason,

call 07939273569 or email dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com




Working with long term illness.

Let me start by saying that aromatherapy and massage are great tools for those with long term illnesses and in my Cambridge and Trumpington practice I have a number of these people as clients. However, as a therapist, I need to be aware of a few things.

  1. A client may need to cancel at short notice. They may have to do this even with long term arrangements with close friends so I need to be more flexible than with my other clients.
  2. They may not be able to tolerate the same pressure as most of those coming for massage or this may change from time to time – I need to check out every time.
  3. Those with long term illnesses are often used to covering up the extent of their pain or illness. I need to be sensitive to this and able to find out what I need to as a therapist without making them uncomfortable.
  4. I need to know my limitations. Certain conditions such as Multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease and others are never going to go away, no matter how good a therapist I am.
  5. With some of these clients I need to be responsive and see them on the same day they have the energy to pick up the phone and call me.

Many of these clients will suffer from depression at least from time to time. (If chronic pain is part of the condition, over 75% of sufferers get depression.) Many of the oils I use can help with this including Bergamot, Jasmine, Rose, Rosemary and many others.

Choosing oils is always something I do with the client as using an oil they really don’t like the smell of is going to be counter productive. I have yet to find someone where there isn’t an alternative to the one I would pick as my first choice when they don’t like it.

I also note that many of the things I write about conditions that may be more problematical are really just good practice anyway, e.g. asking about how much pressure a client wants.

So if you have a chronic condition and would just love to have some time to be pampered, get a little relief from what you are going through or just have some time that is for you alone,

Call 07939273569 or email dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com



Who is the massage for?

However the client reaches me, the massage is always for them, in their control and it is for them to decide which body parts are massaged and which are not. The only exception to this is if I were to be asked to massage in a sexual manner. (So far these have all been weeded out at the telephone call stage.)

Yet most weeks I see a client who is worried that their request is unreasonable, sometimes having been told as much by a previous therapist. While I have said it before, it bears repeating. If you are the client, you are in charge. Anything else smacks of what one psychiatrist I worked with during my mental health nursing training said, “I don’t treat clients, I treat patients.” His approach was that he should decide what is best for them and they had to accept it or go somewhere else.

As a massage and aromatherapy practitioner in Cambridge, my view is that I should be more flexible than that. Yes I do massage and don’t manipulate the spine or make it perform a series of cracks as I am not trained as an osteopath or chiropractor. I don’t prescribe herbal medicines but within the limits of what my training has equipped me to do I will go with what the client wishes rather than follow a prescriptive model.

With some conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Myalgic ecephalitis and others, this becomes even more important as a therapist who blindly follows their own prescriptive model can at best exacerbate pain and at worst actually be dangerous in their actions. Do not be afraid to ask for what you want from a massage be that in terms of your physical or psychological needs. And you don’t need to tell the therapist why. If you have bad scarring on your stomach and don’t want them to see it, it is fine to say, “not the belly” as one client did with me recently. There wasn’t anything in the medical history I took to explain it so I can only guess.

I am on 07939273569 or dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com but whoever you see as a therapist communicate with them and ditch them if they are not prepared to listen.


To sleep perchance to dream.

Sleep difficulties is probably the most common problem people come to see me with. Perhaps not as the first on their list but certainly within the top three problems and many more admit to sleep difficulties on further questioning even if it isn’t on the list that they first present.

This should not come as any great surprise when you think of the number of reasons someone might come to an aromatherapist that affect sleep.

Anxiety, depression, stress, pain and gastric and urinary problems are all things that can have an adverse effect on sleeping patterns. And of course, problems with sleep can make other problems, both physical and psychological much worse. Sleep deprivation can in extremis cause the individual suffering from it to become psychotic.

One thing to think about when treating sleep problems is, “What is the function of sleep?” On a physical level it is a chance for the body to rest and allow healing to take place but healing is a complex process and after a sprained ankle for instance, the right mix of rest and exercise is needed for the best outcome.

On the psychological side of things, it gets even more complex as this article on the subject shows. Likewise, different schools of psychotherapy all have their own views on the subject  or at least on the dreams that happen there, from the different forms of analysis to Fritz Perls’s Gestalt therapy.

What all those who look at sleep in any depth are agreed on is that adequate sleep is essential for psychological health, be that the three hours a night that Margaret Thatcher was said to get by on to the seven or more hours that most of us seem to need.

In particular, REM (Rapid Eye Movement or dreaming ) sleep is particularly important. Psychoanalysts make much of this interpreting what happens in dreams. Others see it as a time for the mind to re-order things that have happened in order to make sense of them, and file them appropriately in different areas of memory.

I will always try to start by treating the cause of sleep disturbance and use oils that will help with depression, anxiety, stress, pain etc. Many of these help with sleep anyway so there is a double effect. Frankincense comes to mind for the first three causes of sleep problems I listed there. Vetiver is another good oil for this.Roman and German Chamomile oils are both good for inflammation and so some sorts of pain and also are good for sleep. With depression I might also use Bergamot or Bitter Orange in the morning as a more stimulating oil and Frankincense and Vetiver in the evenings.

Massage  even without essential oils is good for stress, anxiety, depression and pain and so can be helpful and many clients fall asleep during a massage but while this is not a problem, it is not an aim of treatment as too much sleep during the day can lead to wakeful nights and consequent worrying during the night.

As well as using massage and essential oils, I also try and help clients who want to resolve sleep issues to look at their lifestyles. While it hasn’t come up with any of my clients, I wouldn’t advise watching horror films just before bed time or reading horror books! Other things that have been implicated in making getting off to sleep more difficult are working on a computer before going to bed. Try and give at least an hour, preferably two without doing this if you have this problem.I suspect this is more of a problem here in Cambridge than in many other cities.

Also temperature of the room can make a difference. I like to always even in winter sleep with a window open. However this sometimes has to be negotiated!

Hop oil is often helpful and I am talking about on a pillow here rather than in the form of beer much as I might enjoy the latter! Two people I know find a hop pillow (a small pillow stuffed with hops) placed under the normal pillow helps.

If you want to book an aromatherapy massage to help with sleep problems

Call 07939 273 569

or email dave@cambridgearomatherapy.com


Aromatherapy is for women. Sports massage for men!


When I worked with adolescents and all the massage I did there was with a chaperone, it was almost always the young men that I saw who wanted less pressure. There, the young women seemed to not only tolerate a greater degree of pressure and a more vigorous massage but wanted this.

Now as it was a mental health unit I was working at it is possible that there was an element of using massage instead of self harm in some of these but I do not believe that to be the case.

Since setting up in private practice three years ago, I have not discerned any significant difference in the pressure desired by men and women.

Yet at a Christmas party yesterday, three of those present stated that they had found deep tissue massage extremely painful. One person said that they had not felt able to ask for less pressure. (I tell all my clients that it is OK to ask for more or less pressure if what I am doing is uncomfortable.)

One person present said they had had a deep tissue massage that was not at all painful.

I explained that before using deep tissue techniques it is important to really warm the muscles up properly first. To me this is similar to the need to warm up prior to strenuous exercise. – When I went to circus classes, I would always do a thorough warm up before the class.

If too much pressure is used too quickly it will be a lot more painful. That does not mean that massage is never painful. Many people talk of the concept of, “good pain” which I take to mean pain that one can tell is helping and will help one feel better afterwards.

Psychological pain is also possible, some people experience strong emotions due to earlier experiences during massage. If this happens with you I am happy to talk with you about your experience or not whichever you choose. I will not judge you for this. It is part of the normal range of reactions to therapeutic touch.

If you come to me for a massage, tell me what you would like, if I am causing pain that doesn’t feel right tell me or any other therapist! If they don’t listen to you and act on your feedback, I would suggest not paying them and certainly don’t use them again. The best feedback we can get is return customers or word of mouth referrals!




When I see a client, I am always looking for patterns. These patterns are sometimes obvious but sometimes less so. Different elements in a pattern may include the client’s weight or more usefully the amount of fat they are carrying,their musculature, posture, gait, skin texture, tongue colouration, pulse and of course the answers to the questions I ask.

Often, especially though not only when I am seeing a client who has come for primarily psychological reasons, I will ask a very specific question and they will ask, “How did you know that?” This is because I think I have spotted a pattern and want to be sure I am right.

This ability to recognise patterns is something most of us do all the time in our every day lives. When cooking, we might use a combination of sounds, sight and smell to tell us something is ready and then prod it with a knife or skewer to see if we were correct. Not that I am suggesting massage therapists should prod their clients with skewers!

Just as I or a doctor will look for patterns rather than relying on just one symptom to tell us what is wrong, so we can learn to spot patterns in our own lives and bodies that tell us when something is wrong. A single night’s poor sleep may just mean there has been an alarm going off on a nearby building site. If this happens once a year it is annoying but not something that we need to worry about. If it happens every Sunday night there is a pattern that we can address with those involved, either directly or through the services local councils provide for this. It could be especially important if we usually have important meetings on Monday mornings!

If we are sleeping poorly every night, the pattern is more worrying and it is time to look for other elements. Are we worried about anything? Are we depressed? Are we in pain? The additional factors could be any or none of these three.Here in Cambridge for some it could be related to fewer but brighter street lights having been installed or for some it could just be that they are sleeping in a different bed that isn’t comfortable! I need to be aware that not everything that a client comes to me with is going to be illness!

So like any detective, I need to look for patterns and when I think I have found one check out the accuracy of my guesses. Only then can I start to think about which essential oils, massage techniques etc might be used to help my client change those patterns into ones which in the example above give them a good night’s sleep.