Essential Oil Essentials: Injury Prevention—Oils For Pre-Workout & Post-Workout

Essential oils can be a great way to keep moving.  They’re super helpful after an injury but are also great for preventing injury.  


Two great steps to take to support your musculoskeletal system and reduce the chance for injury are to use a warm-up liniment on muscles before physical activity and to use a soothing topical on joints and sore muscles afterwards.  


Step 1: Warm-Up Liniment

A “warm-up” liniment is a way to get blood flowing to the muscles to warm them and also to bring in nutrients and oxygen needed for physical activity. Liniments also help loosen up tight muscles. Keep in mind that warm up liniments don’t substitute for an actual warm up before whatever it is you’re about to do; they just augment the process and reduce the chance of pulling a muscle. Going on a hike?  You can use your liniment on quads, hamstrings, and calves, and if it’s an uphill hike, your butt muscles (keep away from any mucus membranes, though!).  Gardening? You might want to slap some on your back, shoulders, and arms as well. 

Liniments can also be used post-injury—not on the injury itself (for example, a knee injury) but rather to relax the surrounding tissues that may tighten up in response to the injury and aggravate it.  The liniment will also help circulate wastes from tissue damage out of the area.  (Find a list of essential oils good for warm-up liniments below!)


Step 2: Soothing Topical

A soothing topical preparation with oils for soothing sore joints and muscles and reducing tissue damage is a great way to finish up your workout for the day.  You want essential oils with anti-inflammatory activity, and those that also reduce spasm and other types of pain are also great support. (Find a list of essential oils good for soothing topicals below!)


Using Essential Oils To Prevent Injuries

Always dilute your oils before application…either in rubbing alcohol or in a carrier oil or cream.  Try about 10-12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier for large areas (say your quads or back).

If you want to get fancy, you can used a plant-infused oil as your base. For example, rosemary, black pepper, lavender, or ginger make lovely infused oils for use in liniments.  Frankincense, lavender, St. John’s Wort, or goldenrod make lovely infused oils for a post-workout blend.   A well-made infused oil could even be used without the addition of essential oils!

It’s one thing to ease a bit of stiffness before getting moving, but remember that the goal here isn’t just to mask pain so you can work through it. Pain is a signal to stop doing whatever is causing it.


The Best Essential Oils For A Warm-Up Liniment (Step 1) 


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

  • warming, circulatory stimulant
  • penetrating—will help rest of blend penetrate deeper into tissues


Ginger (Zinbiber officinale

  • warming, circulatory stimulant
  • pain relief—reduces inflammation


Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)

  • warming, circulatory stimulant
  • it’s not as hot as you’d think, but consider using in a blend with other oils, as it may be a skin sensitizer in some folks (I’ve yet to have a problem with it, but good to keep in mind)
  • penetrating—will help rest of blend penetrate deeper into tissues


Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or other species)

  • relaxes tight muscles
  • pain-relieving 


Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

  • helps loosen tight muscles
  • pain-relieving
  • don’t use in small children 
  • don’t use if prone to seizures or on meds that reduce seizure threshold


Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

  • circulatory stimulant, rubefascient
  • pain relief
  • don’t use too much; just a small part of a blend…the hot/cold sensation can get too strong as your body warms up
  • not for use in children 


The Best Essential Oils For Recovery & Support Post-Workout (Step 2)


German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

  • reduces inflammation to reduce extent of tissue damage after a workout
  • reduces pain—muscle overuse, joint pain
  • also helps with spasms, but Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is even better for this
  • strong (and expensive)—you can get away with using just 1 drop per 10 drops of essential oil in a blend
  • helpful for nerve pain as well
  • safe for children


Marjoram (Origanum majorana

  • a great anti-inflammatory oil to reduce extent of tissue damage after a workout
  • eases joint stiffness
  • also good for muscle spasms, soreness, overuse
  • some smell wonderful, some are more medicinal smelling (different “chemotypes”)


Frankincense (Boswellia species)

  • reduces inflammation to reduce extent of tissue damage after a workout
  • overused or otherwise sore muscles
  • multiple pain relieving effects 
  • helpful for nerve pain as well


Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens and other species)

  • strongly anti-inflammatory oil that also smells great
  • also helpful for nerve pain and joints


Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or other species)

  • great for before or after a workout 


Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)

  • great for before or after a workout