Pain in the joints and creaking of the bones could be misconstrued as arthritis, but it might be because of an uncomfortable condition. This condition or disorder is called bursitis, which can make regular activities too hard to do. Now, before we dive into the essential oils for bursitis, we should know more about the condition. Bursitis causes discomfort in joint movement and is accompanied with bone and muscle pains. The pains are felt in the elbows, knees, hips and shoulders.
What Is Bursitis?
What are bursae? Bursae are sacs filled with fluid that reduce the friction in the moving parts of the body, i.e. the joints. Bursae are found between the bones and next to the joints. Bursitis is when the bursae gets irritated and inflamed. This inflammation is felt after repetitive motion or if someone gets injured. The risk of bursitis increases with age, and in women. The risk increases with history of injuries or with surgeries near these areas.
More About Bursae
Bursae (with lubricating fluid) are present throughout the body and are small, but it’s predominant in lubricating, and thus cushioning, the bones and muscles. The connective tissues including joints, ligaments and tendons function smoothly because of the fluid sacs. When the normal functioning of bursae stops due to inflammation the regular bodily movements gets affected.
People who perform regular repetitive physical task are more at risk. Professionals including athletes, carpenters, musicians, artists and house helps are more at risk. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases list bursitis as a sports injury (1).
The simple treatment of bursitis involves resting the affected region and limiting the movement. Taking time off from the regular activities that aggravate the region and proper stretching reduces inflammation. In all the treatment methodologies, essential oils for bursitis can be used as a complementary treatment.
With proper care and the right essential oils, bursitis goes away in a few weeks. A visit to the doctor and medications are usually not needed. A review on bursitis published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in 2011 analyzes the causes of bursitis, different types of bursitis, its diagnosis and management (2).
Types of Bursitis
There are different types of bursitis. (And essential oils are a remedy for all types of bursitis.) Bursae, the fluid filled sac gets inflamed thus resulting in more friction in the joints and muscles, causing pain and discomfort. Let’s find out more about the different types of bursitis that affects the joints, muscles and ligaments.
Treating Trochanteric Bursitis With Essential Oils
The greater trochanter or bone is located in the hips. Inflammation of the fluid-filled sac bursae in this region is called Trochanteric Bursitis. Inflamed bursae cause hip pain and discomfort (hip bursitis), which results in frequent hip discomfort. The essential oils with analgesic properties are useful in lowering the pain and discomfort of Trochanteric Bursitis.
Treating Olecranon Bursitis with Essential Oils
One of the common problems with bursitis is when it affects the elbows. The bony part of the elbow is called the olecranon. Olecranon Bursitis is elbow bursitis. When the flat-shaped olecranon bursa is irritated, more fluid gets accumulates in the region leading to bursitis. Here again the therapeutic essential oils with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties provide relief from joint and muscular discomfort.
There are some essential oils with antispasmodic properties and a cooling effect which lowers the tension in the joints. The Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery published a review on Olecranon Bursitis (3).
Treating Achilles Bursitis with Essential Oil
You might have guessed where Achilles Bursitis affects the body. The retrocalcaneal bursa is located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone. Regular pressure due to labor or excessive training causes it to get inflamed. This form of bursitis affects athletes, which makes a dent in their training routine.
A week of rest with regular massaging with essential oils will help the athlete get back to his or her feet (literally). The oils with anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant properties are useful in treating Achilles Bursitis and lowering bursitis pain.
13 Best Essential Oil For Bursitis Treatment
1. Eucalyptus Essential Oil For Bursitis Treatment
Eucalyptus oil from the Myrtaceae family of plants is generally used in treating common cold, flu and headaches. It is also used to get relief from bodily and mental discomfort. The essential oil of eucalyptus has the power to improve the immunity of the body. Essential oil when blended with other oils works best for treating bursitis.
The diluted eucalyptus oil should be massaged into the joints to get relief from pain and discomfort. Therefore such essential oils for joint pain are a natural remedy that can provide relief and promote healing. The anti-inflammatory properties of eucalyptus oil reduce swelling. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of eucalyptus essential oil has been proven in a 2003 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (4).
2. Thyme Essential Oil Bursitis Remedy
The essential oil of thyme has strong anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce inflammation, swelling and pain to a large extent. This oil is used for its analgesic properties in lowering pain. Thus, thyme oil is a good choice for treating bursitis.
The oil is mixed with carrier oils including coconut oil or jojoba oil and massaged on the pain points. The anti-inflammatory properties of thyme oil were established in a 2008 study (5).
As an essential oil for inflammation, thyme can decrease swelling, irritation, and discomfort when applied topically or diffused. Its natural compounds work to reduce inflammatory responses in the body.
3. Treat Bursitis With Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger root, ginger paste and ginger root essential oil are known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This oil efficiently lowers the inflammation of the joints and muscles. It also increases the blood circulation in the region where it is applied.
Thus ginger oil ensures that blood flow is maintained in the inflamed spot. Proper blood circulation prevents the occurrence of edema in the inflamed region. This lowers the discomfort. Many people are averse to the aroma of ginger oil and hence blend it with other essential oils.
4. Rose Essential Oil Therapy For Bursitis
The essential oil extracted from Rosa centifolia and Rosa damascena is known for its aroma. Rose oil is popular and used in different parts of the world, particularly for its aroma. However, the oil also has therapeutic compound that makes it a perfect blend in itself for treating bursitis.
It lowers inflammation and its aroma induces relaxation. Mix rose oil with carrier oil and massage for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities.
5. Cypress Essential Oil For Bursitis Inflammation
Cypress oil is extracted from the Cupressus sempervirens. This oil is used in lowering the pain and swelling caused by arthritis. It is hence, also used to mitigate the symptoms of bursitis. Cypress oil diluted with castor oil is rubbed on the joints to lower pain and heal bursitis faster. The oil can be mixed with rosemary essential oil and used in massage therapy.
6. Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil Treats Bursitis
Cinnamon bark oil is also renowned for its aroma. It has a sweet warm aroma and is popular in aromatherapy. Its warming characteristics along with anti-inflammatory properties make it a suitable oil in treating bursitis. To use this oil on the skin, it first needs to be diluted with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or carrot seed oil and then massaged on the affected part of the joint.
Cinnamon bark is another essential oil that lowers pain and inflammation. The journal Bioresource Technology in 2008 published a study that highlighted the anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon essential oil. (6)
7. Clove Essential Oil For Bursitis
Similar to other essential oils on this list, clove oil also has good anti-inflammatory properties. It consists of the compound eugenol which has anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties. However, clove essential oil is not suitable for children. Clove essential oil is not a common oil and hence a skin patch test must be done before applying it on the skin.
8. Wintergreen Essential Oil Bursitis Therapy
The oil of wintergreen is a potent analgesic because of the compound methyl salicylate which is known to relieve pain. It is also used as an ingredient in several pharmaceutical pain relievers. The pain due to bursitis can be mitigated by rubbing the diluted form of wintergreen essential oil on the affected regions.
It can be applied on the head to lower the stress caused from the pain. It is rarely known, but one of the best essential oils to help alleviate inflammation and pain in joints.
9. Clary sage Essential Oil for Treating Bursitis
Clary sage essential oil is extracted from the Salvia sclarea plant native to the North Mediterranean Basin. This oil has anti-inflammatory activities and is gentle to the skin. It has two other properties that are useful in bursitis treatment, and they are antibacterial and an antidepressant. This oil also provides relief from stress.
Clary sage oil is a tonic that boosts the functions of the body. It improves blood circulation which delivers fresh oxygenated blood to the inflammation spot and speeds up the healing process. The aroma and circulatory properties of the oils relieves pain. Clary sage oil can be blended with other essential oil(s) to enhance its properties.
10. Birch Essential Oil For Bursitis
The essential oil from the Betula lenta tree is useful against bursitis. It has linalool as its main constituent. Linalool has several therapeutic properties including antimicrobial, neuroprotective and antidepressant. It is thus used to heal bursitis and mitigate its symptoms.
11. Rosehip Essential Oil For Bursitis
Rosehip oil is considered to be a close replacement for rose essential oil; only, rosehip is earthier. The oil of rosehip has analgesic properties making it useful in mitigating pain. It also has anti-inflammatory qualities that lower inflammation in the joints. Rosehip oil has the Vitamins A, C, D and E, and it is an antioxidant.
Thus applying the oil on the skin nourishes the skin and body and gives it more tools to fight against inflammation. Rosehip oil is also considered to be a safe oil. It is also recommended during pregnancy.
12. Juniper Berry Essential Oil For Bursitis
Juniper berry has been used since ancient times to treat wounds and speed up the healing process. It is also one of the Biblical oils. The woody aroma of juniper berry grounds the minds and helps overcome pain and discomfort. The pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties of juniper berry are used in treating bursitis.
This is a strong essential oil and must be diluted before use. Carrier oils, lotions or creams can be used for diluting the oil. The journal Cogent Medicine in 2017 published paper that researches on the anti-inflammatory properties of the essential oil from Juniperus communis. (7)
13. Black Pepper Essential Oil For Bursitis
The essential oil of black pepper is not as popular as rose oil, but its therapeutic properties are many because of which it gained popularity in recent years. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants proved that the oil from Piper nigrum L. had antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties. (8)
Black pepper has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. Those suffering with bursitis can ease pain and stiffness after applying the black pepper oil diluted with evening primrose oil.
Does Inhalation Aromatherapy Treat Bursitis?
Essential oils are use in aromatherapy in two ways – massage aromatherapy and inhalation aromatherapy. Massage aromatherapy involves diluting the essential oils and applying it on the site of bursitis. This makes sure that the blood circulation improves, and supplies the body with nutrients and medicinal compounds.
But, does inhaling the aroma of essential oils combat bursitis? A 2016 single-blind randomized clinical trial published in the journal Burns showed that both massage aromatherapy and inhalation aromatherapy lowered pain.(9) Hence, diffusing essential oils via an aroma diffuser can lower the pain associated with bursitis.
The mental agony and stress caused by bursitis can also be mitigated by diffusing essential oils including Clary sage, rose, rosehip and thyme.
DIY Essential Oil Recipes For Treating Bursitis
Making do it yourself essential oil recipes at home is very easy. The ingredients you need is the essential oil(s), carrier oil(s), and jar, roll on bottle or spritzer for storing the blend. Some of the carrier oils that can be used here are coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, castor oil and almond oil.
Blend Recipe #1
- 4 drops of cinnamon bark essential oil
- 2 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
- 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil
Blend Recipe #2
- 5 drops of thyme essential oil
- 3 drops of ginger essential oil
- 2 drops of Clary sage essential oil
- 3 tablespoons of evening primrose carrier oil
Some Other Essential Oils Blend for Bursitis
- Blend of thyme oil and eucalyptus oil
- Blend of Ginger oil and Clary sage oil
- Blend of cinnamon oil and clove bud oil
- Blend of ginger oil and cinnamon oil
- Blend of rose oil and rosehip oil
How to Use Essential Oils And Essential Oils Blends for Bursitis
After the essential oils have been suitably diluted, directly apply the oil on the affected area and its surrounding. Now, massage the region till the oil gets absorbed. Massage is also necessary to get the blood flowing. It is advisable to use essential oil blends for treating bursitis and reducing its symptoms.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and diluting them and applying on the affected joint help reduce joint pain. The anti-inflammation of the oil provides pain relief and also strengthen the muscles.
Other Remedies For Bursitis
- If the pain is not acute, make gentle movements and do mild exercises. However, do not fight through the pain and do any exercises that will trigger the inflammation.
- Stretching is a good way of ensuring mobility of the swollen joints.
- Rub a soothing balm on the affected region. Generally balms with menthol are used to soothe the pain region.
- Increase the dose of vitamins in the body. Experts suggest taking multivitamin tablets to help the body heal faster.
- As per health experts, people with inflammation must refrain from acidic foods. Meat, spicy food, excess salt and beverages are some things that one must avoid.
- Rub castor oil on the affected part of the joints or muscle.
- Take ample rest with alternate hot and cold compresses (ice pack).
Bursitis is a condition caused by inflammation of the bursae. People affected with bursitis find it hard to do everyday tasks as the disorder will hamper movement and cause pain. Essential oils for bursitis have the ability of treating the condition and getting rid of the discomfort and pain. Essential oils including eucalyptus, thyme and ginger root have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that treat bursitis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What essential oils are good for bursitis?
The essential oils good for bursitis treatment are as follows: –
1. Eucalyptus essential oil
2. Thyme essential oil
3. Rose essential oil
4. Ginger root essential oil
5. Peppermint essential oil
6. Cinnamon bark essential oil
7. Cypress essential oil
8. Wintergreen essential oil
9. Birch essential oil
10. Clary sage essential oil
Is tea tree oil good for bursitis?
Bursitis causes pain and inflammation in the joints. Tea tree essential oil is an anti-inflammatory agent that can lower inflammation of the body and soothe the pain. Tea tree oil should be diluted with carrier oils including castor oil or coconut oil and massaged on the affected part of the body.
What should you avoid with bursitis?
Things to avoid while suffering with bursitis are: –
1. Improper posture
2. Avoiding activities that strain the affected region of the body
3. Extreme exercises
4. Not warming up before exercising
5. Avoid sitting and standing positions that put too much pressure on the affected region.
6. People with frequent trouble must avoid weight gain.
- Overview of Sports Injuries. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sports-injuries
- J Am Acad Orthop Surg. (2011) Four common types of bursitis: diagnosis and management. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21628647/
- Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. (2016) Olecranon bursitis. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1058274615004693
- Journal of Ethnopharmacology. (2003) Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of essential oils of Eucalyptus. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874103003131
- Acta Vet. Brno. (2008) Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Thyme Essential Oil in Mice. https://actavet.vfu.cz/77/3/0327/
- Bioresource Technology. (2008). Anti-inflammation activities of essential oil and its constituents from indigenous cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum) twigs. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960852407006098
- Cogent Medicine. (2017). Anti-inflammatory activity of Juniper (Juniperus communis) berry essential oil in human dermal fibroblasts. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2331205X.2017.1306200
- Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants. (2014). Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory and Antinociceptive Properties of Black Pepper Essential Oil (Piper nigrum Linn). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0972060X.2013.831562
- Burns. (2016). Comparing the effects of aromatherapy massage and inhalation aromatherapy on anxiety and pain in burn patients: A single-blind randomized clinical trial. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305417916301863