Aromatherapy For Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a very difficult illness to have to deal with. Because fibromyalgia causes so many different symptoms, ranging from chronic headaches to muscle pain, it can be hard to find a treatment that works for them all. And many medical treatments cause side effects that can sometimes be worse than the fibromyalgia symptoms themselves. As a result, more and more fibromyalgia patients are looking towards alternative treatments to help reduce their symptoms. Aromatherapy promises to help fibromyalgia sufferers decrease their pain, while improving their mood and outlook on life.
What is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy refers to the practice of using scents to treat various psychological and physiological problems. It involves inhaling or applying essential oils, which have been extracted from plants, seeds, bark, and flowers. There are over 150 different essential oils, which can be used alone or in combination with each other, to help treat different illnesses and disorders.
The French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefosse, who witnessed the healing properties of these essential oils in the 1930s, first introduced the term aromatherapy. However, aromatherapy has been in use for centuries, and was practiced in Ancient Egypt, China and India.
How Does Aromatherapy Work?
Aromatherapy is believed to work by stimulating our sense of smell. Humans are capable of detecting over 10,000 different scents, and every scent causes our body to respond in a slightly different way. When we inhale scents, 15% of this inhaled air goes straight to our brain. It specifically affects the limbic system in our brain, which is responsible for controlling mood and emotions. Once activated by the scent, the limbic system releases hormones, causing us to experience a certain mood or emotion.
How are Aromatherapy Essential Oils Used?
There are over 150 aromatherapy oils. Certain scents are purported to help certain conditions. These oils can be:
- inhaled directly from the bottle
- applied to the skin
- added to a bath
- dispersed around the room with an aromatherapy candle or aromatherapy oil burner
When applied directly to the skin, essential oils must be combined with a carrier oil, such as grapeseed or sweet almond oil. This is because essential oils are very strong, and have the potential to aggravate or burn the skin. Essential oils should never be taken internally or applied to the eyes.
What Conditions Can Aromatherapy Treat?
Aromatherapy is purported to be able to treat a wide range of physical and emotional disorders, including:
- muscle pain
- digestive disorders
- menstrual disorders
Can Aromatherapy Help Treat Fibromyalgia?
Aromatherapy is becoming more and more popular amongst fibromyalgia sufferers. This is because of the effects that aromatherapy appears to have on pain sensation and mood.
In a recent study performed by Serge Marchand, a neuroscientist for the American Pain Society, the effectiveness of aromatherapy in reducing pain and improving mood was tested. The study involved 40 participants, both male and female, who were first asked to rate their mood and pain levels after inhaling ten different scents. The participants were then asked to dip their hands in hot water for three minutes. Every fifteen seconds, the participants were asked to inhale a smell and rate their pain levels and mood. The results showed a correlation between pleasant scents and increased mood levels in both male and female patients. Female patients also showed decreased pain scores when inhaling a pleasant scent.
Aromatherapy also seems to offer fibromyalgia patients:
- improved circulation
- increased pain tolerance
- improved mood
- sense of rejuvenation
Aromatherapy Oils for Fibromyalgia
Certain aromatherapy oils are specifically recommended for fibromyalgia sufferers. If you have fibromyalgia, you may want to experiment with:
- lavender, chamomile, or jasmine (to help you relax)
- lemon, grapefruit, or geranium (to help increase your energy)
- black pepper, eucalyptus, peppermint, or juniper (to ease sore joints and muscles)
Using an Aromatherapist
Though you can practice aromatherapy at home, it is generally recommended that you find a trained aromatherapist to help select and administer the proper oils for you. Aromatherapists have the proper knowledge of the contents of each oil, and know exactly how they should be used. An aromatherapist will take your medical and personal history, and, according to your needs, will select the best oils for you. Your aromatherapist will then apply the oils safely, during a massage. A typical aromatherapy session lasts about one hour and costs about $60.