What is Arthritis? What’s Going On in the Body that Causes Pain?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a disease characterized by inflammation in the joints. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease meaning there is no cure, and people who are diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis will have to learn to cope with it. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks a normal part of itself. In a normal functioning body, when antibodies in the blood detect a foreign entity in the bloodstream they alert the immune system to initiate an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response includes releasing white blood cells called neutrophils (and a host of other mechanisms) to release enzymes that eat away at foreign intruders such as bacteria or viruses. In the body that has developed Rheumatoid Arthritis, autoantibodies unnecessarily initiate the inflammatory response and call for neutrophils to release enzymes that unfortunately eat away at joint cartilage causing pain and stiffness.
Smoking is linked to faster Rheumatoid Arthritis development and severity. (Smoking is the number one habit that healthcare professionals ask patients to quit because it increases the severity and complications of diseases while reducing the effectiveness of treatments and therapies. Read more on Essentials Oils to Quit Smoking here. )
Although it is possible for anyone to get Rheumatoid Arthritis, women aged 40-60 are more frequently affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis 2-3 times more than men.
How do Essential Oils Relieve Arthritis Pain in the Body?
Many essential oils contain great analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Analgesics (substances that provide analgesia/ pain relief) block pain impulses throughout the body from reaching the brain, thus preventing you from perceiving pain . When the primary source of body pain is from inflammation, anti-inflammatory substances are used. Anti-inflammatories block the cell release of arachidonic acid, a substance that initiates the inflammatory response in a particular region.
Essential Oils are made up of many organic molecular compounds that include potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of organic compounds in an essential oil determines how that oil will therapeutically affect the body. That is why different essential oils are used for different ailments.
Listed below are a few of the common compounds found in Essential Oils and some of their amazingly therapeutic properties:
- Terpenes: antiseptic, stimulating
- Alcohols: stimulating, antiviral, antibacterials, tonic (a substance that makes you feel better and restores health), non-toxic (safe to use with children)
- Esters: anti-inflammatory, calming, anti-fungal
- Phenols: antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, stimulating
- Aldehydes: anti-infectious, tonic, anti-inflammatory, calming
- Ketones: calming, analgesic, sedative, digestive, stimulating, expectorant, wound healing, anti-inflammatory
Aromatherapists study in depth all essential oil molecular compounds and how their combined therapeutic effects relieve negative symptoms in the body. Essential oil blends are thus made to elicit synergistic effects that target specific ailments like arthritis pain for example.
6 Essential Oils for Arthritis Pain
- Sweet Fennel. Main Chemical Components: Phenols and Terpenes. Main Therapeutic Properties for Arthritis Pain: anti-inflammatory, analgesic
- Geranium. Main Chemical Components: Alcohols and Esters. Main Therapeutic Properties for Arthritis Pain: anti-inflammatory, calming, analgesic, balancing
- Ginger. Main Chemical Components: Terpenes and Alcohols. Main Therapeutic Properties for Arthritis Pain: analgesic
- Lavender. Main Chemical Components: Alcohols and Esters. Main Therapeutic Properties for Arthritis Pain: analgesic, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, stimulant, cicatrizant (promotes healing through formation of scar tissue)
- Black Pepper. Main Chemical Components: Terpenes. Main Therapeutic Properties for Arthritis Pain: analgesic (also effective in reducing tobacco urges to help with smoking cessation)
- Rosemary. Main Chemical Components: Ketones and Terpenes. Main Therapeutic Properties for Arthritis Pain: analgesic, anti-inflammatory
There are many essential oils that have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. If you have a collection of essential oils, but do not have any of the essential oils mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment at the end of the article asking about the analgesic or anti-inflammatory properties in the essential oils that you currently own.
Problems With Pharmaceutical Pain Relief Drugs
- Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs): Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Naproxen). Side Effects: Stomach and intestinal irritation including ulcers and hemorrhage, prolonged bleeding time, acute kidney failure, cardiovascular issues, and asthma exacerbation. May take 3-4 weeks to fully experience pain relief.
- Non-Opioid Analgesics: Tramadol. Side Effects: Stomach and intestinal irritation including ulcers and hemorrhage, hypotension, and heavy sedation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Side Effects: liver toxicity (especially with alcohol use), and reduced white blood cells.
- Opioid Analgesics: Codeine, Hydrocodone or Oxycodone (opioids mixed with acetaminophen, caffeine, or aspirin): Side Effects: Stomach and intestinal irritation, constipation, hypotension, sedation, and respiratory depression.
- Salicylates: Aspirin: Stomach and intestinal irritation, prolonged bleeding, exacerbation of asthma, and tinnitus.
- Corticosteroids: Prednisone, Hydrocortisone. Side Effects: Local osteoporosis, suppressed immunity, skin breakdown at injection site, stomach and intestinal irritation, insomnia, diabetes, acne, abnormal hair growth, bruising, hypertension, and fluid retention.
Best Way to Use Essential Oils for Arthritis Pain
Inhalation is the fastest way for essential oils to influence the body. The essential oil aroma (containing the therapeutic properties explained above) is inhaled through your nose, diffused into the bloodstream, and delivered throughout the body within minutes.
Using essential oils for arthritis pain is a form of therapy that should be used daily and as often as possible to build up the concentration of therapeutic essential oil organic compounds in blood circulation. Over time this will create an internal body environment that is fortified to reduce and prevent inflammation and therefore reduce arthritic exacerbation (flare ups). You will experience longer periods of arthritis remission and relief from arthritis pain. Woman over the age of 40 are encouraged to fortify their external and internal (inside the body) environment with essential oils as early as possible to slow the possible onset and progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Walking daily maintains joint mobility (which is necessary to fight stiffness caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis) and promotes circulation which is an excellent way to disperse essential oil molecules throughout the body.
How to Fill Your Environment with Essential Oils for Arthritis Pain
Choose a candle made with natural wax such as beeswax or soy. Use pure essential oils and a paper core or cotton wick. You can also make your candles with DIY candle kits. Just make sure you have the natural ingredients listed above. Synthetic products such as paraffin based candles may cause health concerns like asthma or cancer in the long term and are counter productive to achieving holistic health and wellbeing.
Sprays are easy to make yourself. Just add a few drops of essential oils to distilled water and store in a dark glass spray bottle away from sunlight. You can spray your car, pillow cases, or anything that provides opportunity to inhale the aroma. Make sure to shake vigorously before spraying to mix the oil and water.
Baths for Steam Inhalation
Add a few drop of essential oils to warm bath water. The heat from the water will allow the aroma to disperse into the air to be inhaled. You can also benefit from steam inhalation by filling a bowl with warm water and adding a few drops of essential oils. Use a towel to cover your head and lean over the bowl. Inhale the aroma for 5-10 minutes.
Essential Oil diffusers are a very popular way to disperse essential oil molecules into the air over a long period of time. There are also plug-in essential oil diffusers to use in your car. This method of essential oil inhalation is a great way to ensure that you are inviting therapeutic properties into your body at all times to help with arthritis pain.
Arthritis pain is debilitating and chronic use of pharmaceutical drugs can be even more debilitating to your health with chronic use. Constantly inhaling essential oils purposefully creates a constant internal environment of anti-inflammatory and analgesic therapy (as well as a wealth of other beneficial health promotion properties). Using essential oils for arthritis pain is a sustainable, natural, and effective coping strategy for living with Rheumatoid Arthritis.