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Expanding the Experience of Massage with Aromatherapy

As a licensed massage therapist with a long successful career, I have witnessed firsthand the power of age-old practices to heal, restore, balance and uplift. I can attest to the fact that there is nothing quite like a therapeutic massage therapy session. When artfully combined with just the right essential oils to tackle pain and soothe stress, massage is brought to another realm and healing is heightened. Combining these two holistic therapies for wellness and self-care can profoundly have a transformative influence on the harmony of the body and mind.[1]


Study after study has shown that the topical use of aromatherapy and essential oils when combined with healing touch and massage therapy, produces positive after-effects. These include relief of pain plus an improvement in mental state, especially when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety in offering solace and restoration to those in need.[2,3,4]


Together, the elements of essential oils and massage form a symphony of healing, orchestrated by the hands of a skilled therapist and carried into the heart of the recipient, where pain gives way to peace and tension yields way to tranquility. Whether you are a seasoned advocate of holistic well-being or new to the world of therapeutic massage and essential oils, this journey promises to inspire and illuminate, shedding light on the remarkable potential for healing that essential oils provide.


The Therapeutic Benefits of Healing Massage Essential Oil Blend

There is no perfect essential oil blend. It's not difficult to blend a bottle of essential oils but it's knowing the properties and the therapeutic value of each oil that goes into a blend - something I have studied and still study today. When making custom blends for clients, I like to know specifically if there are any aromas they are sensitive to and more importantly if they dislike any particular aromas. Emotions come into play often with scent - leading to visceral reactions from clients - whatever the emotion.


Essential oils work better in the company of other essential oils. For some, it's the relief of pain. For others, it is better to reduce muscle spasms to help relieve pain. And yet, stress and anxiety relief or attention to healing irritated skin conditions. For these reasons, it is important to cater to each client's needs.


Combining essential oils effectively is an art form that carries the versatility to assist in numerous healing effects for the body and mind alike. People come in for massages for a myriad of reasons. For most, it is pain and muscle spasm relief and for others, it's to help reduce stress and muscle tension. Today we are going to focus on essential oils that help to bring deep relaxation and reduce muscle tension, pain and spasms as well as improve immune system function.[5]


While professional massage can be expensive, incorporating some form of touch therapy adds to the experience of essential oils. If you don't have the opportunity, time or money to book a professional massage you can turn to self-massage techniques. These techniques can be simple if you follow a few steps. For example, if your issues lie with neck or back pain, self-massage techniques could be fortified by understanding whether the pain is caused by overuse or even bad posture. We all know sitting on computers day in and day out or standing for long hours can strain musculature.


Let’s explore some recommended essential oils and how you can use them for their plethora of healing effects.


Beneficial Essential oils for Massage

The below essential oils are some of my favorites for their prowess to relieve muscle tension and pain and their ability to balance the body and mind.

  • Black Spruce (Picea mariana): The strength of its Pine and woodsy fresh aroma offers superb protection for the breath, muscles, and joints. Used often in blends to relieve muscle soreness, it's highly sought after for its analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. Like the other oils in this blend, it has the bonus of being a sedative while also reducing anxiety.[7]

  • Frankincense- Carterii (Boswellia carterii): A base note, this oil is grounding and centering and extremely healing in blends for the skin. It is proficient in opening the lungs to aid deeper breath and also encourages reduced worry. It is traditionally used for meditation and often added to sleep blends. As a topical treatment with a carrier oil, it is anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antispasmodic, furthering muscle tension reduction. It also shows promise as an antioxidant and immune stimulant.[1,6]

  • Ho wood (Cinnamomum Camphora): Similar to Lavender, Ho Wood contains the component linalool which is especially known for its ability to reduce tension, relieve stress and create an atmosphere of peace. This alluring essential oil is extremely balancing to the heart helping with moments of insomnia, boosting mood, and stimulating the immune system. It adds softness to a blend with its sweet, woody scent comparable to Rosewood. (8)

  • Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum): Blue Tansy has herbal, sweet and cooling properties and is colorfully blue-hued due to its component chamazulene. Its gifts consist of bringing on an optimistic mood while reducing muscle cramping and lessening tension. It encourages muscles and joints to heal, making it an excellent supplement in this blend for relieving pain and healing with its analgesic, antispasmodic and immune-stimulating abilities.[9]

If you would like to try this blend during your next appointment, book an aromatherapy massage session today! The aromatherapy option costs a little more, but you get to take home your massage oil blend to use whenever you need it!


Using Essential Oils for Stress Relief and Muscular Relaxation

There are a number of modalities and self-massage techniques you can try at home to maximize relaxation with these essential oils such as incorporating the blend into meditation rituals or employing them during yoga practice. For self-massage, there are a number of easy-to-reach places such as the head, neck, shoulders, hands and arms as well as legs, knees and feet. (Read below to learn how to give yourself a massage.) [10]


Diluting essential oils into a carrier oil is the next necessary step as it makes the massage blend safe to use on the skin without causing irritation. There is rarely a moment when undiluted or "neat" essential oils are necessary. Carrier oils or unscented creams are generally used for diluting purposes and used often during massage sessions such as Jojoba wax, Grapeseed oil, Apricot Seed oil or Fractionated coconut oil.


Nourishing the Body and Mind with Self-Massage

For neck and shoulder pain, find a comfortable place to sit or even lie down such as on a yoga mat. Relax your shoulders and straighten out your neck and back by tucking your chin down slightly to realign the cervical bones. Close your eyes for a few minutes and visualize your muscles relaxing and take a few deep breaths down into your belly button. This will help to relax your diaphragm.


Reach your arms above your head and use your fingertips to locate the areas of pain in the neck from the base of the skull down to the upper shoulders. With just the right amount of pressure that you are comfortable with, massage the diluted massage oil into those areas where you find the most release of tension. If you find a particularly tense spot, hold it for a minute until the pain begins to dissipate and remember to breathe deeply and rhythmically in and out. You should feel the muscles relaxing under your fingers, not tensing up more.


For pain in the rest of the body, massage the oil blend into the skin and using the palm of your hand or your fingertips, massage the areas in small circles, eventually making that circle smaller to focus on an exact area of pain. Once you have located a painful spot, hold steady pressure on it for 60 seconds and then release the tension. Massage the area gently with the palm of your hands to finish and flush the area. Repeat these steps as often as needed.


For harder-to-reach areas such as the between the shoulder blades and midback, ask a partner or a friend to massage the oil blend onto the problem areas and afterward consider using a tennis ball to disperse areas of tension where knots might be lurking in the muscles. For those hard-to-reach areas of the back, you can follow the self-massage techniques in this article.


Transporting to a Tranquil Realm

When certain essential oils such as Lavender and Frankincense are inhaled through the olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity, their molecules prompt an immediate calming effect on the limbic system. The Limbic System is a hormonal area of the brain that is the seat of our emotions. Inhalation of essential oils therefore is one of the tried and true techniques to benefit from its effects to release stress and let go of the hectic day behind you.


Here are some options for using essential oils throughout your day to reduce stress, calm the mind and massage out pain:

  • Diffusion: Diffusing can be utilized at any time of the day to set the mood for the day, during meditation to reach a deeper realm of the senses, or to keep the workday running smoothly in the office.

  • Topical Treatment: Apply massage oil or cream directly onto achy joints and sore muscles and then apply heat over the area for 10 minutes.

  • Room/Clothing Spray: A room spray is simple to make with the right ingredients to blend essential oils into water and includes infusing the oils into a high-proof alcohol. These sprays can be used in a room, bathroom, or even on clothing as needed.

  • Boost your Unscented Shampoo: Hair holds perfume for longer periods of time. To carry the aroma throughout the day, blend 10-15 drops per oz of shampoo and shake to combine the oils and shampoo as usual.

  • Comforting Bath: Epsom Salts are one of my favorite ways to blend into a bath as they naturally contain magnesium to further relieve muscle pain. Blend 2 cups Epsom Salts, 1/2 cup Baking soda to soften skin, 2 tbsp of liquid Castile soap and 10 drops of essential oils and mix well. Meanwhile, fill up a warm tub, place the salts in the bath and swirl through the water to dissolve them before climbing in and sitting for at least 15 minutes with calming music.

Remember that we all have hectic days and different preferences. To be your best self, find the relaxation technique that is right for you by experimenting with classes and modalities such as yoga, meditation and even taking long evening walks. But always remember to keep your essential oil blends close at hand and take a whiff even straight from the bottle or on a cotton ball as needed.


SOURCES:

  1. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in the Management of Labor Pain & Anxiety https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7445940/

  2. The Effects of Massage With Frankincense and Myrrh on Chronic Lower Back Pain https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1550830723001027#:~:text=Conclusion%20and%20clinical%20implications,living%20in%20patients%20with%20CLBP\

  3. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy, Massage and Reflexology in People with Palliative Care Needs https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269216319884198

  4. Effect of Aromatherapy Massage on Depression and Anxiety of Elderly Adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8887855/

  5. Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1142199/

  6. Health Benefits of Frankincense Essential Oil https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-frankincense-essential-oil

  7. Chemical Composition of the Hydrosol and the Essential Oil of Three Different Species of the Pinaceae Family https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0972060X.2012.10644040

  8. Ho Wood Essential Oil https://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/ho-wood-essential-oil.php

  9. Blue Tansy Essential Oil https://www.healthline.com/health/blue-tansy

  10. How to Ease Stress and Pain with Self Massage Techniques https://www.healthline.com/health/self-massage#headache

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