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Aromatherapy Case Study: Easing Post-Workout Muscle Tension in a High School Athlete

My client was a female teen cross country and long distance track athlete. She attended a high school with a highly competitive running program as evidence by their multiple league, invitational and state championships. Workouts were intense and proper hydration, nutrition, supplementation, sleep, and post-recovery efforts were essential to reaping the benefits of the workouts.

My client experienced muscle soreness and tightness from workouts and races. Muscle knots and tightness can and had led to injury in this athlete and recovery efforts were focused on helping keep the athlete's muscles loose and reducing inflammation and soreness. In addition to stretching, foam rolling, ice baths and visits to a chiropractor, aromatherapy was used to aid relaxation of muscles, as a tonic to the body and nervous system, and to promote relaxation of the mind and body. Using essential oils in massage oil proved very beneficial in helping the athlete to recover and in reducing tightness and soreness in the muscles thus heading off injury.

The essential oils used included lavender (Lanvendula angustafolia), Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), and Hawaiian sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum) in a base of jojoba oil. Lavender was chosen because it is calming to the mind and body, it's anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and a tonic to the body. Roman chamomile is also anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, calming to the mind and body, and a tonic. Sandalwood is an excellent anti-spasmodic, and also cooling, calming, and anti-inflammatory.

Two drops of each oil was added to 10 ml of jojoba oil to create a 3% blend. The blend was massaged into the client's legs -- especially the calf muscles and feet once per day after the afternoon workout. The effects were almost immediate. Massage with carrier oil or lotion alone often failed to relax tension, but the addition of essential oils helped immensely -- I could feel the muscles relax and soften.

This formulation could be enhanced by the addition of lymph decongesting oils such as juniper berry (Juniperus communis) or cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) essential oil or analgesic essential oils.

In summary, the addition of essential oils and aromatherapy to massage and recovery measures can be very beneficial to athletes at many levels. By reducing muscle tension, knots, and soreness athletes can be proactive in preventing injury. Recovery and benefit from workouts also includes proper hydration, nutrition, plenty of sleep (an athletes secret weapon!), proper supplementation, and hydrotherapy (cool baths, ice baths, epsom baths). From my own personal experience essential oil containing salves can be very beneficial for reducing muscle tightness in older athletes just wishing to exercise or enjoy racing for fun.

If you have questions about aromatherapy or enhancing athletic performance or recovery naturally using essential oils contact Tricia.

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