Arthritis is a disease affecting the joints.
There are over 100 different types of which the most common ones are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms include pain, inflammation, stiffness in joints and inability to move.
All these symptoms affect the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual.
Medications are often prescribed to arthritis patients however this induces their dependency on the drugs which sometimes produce lesser benefits and remain ineffective.
Aromatherapy, in this case, serves as an alternative to these prescribed medications.
It can also be used as a good add-on therapy for an even more effective treatment. Let me first introduce you all to aromatherapy.
What is aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils derived from natural sources like flowers, leaves, bark, stem, roots and other parts of the plant.
These compounds provide aroma and improve the overall wellbeing of an individual.
It is widely believed that the aroma in the compounds relaxes the nerves and provides a soothing effect.
The therapy helps in stimulating the body to fight against diseases and soothes pain providing immense symptomatic relief.
Research studies claim that aromatherapy can be used to cure diseases. We will now proceed with details of the benefits of aromatherapy for arthritis.
Benefits of Aromatherapy in Arthritis
Here are some benefits of Aromatherapy for arthritis patients.
1. Reduces pain in arthritis
Chronic pain is the major symptom of arthritis and can last to up to 6 months.
A study conducted by Kim et al. in 2005 incorporating plant oils from various sources along with carrier oil was used in aromatherapy for the treatment of arthritis patients.
Results showed that the aromatherapy reduced level of pain and depression in the experimental group as compared to the control group.
A study published in Pain research and treatment in 2016 reported the effectiveness of aromatherapy in treating chronic pain in the back, neck, knee and other conditions like menstrual pain too.
Another study evaluated benefits of a cream made from essential aromatic oils of lavender, peppermint, marjoram and black pepper on neck pain.
Results indicated that the essential oil cream showed significant improvement in pain on application to the patients of the experimental group as compared to the control group.
What does this mean? Essential aromatic oils used in aromatherapy have great potential of curing pain in people who have arthritis.
2. Helps fight depression and improve well being
Pain, inflammation, and stiffness of the joints lead to the inability of the joints to work or move effectively.
This affects the overall well-being of the patient that in turn causes anxiety and depression due to inability to perform at work or home.
According to a study published by Kim et al. in 2005, a blend of essential oils and carrier oils used in aromatherapy significantly reduced depression levels in patients who have arthritis as compared to the control group.
According to University of Maryland Medical Center, aromatherapy can reduce pain, improve mood and provide a sense of relaxation.
Massage using oils like those derived from lavender rose, orange or sandalwood relieves pain.
What does this mean? Aromatherapy with essential oils improves mood, relaxes the mind from anxiety and reduces depression. All these conditions can help in improving the wellbeing of patients who have arthritis.
3. It has anti-inflammatory properties
Inflammation is the major symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic inflammation can serve as a source of various other medical complications.
A study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2012 reported that topical application of essential oils in the affected arthritic joints could significantly reduce inflammation by inhibiting mediators of inflammation like cytokines.
Findings published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine report that aromatherapy involving essential oils have found to be essential in treating symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis including chronic inflammation of the affected joints.
What does this mean? Inflammation is a major symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Essential oils derived from flowers and fruits possess anti-inflammatory properties whose use in aromatherapy can benefit patients with arthritis in curing chronic inflammation.
4. Prevents fatigue and improves sleep
Arthritic patients suffer from fatigue due to increased anxiety and stress.
Fatigue may also occur as a result of side effects of medications taken by the patient in the treatment.
An experimental study evaluating the benefits of aromatherapy massage on rheumatoid arthritis patients reported that the therapy reduced fatigue scores in the experimental group as compared to the control group.
Anxiety can also sometimes cause extreme fatigue, and hence it is important to seek help for anxiety.
Studies published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2013 reported aromatherapy to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress. The therapy also improved sleep quality.
What does this mean? Arthritis patients can opt for aromatherapy that helps relax, improve energy levels and reduce fatigue.
5. Can help overcome problems of drug side effects and ineffectiveness
Arthritic patients are prescribed several drugs to overcome the pain and provide symptomatic relief.
These drugs are not only expensive, but their long-term use makes the patient dependent on them and increases their risk to toxicity and side effects.
In a research study, Rose et al. suggested the use of complementary therapies like herbal remedies and aromatherapy to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
These therapies are more beneficial than conventional treatments as they are safe and effective and at the same time reduce the dependency of patients on drugs and ineffectiveness of the conventional drugs.
A survey carried out by Buchbinder et al. in 2002 reported that patients spend a lot of money on prescription medications that sometimes give lesser benefits and come with side effects.
Findings of the study suggest that patients can opt for alternative treatments supporting their safety and efficacy.
What does this mean? Aromatherapy produces great results and serves as a good alternative to the high cost of prescription drugs used for arthritis treatments. Use of aromatherapy in place of medications serves as a safer alternative, reduces the risk of side effects and drug dependency of patients suffering from chronic conditions.
Is aromatherapy effective for arthritis?
Aromatherapy utilizes essential oils from natural sources that not only relax an individual and soothes the pain but also relieves a variety of symptoms associated with arthritis.
Being derived from natural sources, it is considered a safer option when compared to drugs associated with adverse reactions and side effects.
Several research studies indicate the effectiveness of aromatherapy in arthritis treatment.
Aromatherapy also reduces drug dependency and ineffectiveness preventing the risk of toxicity of patients.
It is a cost-effective method and reduces the cost spent on medications by patients producing the same or even better positive results.
Aromatherapy involves topical application and massage and hence considered safe in most instances.
However, it can be toxic or even fatal if essential oils are consumed by mouth.
The oils must be applied away from the eyes as it can cause irritation and inflammation.
In rare cases, creams made from essential oil may cause side effects like rashes, inflammation, and headache or nerve damage.
Pregnant and lactating women consult a herbalist before opting for aromatherapy.
It has been found that active components in essential oils like eucalyptus oil interact with certain medications and render them less effective.
Hence those on medications must consult a doctor before opting for aromatherapy.
In this article, we have come across a variety of lesser-known benefits of aromatherapy in arthritis.
It is safe and effective and poses a better option as compared to medications inducing side effects.
Arthritis patients can consider aromatherapy as a potential option for their effective treatment or even as an add-on therapy after consulting their doctor.