Which essential oils should you use for sport?
Sport of all types can be a wonderful hobby, and provide many benefits for both physical and mental health. But it can also be a source of many small problems, such as cramps, pains, injuries and more.
Essential oils are most useful in the gym, on the road or in the pool. You can breathe in the scent of wintergreen - a magic potion for exercisers of all types! Anti-inflammatory and analgesic, the essential oils of Roman Chamomile, Clove, Wintergreen and Peppermint work miracles on joint and muscle pain like cramps and aches, as well as physical trauma such as sprains and tears.
We have written a dedicated article on how to prevent running injuries.
How to warm up properly
Warming up is an important step to take before starting any physical activity. In addition to preventing possible injuries, it allows the body to get ready, preparing the muscles for the effort in a gentle way. As a result, they will perform better, because they’re in ideal working conditions! Athletes and their trainers know the importance of this step. And now you do, too!
A warm-up should consist mainly of joint movements, and an elevation of your heart rate. You can also add a vigorous massage at the beginning of your warm-up, which increases the skin temperature, wakes up the muscle and prevents muscle pain.
Joint mobilisation consists of rotating the mobile parts of your body, i.e. your neck (use gentle movements so as not to inflict damage), arms, wrists, pelvis, ankles and knees. For the cardiovascular part, you should be moving for approximately 5-10 minutes. Several exercises, such as knee lifts, skipping with a rope, slow jogging, cycling are perfct... it's up to you to pick something you like!
Physiotherapist's advice to wake up the muscles
First, make a mixture with 2 drops of Wintergreen essential oil, 1 drop of Peppermint essential oil, 3 drops of True Lavender essential oil and 1 teaspoon of Arnica vegetable oil. This recipe also works for sports recovery. Use from 12 years of age only.
Lie on your back and place something under your knees (try a cushion!) to relieve the lower back. Apply the mixture by creating very fast friction and sliding pressure all over the muscle, to wake it up. Always start with the legs and work your way up to the heart, stimulating circulation.
Note: the purpose of the warm-up massage is to prepare the muscle for the effort, notably by increasing the skin temperature. Very superficial, with very rapid movements, it lasts barely 5 to 10 minutes and is nothing like a recovery massage. It does not in any way replace a full warm-up, but is used in addition.
For a top athlete, this massage is helps concentration, and is a way to feel in control of and "at the centre" of their body. An athlete is very attentive to their body, noting the smallest discomforts to the masseur, so that further attention can be given to the area. This muscular awakening lasts, I repeat, very little time.
Amateurs very rarely practice it, which is a pity because it helps avoid a lot of muscular suffering - but it all depends on the sport. In boxing, for example, a trainer often performs it on a boxer themselves.
How to relieve a muscle strain?
If a muscle has been stretched beyond its capacity, a strain is a warning that comes before a tear. It is usually not very painful but requires care nonetheless.
Combine 2 drops of Wintergreen essential oil, 2 drops of Helichrysum essential oil + 2 drops of Ylang-ylang essential oil with 5 drops of Calophylla vegetable oil. Apply 3 times a day by gently massaging the affected area.
A mild sprain is a harmless stretching of a ligament, but discomfort can be ease with gentle massage.
Add 1 drop of Wintergreen essential oil, 1 drop of Bay Leaf essential oil + 1 drop of Calophylla vegetable oil and mix together. Apply the mixture directly to the sprained muscle and massage gently 4 times a day.
How to treat a muscle tear?
A muscle tear, also known as a muscle strain, is a partial or total rupture of a muscle due to over-stress or trauma during excessive physical effort. It can affect many muscles, which are made up of muscle fibres, or elongated cells, and are attached to a skeletal bone.
The areas that are particularly susceptible to muscle tears are the front and back of the thigh and the calf. Muscle tears have 3 levels of severity:
- A simple pull
- Incomplete tear, also known more commonly as a "muscle strain”
- Complete tear
Dilute 2 drops of Wintergreen essential oil in 10 drops of a neutral vegetable oil like Macadamia oil and apply directly to the painful area. From 12 years of age.
How to relieve the pain of a sprain?
A sprain is a traumatic injury to one or more ligaments in a joint. Essential oils can accelerate recovery. A sprain can occur on limbs of the upper or lower body, although most often it’s the ankle at risk. A sprained ankle is actually the injury that ranks first in the list of the most common sports injuries!
- Mild sprain: a simple pull of the ligaments. This degree of damage does not prevent the joint from functioning.
- Moderate sprain: a stretching of the ligaments associated with a partial tear.
- Severe sprain: a complete rupture of the ligament(s) – like the cruciate ligaments in the knee, for example.
Essential oils can accelerate recovery from a sprain. However, we always advise that you consult a health professional before treating at home, to avoid risking further damage.
Mix 2 drops of Wintergreen essential oil with 10 drops of Calophylla vegetable oil. Apply directly to the painful area and massage gently. From 12 years of age.
||Dilute 2 drops of Wintergreen essential oil + 2 drops of Helichrysum essential oil in 5 drops of Arnica vegetable oil. Apply using light massage, twice a day for one week. From 12 years of age.|
Physiotherapist's advice for a mild sprain:
You have twisted your ankle. The pain is not unbearable (otherwise consult your doctor, or consider heading to A&E or your local Minor Injuries Unit!), but you are still in pain. Your foot is immobile and must be kept straight, without any muscular tension, so that the healing of the tissues can take place without stress.
Apply a compress soaked in pain-relieving essential oils to the area. Do not massage. Change the compress 2 to 3 times a day. If you can, gently press the “sprain-proof” points under the ball of the ankle and on the instep for 3 minutes, repeating every 15 minutes on the day the injury occurred. When the pain has seriously decreased, space it out to 2 or 3 presses per day. If the pain does not subside within 2 or 3 days, consult a doctor.
If you cannot rest the sprain, ask a physiotherapist or doctor to apply strapping (a kind of tight bandage to protect the ligaments without impeding circulation).
How to relieve and avoid muscle soreness?
Muscle soreness is caused by tiny cracks in the muscle fibres, following too much or unusual physical exercise. The cracks can manifest themselves as muscle pain or a feeling of stiffness in the muscles that have been used in the 12 to 48 hours following the physical exercise. They can also be caused by a viral infection (influenza, chikungunya, dengue, malaria, etc.) or by taking certain medications.
Relieving aches and pains:
Mix 5 drops of Rosemary Camphor essential oil with 5 drops of Macadamia or St. John's Wort vegetable oil. Massage the affected areas. From 12 years of age.
||Dilute 15 drops of Nutmeg essential oil and 15 drops of Rosemary Camphor essential oil in 10ml of Calophylla vegetable oil. Pour the mixture into the palm of your hand and massage the painful areas, making sure the oil penetrates well. From 12 years of age.|
||Dilute 1 drop of wintergreen essential oil and 2 drops of camphor rosemary essential oil in 15 drops of arnica vegetable oil. Massage the mixture into the affected areas 3 times a day for 3 to 4 days. From 12 years of age.|
In a bath:
For a large bathtub, use a maximum of 10 drops of one or a mixture of the following essential oils: Wintergreen, Rosemary Camphor, Lemon Eucalyptus, Lavandin Super, Lavender Aspic.
Dilute the drops of essential oil in 2 tablespoons of neutral bath and shower base. If you have a small bath, divide the doses by 2.
Avoiding aches and pains:
Dilute 2 drops of Wintergreen essential oil in 10 drops of Arnica vegetable oil. Apply this preparation before and after exercise. From 12 years of age.
|Mix 8 to 10 drops of Niaouli essential oil with a tablespoon of neutral vegetable oil. Massage into painful areas. From 7 years of age.|
How to get rid of a cramp naturally?
A cramp is a sudden, short, unexpected and usually very painful involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscles. There are several types of muscle cramps, the most common of which are harmless leg cramps or cramps that occur at night in the lower limbs. Muscle cramps are also associated with physical exercise that is too intense or long, and involves excessive sweating. They can occur during or immediately after exercise. “Writer's cramp" is located in the hands, and occurs after prolonged writing efforts.
The risk of cramp increases under certain conditions, such as dehydration, overtraining, complete lack of or not enough warm-up before exercise, muscle compression, etc.
Dilute 2 drops of Niaouli essential oil, 1 drop of Wintergreen essential oil + 2 drops of Lavandin Super essential oil in 1 tablespoon of Arnica vegetable oil. Massage the painful areas after exercise with this mixture. From 12 years of age.
Cramps and pain
|Dilute 40 drops of Lavandin Super essential oil + 40 drops of Fresh Ginger essential oil with 30ml of Arnica vegetable oil. Massage the area with a few drops of the mixture twice a day. From 15 years of age.|
A small contraction that is not given attention can turn into a cramp. The whole muscle becomes tense. Sometimes it's the other way round: after a cramp that has been "lifted", there are still points of contraction. The massage gestures are identical in both cases. Stretch the contracted area (this is often the calf or the foot), from either lying down or standing. For the calf, place the foot on a step, heel down, and stretch the contracted muscle. For the foot, pull the foot and toes towards you as much as possible to stretch the tight muscle. The cramp will release in around 15 seconds. Gently massage - gliding and kneading - with analgesic essential oils. If the cramp is located under the soles of the feet, massage the point indicated on our drawing more precisely.
How to relax and unwind your muscles
The aim is to relax a muscle as much as possible following a muscle contraction. Muscle contraction is defined as an involuntary contraction or tetany of the muscle. Many soothing oils are welcome after exercise. Scots pine is a good pick, guaranteeing total relaxation.
Add 10 drops of Scots Pine essential oil to a tablespoon of neutral bath base. Soak in the water for a good twenty minutes (this is not suitable for children under 6 years old). Dry yourself without rinsing.
Mix 2 drops of Wintergreen essential oil, 1 drop of True Lavender essential oil, 1 drop of Peppermint essential oil + 2 drops of Rosemary Camphor essential oil with 5 drops of Arnica vegetable oil. Massage the sore areas with this mixture after training to relieve the muscles and prevent tendonitis.
How to make a good sports recovery
A big sports session is good for your body, but its also important to consider a good recovery! You have to take care of your body, and listen to it to allow it to regenerate properly so that it can perform better during the next session. It’s thanks to recovery that you will see your endurance improve, and you’ll be able to avoid injuries and pain. Take time to massage your muscles and stretch properly after your training sessions.
Do passive stretching only, which consists of putting tension on the muscle and holding it for 20 seconds. Then, adapt your aromatic massage according to your sport. Walkers and runners should focus on the calves, skiers on the legs and back, tennis players on the arms and hands, and horse riders on the lower back.
In massage :
Great Sportsmen and Women
Mix 1 drop of Wintergreen essential oil + 2 drops of Lavandin Super essential oil in a teaspoon of Arnica vegetable oil. Apply the mixture as a tonic rub before exercise and as a gentle, deep massage afterwards. From 12 years of age.
Recovery after sport
|Mix 5 drops of Rosemary Camphor essential oil with 6 drops of Arnica vegetable oil. Massage the affected areas. From 12 years of age.|
Physiotherapist's advice for recovery:
Use gliding pressure across the entire muscle to prepare it for a deeper massage. The rhythm, much slower than in a warm-up, allows toxins to be drained and the lactic acid, which clogs the muscles and causes aches, to be cleared. It's a bit like "muscle drainage", but it's called a recovery massage.
Start at the foot and work your way up the legs. Finish with a foot massage for extra relaxation.
As the venous return is from the arch of the foot, focusing on this area is essential to facilitate the elimination of toxins and to allow further relaxation, which can reach all the way up to the trapezius (upper back). A foot massage relaxes the whole body! And finally, remember to drink plenty of water.
THE PURESSENTIEL JOINTS & MUSCLES
Disclaimer: This article is intended as a guide and is not a substitute for the advice of a physician, pharmacist or other health care professional.
For any therapeutic use, consult a doctor or a pharmacist. Refer carefully to the contraindications and precautions for use of each essential oil. In case of doubt, consult a health professional.
Extracts from the books "Aromatherapia, tout sur les huiles essentielles" and "HUILES ESSENTIELLES, HUILES VÉGÉTALES & HYDROLATS : Mes indispensables", by Isabelle Pacchioni, published by Editions Aroma Thera and the book "Automassages aux huiles essentielles, guide visuel" by Isabelle Pacchioni, published by Editions Leduc.s..