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Essential Oils

Benefits of Pairing Sports Physical Therapy with Essential Oils

There’s a reason why sports physical therapy is such a big business.

Many people who are too busy during the week to find time to hit the gym make the weekend their time to get in some exercise, whether it's going for a run, doing yard work, or taking a spin class. Come Monday, many people pay for all of that rather sudden activity and call on a sports-focused physical therapist for help getting back in the game.

Sports physical therapists are different than traditional physical therapists in that the former focus on prevention of injury and recovery, working to do their best to help their patients get back to the place they were before they were injured.

Some sports physical therapists choose to devote their careers to professional athletes. In Colorado, Andy Pruitt runs the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. He understands his clients well—for instance, he makes saddle adjustments based on the length of pro cyclists’ femurs (Tour de France legend Greg LeMond has very long ones, Pruitt says), and every pro sports team have their own sports physical therapist who needs to understand the physical attributes of everyone on the team so they can treat them accordingly. 1

However, other sports physical therapists are just as interested in helping those of us who are not professional athletes regain strength and endurance after an injury. 2

Traditional Therapy Techniques

Sports therapists use a mix of traditional therapeutic techniques—stretching and strengthening exercises, ergonomics (the practice of creating an environment that conforms to your body, easing muscular stress), and education about better ways to perform certain movements among them. They also use modalities, which are incorporated into treatment to help with healing. These include electrical stimulation (commonly used for pain), as well as heat and cold.

Essential oils fall under the modality category of a holistic sports medicine practice. Because they contain so many different volatile compounds, essential oils can be added to a massage to help ease not just pain and soreness, but the inflammation that triggers discomfort, improving the healing process.

Essential Oils Accentuate Sports Therapy

Sports physical therapy can help condition a person’s body so it can better perform, but essential oils can help, working alongside specific therapies to help ease pain and inflammation.

Essential oils are most effective for helping sports injuries heal when they're used in massage oil, which means they need to be mixed with a carrier oil. Using a carrier oil, such as rosehip oil, which is packed with antioxidants and anthocyanins, has sometimes been shown to help ease inflammation as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and can enhance the benefits of your essential oil of choice.


Spend an hour running, and your ankles might remind you of it later. Inflammation reveals itself through pain and redness, caused, according to Dr. Susannah Briskin of University Hospitals in Cleveland, by small traumas, which damage blood vessels. 3 Some of the most effective essential oils for inflammation include:

Marjoram Essential Oil

This essential oil has been shown in studies to be one of the most effective essential oils for helping reduce inflammation. In a 2106 study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Minneapolis-based researchers found that marjoram helped ease pain in more than 10% of patients when used as aromatherapy. 4

Lavender Essential Oil

In the same study mentioned above, lavender proved to be the most effective inflammation fighter. It helped reduce inflammation in almost 50% of individuals to whom it was administered, both when used aromatically or applied topically.

Black Pepper Essential Oil

Black pepper provides relief in two ways: the piperine in black pepper essential oil helps ease inflammation, while the capsaicin eases the pain.

Oregano Essential Oil

According to a study from Swiss researchers, the beta-caryophyllene in oregano helps reduce inflammation, which is the biggest roadblock to sports recovery. 5 Beta-caryophyllene interacts with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors to reduce inflammation.

There are plenty of other benefits to this essential oil as well, including reduced stress, as high levels of stress can slow healing. In fact, researchers in Ohio found that high levels of stress lead to high levels of a hormone that slows the release of cytokines, which are part of the body’s healing process. 6

For stress-relieving benefits, oregano essential oil can be applied topically after being diluted with a carrier oil or used aromatically in a room diffuser or personal diffuser.


Pain and inflammation are closely related, but pain is the feeling that comes as a result of inflammation. While addressing inflammation can eventually ease pain, speedier relief is always welcome. Some essential oils that can ease pain and provide that relief include:

Blue Chamomile Essential Oil

The most important compound in blue chamomile, chamazulene, which gives it its blue color has been shown to be as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at controlling inflammation, making blue chamomile an excellent option for sports massage. 7

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil is an excellent topical analgesic, as is its cousin, wintergreen. Both have a cooling effect that also soothes.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus is packed with compounds that give it analgesic benefits, according to a 2003 study from a team of researchers from Georgia and Brazil that appeared in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 9

Final Thoughts

On its own, sports physical therapy can be hugely beneficial for the average individual who might have overworked themselves physically during the weekend—or any other day. However, the pain and inflammation-relieving benefits of this practice are compounded when it is paired with other elements like massage or essential oils. If you're experiencing some soreness or discomfort that you know is not linked to an underlying medical issue or a more series condition, perhaps trying out sports physical therapy paired with a few of the best essential oils for pain and inflammation is worth a shot.

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