Herniated Discs can be very painful. Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils can certainly help to bring relief and the first step is understanding what you are dealing with, then based on that understanding, you are able to choose the most appropriate oils and protocol for the individual in question. It has always been my personal experience that a uniquely customized blend will work so much better than a ‘generic blend to fit everyone’ would.
Herniated Discs Medical Approach
According to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-care-and-health-information):
A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine.
A spinal disk is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a tear in the tougher exterior.
A herniated disk can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. On the other hand, many people experience no symptoms from a herniated disk. Most people who have a herniated disk don’t need surgery to correct the problem.
Most herniated disks occur in your lower back (lumbar spine), although they can also occur in your neck (cervical spine). The most common signs and symptoms of a herniated disk are: Arm or leg pain. If your herniated disk is in your lower back, you’ll typically feel the most intense pain in your buttocks, thigh and calf. It may also involve part of the foot. If your herniated disk is in your neck, the pain will typically be most intense in the shoulder and arm. This pain may shoot into your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze or move your spine into certain positions. Numbness or tingling. People who have a herniated disk often experience numbness or tingling in the body part served by the affected nerves. Weakness. Muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken. This may cause you to stumble, or impair your ability to lift or hold items.You also can have a herniated disk without knowing it — herniated disks sometimes show up on spinal images of people who have no symptoms of a disk problem.
Disk herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disk degeneration. As you age, your spinal disks lose some of their water content. That makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist.
Exercise, maintaining good posture and a healthy weight can all help to prevent a Herniated Disc in the first place.
Conservative treatment — mainly avoiding painful positions and following a planned exercise and pain-medication regimen — relieves symptoms in most people within a few days or weeks.
The regular medical options include: Over-the-counter pain medications. If that doesn’t help Narcotics. Anticonvulsants may be helpful in cases where there is radiating pain. Muscle relaxants if there are muscle spasms.
They also suggest that cold packs and gentle heat may be helpful. In addition avoid too much bedrest as this can lead to stiff joints and weak muscles.
Herniated Discs Aromatherapy Approach
Based on the above we can see that there is quite a lot that essential oils can help with.
Essential Oils to consider for Herniated Discs
Many of the essential oils have analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties and here are some examples:
Black Pepper – has analgesic, antispasmodic and warming properties. It can be helpful in improving circulation, as well as nerve pain such as sciatica, neuralgia and temporary paralysis.
Roman Chamomile – has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and analgesic properties. Helpful for arthritis, inflamed joints, neuralgia, neuritis, rheumatism and muscle pain.
Clove – has analgesic, anti-rheumatic, anti-neuralgic and anti-spasmodic properties. Helpful for arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, muscular aches and pains.
Fir – has analgesic and warming properties. Helpful for muscular aches and pains, as well as arthritis and rheumatism.
Frankincense – has anti-inflammatory and sedative properties. Helpful for rheumatism.
Geranium – has anti-inflammatory properties, can be helpful for rheumatism and neuralgia. Helps improve circulation.
Ginger – has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and warming properties. Used for arthritis, muscle aches and pains, injury, neuralgia, sprains and strains.
Helichrysum – has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and sedative properties. Used for muscle aches and pains, arthritis, rheumatism as well as shingles.
Lavender – has analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. Helpful for muscle spasms, sprains, cramps, lumbago, muscle aches and pains, sciatica and neuralgia.
Marjoram – has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. Helpful for lumbago, muscle aches and stiffness, sprains, spasms, and toothache. Helps neuralgia and eases headaches.
Myrtle – has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and soothing properties. Helpful for arthritis, muscle knots and spasms, nerve inflammation and for calming fibromyalgia pain.
Peppermint – has anaesthetic, analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. Helpful for neuralgia, sciatica, arthritis, rheumatism and muscular aches and pains. Also very cooling.
Yarrow – has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and antispasmodic properties. Useful for rheumatoid arthritis, neuralgia and tendinitis.
Methods of Application
Aromatic Compresses: As alternating cold and gentle heat have been found to be really helpful for the pain associated with Herniated discs, adding your essential oil blend to some alternating hot and cold compresses can be very effective.
Fill two bowls. One with cold water and the other with warm/hot water.
Add 4 – 6 drops of your essential oil or blend to each bowl.
Alternately wipe a cloth over the surface of the water, wring out any excess and then apply to the required area.
Start with the hot/warm water, followed by the cold water. Repeat as the cloth changes temperature. Repeat cycle of hot, then cold two to three time, each compress should be applied for 2 — 3 minutes. Always end with a cold compress.
You might want to make 2 different blends. For the cold compress, I’d consider a blend of 2 drops peppermint and 2 drops marjoram. For the hot compress, I’d consider a blend of 3 drops of ginger and 2 drops of geranium. These are only suggestions and you can create appropriate blends from any of the oils listed above.
Topical application of the blend in the affected area: A gentle massage with the right essential oils can really help to relieve pain, inflammation and spasms. Remember that the essential oil blend should always be diluted in an appropriate carrier before being applied directly to the skin with a 2 – 3% dilution being generally recommended for massage i.e. 12 – 18 drops of your essential oil synergy to every 30 ml (1 ounce) of your carrier.
Carrier oils to consider include vegetable oils like coconut, sweet almond, grapeseed etc. and an infused oil like St. John’s Wort can also be really helpful. Some people prefer using a gel as their base and an Aloe Vera Gel or Comfrey Gel could be a good choice. Being water based, gels will absorb through the skin a lot quicker than vegetable oils and so might bring quicker relief. Vegetable carrier oils, on the other hand, will give you a slower release over a longer period of time.
A synergy I have used in the past for this problem: 3 drops Black Pepper, 3 drops Clove, 5 drops Lavender, 5 drops Marjoram and 1 drop Peppermint. Of course, you can come up with your own unique blend and use that instead. Just make sure that they are appropriate for the individual you are blending for. If you need to check there is a listing of Essential Oil Contraindications that you can check your choice against.
Read Muscle aches and Pains for some additional ideas.