The pain: Chronic or sudden aches or spasms that occur most often in the lower part of the back. Pain may vary from minor to intense, and at worst, can bend you over with lightening – like stabs of agony.
Its source is the spine, which is a stack of bones called vertebrae and, between them, cushions of cartilage called disks. Disk problems cause 99 percent of all back pain, When the disks are damaged, they develop rips, and little sections of the disk pop out and press on nerves. Or a disk can collapse, causing the vertebrae to shift. The exact cause of back pain can be tough to track down. Pinpointing the cause and even the precise location of back pain often turns doctors into body detectives. “When one muscle in the back becomes inflamed or spasms, it affects a whole bunch of muscles that may have nothing to do with it, structurally. ” Sometimes, moving your skull will affect your tailbone. “Consequently, the causes of back pain are numerous: pinched nerves, weak abdominal muscles, loss of flexibility tight leg muscles, a big gut, trauma, sitting too long, poor overall fitness and herniated discs.
See a doctor if:
your pain is severe, lasts more than three days, or radiates to your hips or legs. … you have sudden pain and you’ve never had backache before. Your doctor can rule out serious injury and prescribe a course of action that can have you up and about quickly. … the pain follows a traumatic accident. … the pain is accompanied by bladder or bowel problems, severe illness or fever.
If it’s not poor muscle tone or improper movement that’s got your lower back in knots, you may want to peek in your medicine cabinet. A few drugs can cause backaches,
a central nervous system depressant that is prescribed to relieve tension • Samaritan (Imitrex or Immigrant), which is used to treat severe migraine headaches Also, Vitamin D, especially when taken in high amounts, can cause muscle and joint pains, including backache. To ease your pain, your doctor may recommend that you take acetaminophen (paracetamol), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, or aspirin. These types of medicine may interact with other drugs, so make sure you talk to your doctor about possible conflicts.
Pack some ice. To relieve backache, reach for an ice pack, Apply it for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Alternately, fill a paper cup with water, freeze it, peel back the paper, and rub the ice on sore spots, don’t hold the ice on the area for more than 20 minutes, and keep a thin towel between you and the ice to prevent damage to your skin.
Pack some heat.
After the first couple of days, you may get more comfort from the warmth of a heating pad, bath, or shower. Try moist heat. Rinse a small towel under hot water and bring it to near dry. Apply heat for up to 15 minutes at a time. If you use a heating pad on a medium setting, be careful not to fall asleep or leave it on too long, he says. You could burn your skin. Try hydro collars, which are sold at chemists and look like little sandbags. Toss one into a pot of hot water and when the bag is heated, apply it to your sore spot for 15 minutes.
Go hot and cold.
Its technical name is hydrotherapy, but all it means is using water to soothe your sore back. Alternate hot and cold packs for about 15 minutes on your back when it hurts, says Robert Edwards, a massage therapist. Get extra relief by soaking in a warm bath, then applying a cold compress. “A warm bath is relaxing and soothing,” he adds. while the cold compress helps minimize pain.
Ease the pain with exercise: Get out of bed.
“Most people shouldn’t be in bed for back pain,” says Reid, therapy coordinator at the Spine Institute of New England. Movement helps the body heal faster, even after age 60. That may contradict what you’ve heard in the past, but doctors no longer recommend more than a few days of bed rest for backache and only then if the pain is severe. Too much rest can actually make backache worse or lead to chronic pain that comes and goes for months or years. That’s because muscles become lax and bones lose strength when they’re not used. Resist the urge to rest in bed, especially for more than two to three days, says Steven Mandel, MD, a clinical professor of neurology. Studies show that light activity actually hastens healing. It you feel you need bed rest, take it but try walking around every few hours, even if you have a little pain, he says. A stroll around the house or yard will help strengthen muscles and keep them limber. Until you’re feeling better, though, avoid activities that may strain the lower back, such as vacuuming or gardening.
Reach for the home stretch.
As soon as you’re able, add some gentle stretches to your daily routine. This will speed healing and increase flexibility.
Try this exercise.
Lie on the floor on your back and hug your knees to your chest. Hold for 15 seconds. Relax. Repeat two times. Go to the point of stretch, not to the point of pain. If you can’t get down on the floor, you can still stretch, Reid says. Sit in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lean forward from the waist, bringing your chest slowly toward your thighs. Breathe in on the way down, and let the air out with a sigh as you lower yourself near your legs. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds. You can do this stretch as often as you like. Reid says. Or try this standing stretch, Reid suggests. Stand with your feet shoulder – width apart with your hands on the small of your back. Lean backward as you breathe out, then ease off and repeat several times. This promotes a backward motion of the spine.
Soothe with yoga.
Yoga stretches, called asana, may help relieve some back pain, says Alice Christensen, founder and executive director of the American Yoga Association in Sarasota, Florida. But be sure to get your doctor’s approval before trying this or other yoga poses. With this pose, Christensen suggests, pretending that you’re an ocean liner slicing through the deep blue. Lie on your stomach with your arms outstretched in front of you and your forehead on the floor Exhale completely, then inhale as you raise your legs, arms, and head all at once, looking up, lift yourself up only as far as you can comfortably. Exhale and lower your body. Rest completely, then repeat two more times. The classic knee – to – chest pose helps relieve common lower – back discomfort: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Place a folded towel under your head to keep your neck and head in line with the spine. Bring your right knee up to your chest. Place your clasped hands underneath your right knee. Relax the right foot. Straighten the left leg on the floor as you flex the left foot. Keep your head centered and relax your shoulders. Hold this pose for 20 to 60 seconds, and then do the same exercise with the left leg. Try to do at least two sets every day, suggests yoga instructor, .
Add some aerobic options.
As your pain diminishes, within the first few days or weeks, add some light aerobic activity, such as walking, swimming, or bicycling. Mandel suggests. Exercise is no guarantee you’ll never have back pain but it can lessen the chances of a relapse by strengthening muscles and supplying them with oxygen.
“When someone starts exercising, there’s a tendency to say, ‘Tell go until I can’t go anymore, “That’s a recipe for failure.” You may feel too sore to try again. Instead, start with short periods of exercise several times a day. Go for five minutes out and five minutes back. Build up to six minutes and then seven. “Before long, you’re up to your first half hour but you’re doing it safely.
Try a pseudo – sit up.
suggests this modified sit-up. Lie on your back with your knees bent in a comfortable position and your hands on your thighs. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor slowly as you slide your fingertips to reach your knees. Hold for a count of three and gradually ease back down. Start slowly, but aim for three sets of 10 repetitions. Don’t attempt this exercise, however, if you are currently experiencing back pain.
Stretch like an elephant.
Stand up and bend your torso forward as far as is comfortable. Let your arms hang separate and loosely at your sides. Next, swing your arms gently from side to side like the trunk of a contented elephant. This relieves pressure in the sacrum the lower part of the spine – and loosens your hip and lower back muscles After a minute of swaying, uncurl your spine and slowly straighten to a standing position, Bring your head up last. Repeat these steps at least six times a day.
Try tai chi.
This “moving meditation “offers graceful movements that are relaxing and energizing, says Lana Sparker, a master instructor who has taught tai chi for more than 25 years.” Tai chi is successful for older people because it is done slowly and gently, exercising all the muscles of the body in a balanced way, “says Sparker, who is also a certified Alexander Technique instructor.
Slip into the pool.
Water provides buoyancy and allows your tender muscles the chance to move freely without a lot of resistance. Here’s a tip: Take gentle laps for at least 10 to 12 minutes in a pool with a water temperature of at least 83 F. Warm water helps relax back muscles.
Loosen the legs.
You might think that the problem is in your back, where the pain is, but it could be in your legs. After sitting or bending all day, your leg muscles may be extremely tight or unbalanced (meaning that some muscles may be loose and relaxed but others are contracted or in spasm). Tight leg muscles pull oddly on the torso and put pressure on the back and abdominal muscles. To rebalance your calf muscles, stand flat – footed on a stair step in flat, comfortable shoes with the balls of your feet on the very edge and your heels in the air, holding on to a railing for support, slowly lower your heels until you feel a tightness up the back of the legs. Hold for a few seconds, repeat 5 to 10 times, and do as needed during the day.
Extend those hamstrings.
The same is true of those muscles running down the back of your thighs. Sitting for long periods, the bane of office workers – shortens the hamstring muscles in the back of your legs, which then yank on the pelvis and make other muscles compensate. Work your hamstrings by standing up and placing one heel on a steady chair or end table. (Hold on to a nearby table or chair for balance). Keep this leg straight and lean forward until you feel a pulling sensation in the back of your thigh. Hold for about 30 seconds, and then switch to the other leg.
Do this a few times a day, especially after you’ve been sitting for a long time of no – stress sit – up. To do a crunch, lie on your back on a carpeted floor or an exercise mat with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, fingertips lightly touching the sides of the head, and elbows out to the sides. Tilt your pelvis so that your lower back stays flat on the floor, and then curl your body up so that your head and shoulders come off the floor. Keep the crunch slow take three seconds to lift your head and shoulders, pause for a second with the abs fully contracted, and then take three seconds to lower your body. you do these crunches for a 10-minute session every day.
Stretch your spine.
Carry on with your normal everyday activities, but avoid lifting and strenuous sports until the pain has subsided and your strength has returned. Great Ormond Street Hospital. London. In the evening, she suggests you stretch out your spine by lying face up over a lumbar roll (also called a ‘back archer’) – most health stores stock them but check the instructions carefully, because it should be placed under the sacrum (the lower back, at the top of your bottom). “If you can’t get one. Put a large, soft – backed book under your sacrum – a telephone directory is ideal,” says Dr Start with a lumbar roll about two inches high and gradually increase the height as your flexibility improves.
You’ll feel a powerful stretch, but try to relax so that the vertebrae can separate a little and the spine opens out. The first time you use the roll you may only manage a few seconds, but persevere and extend the time gradually until it feels relatively comfortable. Always do five curl – ups after this exercise to stretch out the opposing muscles and prevent any muscular spasm.
Try some “back-ups.”
If you have lower back pain, do the following exercise. Lying on your stomach, use your arms to push your upper body off whatever you are lying on. Do 10 of these in bed before getting up, and another 10 before bed at night. “It shouldn’t hurt, but if it does, disconnect immediately and get medical advice.
Try hanging off a door frame for do – it – yourself traction, but only if you’re strong enough. “This is particularly good for chronic back pain, but only do it if it helps.
Everyday prevention: Give yourself a lift.
Bending and lifting incorrectly are major causes of back pain. Even if you’re not lifting anything, 70 percent of your body weight is above pounding every time he bends. The waist,” he says. That means a 150 – pound person lifts about 100
Don’t lift with your back
Next time you reach for a suitcase in your car trunk, bend your hips and knees, keeping your back straight.
Hold on tight.
When you’re carrying luggage, keep it close to you. The further away you hold an object, the more it weighs. And avoid lifting loads of more than 5 to 10 pounds, he advises.
Push rather than pull your loads.
That way your legs bear most of the weight.
If you’re moving a box, don’t pick it up and twist your body. “Never bend and twist. Instead, grasp the box diagonally from the bottom, keeping it close to your body. Lift with your legs and buttock muscles while keeping your back straight. Then face squarely to where you set it down.
Please don’t be seated.
Sitting can actually aggravate back problems. Sleeping sitting for long periods on soft, cushy sofas or recliners can cause your back to slouch or your neck and head to be held forced forward, he says. Pick the right chair, “Sitting for prolonged periods can aggravate your back,” says Dr. Light. “You should find a chair with a firm cushion on the seat and with armrests. Both of these will help support the spine.
Rise from the monitor.
If you sit at a computer or desk for hours at a time, get up and do something else about every 30 minutes: You’ll provide your back with needed nutrients by keeping the circulation going. “It’s really important to move around.
Position your computer monitor at eye level, even if you have to put it on top of a telephone book. Keep your elbows bent at 90-degree angles and your arms parallel with the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a low stool.
Get out of a slump.
When you’re sitting at your desk, try not to slouch, Reid cautions. Tuck a pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back for extra support. Or invest in a high – end office chair with a seat height and seat pan (the forward – back tilt of your seat) that can be adjusted to meet your needs,
When you’re standing for long periods of time, that, too, can aggravate back pain. Vary your position. While standing, keep one foot on a low stool. Or keep a taller stool nearby, so you can sometimes sit while you work. Wheeler suggests. Another option, of course, is to run errands during off – peak hours so you won’t have to spend as much time standing in line.
To prevent or minimize back pain at night, keep your spine in a neutral position. Dr. says. Don’t prop your head and neck with a big pillow. Instead, choose one that keeps your head and neck in line with your upper back. “Sleep only on your side or your back, but never on your stomach.” He speaks. Sleeping on your stomach twists your neck and back. Also, avoid extremes in surfaces, such as saggy mattresses or bare floors. A good mattress and pillow will maintain your neck and back in the correct posture even while you sleep. Pillows between your knees or along your back or sides may provide further comfort to your back and shoulders. Or. Dr. says, if you’re on your back, prop a pillow under your knees.
Pick the right pillow.
Hardness is the enemy. A pillow only needs to be firm enough to keep its shape and support the lower neck when you sleep on your side.
Ease into the driver’s seat.
To get safely into your car, lower yourself backward onto the seat, keeping your feet on the ground. Bring one leg and then the other into the car, “even if you have to use your hands to pick up those legs.” To get out of the car, do the opposite. If you need to carefully support yourself on the back of the seat as you rise.
Ride in style.
If you’re driving or riding in the car on a long trip, use a small pillow and vary its position on your back for comfort. Take a break about every two hours and walk a bit. Your back will thank you for it. Don’t lean forward with your upper body when you are driving, cautions Hope. the Alexander Technique is a method for improving movement and posture. “You want your neck, shoulders, and back to be as free of tension as possible,” she says. Slide your hips all the way into the back of the car seat and lean into the seat back. And position your seat so that you can hold the steering wheel comfortably. If you are too close, you will have to hunch your shoulders to hold the wheel. If you are too far away, you will have to round your upper back to reach it.
DO a sidewalk window – check.
“When you are walking by a shop window, look at your reflection and check out how you are moving,” says Tiller man. “If you are leaning forward. Stop walking. Then bring your weight back on to your heels of your feet and feel the ground solidly underneath your whole foot.
Then watch your stride.
After you have checked out your reflection, continue to pay attention to your posture as you start walking again. If you are slumping and tucking your hips forward, let your hips shift slightly backward and unlock your knees. While you are moving, think about lengthening your spine, like an arrow pointing up away from the ground.
Wear well – cushioned shoes.
“Any shoe with a cushioned sole and good arch support can help prevent back pain,” says Dr. But high heels are the worst shoe for your back. “They exaggerate the lumbar curve – the curve in the lower part of your back – and that can cause back pain, “he says.
Belt up for safety.
If your job requires frequent lifting, Dr. suggests that you wear an abdominal belt:” It pulls in the abdomen, helps support the spine, and it reminds you to lift correctly. “Weight lifters wear these belts to protect their backs during exercise. The belts are available at sporting goods stores and most drugstores.
Use a stool when you stand.”
If you are standing a lot, it is best to bend one knee and put it. on a stool – that helps relax your back, “says Dr.
Bone up on supplements.”
If you are a woman over the age of 40. You BACK PAIN 53 should consider taking calcium supplements, “says Dr. Calcium helps protect your spine and the rest of your skeleton from osteoporosis. The disease of eroding and weakening bones. In older women especially. There is the risk that vertebrae may fracture. If they are weakened by osteoporosis. But calcium can help prevent the disease. And if you have a family history of osteoporosis.
“Smoking decreases circulation to the disks and causes them to degenerate sooner,” says Dr. .
Hands – on help:
Find a hero. Attention all partners of back pain sufferers – here’s your chance to be a real hero to your mate When your partner begs for a gentle massage, rub to the rescue, says Dr. Using both your thumbs or the heels of your hands, rub up the center of the spine, starting at the bottom of the back. and stopping just below the shoulder blades. Then start over again at the bottom. Massage stimulates the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid (which tends to accumulate around an injury site). If you do this kind of massage, it reduces swelling and promotes healing.
Turn to a professional.
Let someone else’s hands do the walking – all over your aching back. Regular professional massages, as part of an overall treatment program, can significantly improve your back ailments. Check with your insurance company; they may even cover therapeutic massage. As you get your massage, don’t just lie there and grunt, by the way. Be sure to tell your massage therapist what helps and what hurts, he adds.
Work on your feet.
According to reflexology, the art of improving your health by manipulating pressure points in your feet, the midway point down the inner sides of your foot represent the spine and back area. By pressing on that special point, you can relieve some of your back pain. How do you find this precise spot? Instead of memorizing the special reflexology chart, just give yourself a foot rub down those inner sides when you have back pain, Edwards says. “If you find a point that is extremely tender, then you know you have it,” he says. Once you find that point, gradually increase the amount of pressure.
If your game isn’t up to par lately, you can still put all your tennis and golf balls to good use. Grab a tennis ball (for beginners) or a golf ball (for advanced folks) to give yourself a quick and easy back massage, either sitting in a chair or lying down, take a tennis ball and place it behind your lower back or wherever you feel pain. Then roll around and move your back so that the ball rubs into your back muscles. “It will cause some relief. If at any time you feel pain, either let up on the ball or stop, he adds. suggests rolling around for two to three minutes twice a day.
Stretch back your back.
This acupressure move stimulates several key trigger points in your upper back and loosens the knots that tend to pain. Interlace your hands with your palms facing each other behind your back near your buttocks. As you inhale deeply, stretch your arms away from your back, pressing your shoulder blades together, Hold for a few seconds. Repeat this exercise three more times, and do them twice a day, says Dr.
Make some heat.
Using either your palms or the back of your hands, rub your lower back until you generate heat. “The friction will warm the area and increase circulation,” said Dr. By rubbing the entire lower – back area, you inevitably stimulate many of the acupressure points located there . This will activate those points and will ease some of your pain.
Reach for your knees.
An acupressure point located in the center of the crease in the back of the knee can relieve back pain. Using your fingers, find the center of the crease. Apply firm pressure with your fingers at different angles, until you feel a rather sharp sensation. “This usually takes some gentle poking around. When you feel the sensation, you have the point. Hold that point for about two minutes, slowly inhaling and exhaling. After doing one side, switch to the other, Dr. Gash says. For best results, do both knees three times a day.
Press pain away.
Another acupressure point for back pain is located on the outside of your ankles between the ankle bone and your heel. Place your thumb on the outside of your right ankle, and place your index finger on the inside of your ankle, as if you were pinching your ankles. Slide your thumb and press it into the soft tissue in the back of your heel bone. Hold the pressure for at least two minutes. Shake out the ankle before doing the same thing to your left side. Keep your breathing deep and slow during the exercise. Repeat this exercise three times a day for best results,
Stick your finger in your ear.
There is an acupressure point inside the top of your ear – called the neuromata point – that can control back pain, says certified acupuncturist Dr. David Nickel. The neuromata point is located in the middle of the upper part of the ear, just above the main ear opening. Press the point firmly for five seconds, then let go for five seconds. Stick with the five – second intervals for one full minute. Exhale through your mouth as you apply the pressure, and inhale through your nose as you ease off the pressure point. If you can’t find the exact point, press all over your ear until you hit a tender spot, Repeat the exercises two or three times a day or as needed for relief of pain.
Engage in hand – to – hand combat.
Two points on the top of your hand can ease the pain for lower – back strains. One point is about an inch or so down from your knuckles between your ring and pinkie finger, the other is at the same spot between your index and middle finger, Judi like you would for your ear acupressure points, press down on the point with your thumb or finger for five seconds, then release for five seconds, Inhale through your nose as you let up, exhale through your mouth as you apply the pressure.
You can use this point to prevent back pain as well, Press the points on the left hand, just like you would if you had an injury – five seconds on, five seconds off. While you do this, slowly move the upper part of the body into the range of discomfort as you press and then exhale. Then gently move your body back to a comfortable position Visualize the ligaments and muscles growing stronger as you breathe, you should feel a “good” hurt, that is, a hot stinging sensation, when you do preventive acupressure for back pain. Then switch and apply the pressure points on the right hand.
Mind over malady: Change the pain.
You can try to relax into the pain so your perception of it changes. Just imagine that you smell cabbage cooking. At first the scent is overpowering, but before long, you don’t notice it anymore. The sensation of pain, too. may be great. But if you can relax and “just hang out with it for a time,” he says, your perception of the pain might lessen. “The pain is still there but it doesn’t feel so bad.”
Relax your mind and your back.
Back pain can be an endless cycle. You have a spasm, or you feel a sharp stab of pain. Your mind goes through a quick checklist: “Is it serious? Will I have to take off work? Do I have to see a doctor? How am I going to get everything done? I don’t need this.” This stressed – out feeling sends your body into tense mode, and ends up tensing up muscles everywhere, including your back the result? Tighten your back muscles even more, you end up with even greater pain, and the cycle repeats itself. When you feel back pain, you need to calm down your mind and your back. During your next back pain attack, try the following exercise:
Sit in a chair and focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale, hold the breath for a second, then exhale as you are blowing on a candle flame but you don’t want to blow it out. As you do this, picture yourself sinking into the chair Think about feeling warmth and heaviness near your back. “The warmth helps relieve pain and tension. Do this for two to five minutes a few times a day, he suggests. “Whenever you feel the tense of stressed or your pain increases, take a short break, even one to two minutes, at work, at home, wherever. This is a portable approach that can be done anywhere as needed.” He explains. This should help relieve some of the pain as well as relax your entire body and mind.
Harp on your back.
Listening to the quiet music of the harp has helped people deal with pain for ages. In the Bible. David played the harp to rid Saul of an evil spirit. Monks played the instrument to assist the dying. You may just need it to quell some back pain. The harp has been used in music therapy to alleviate many types of pain, but especially back pain, Campbell says. Buy a tape or CD of harp music and have it ready to go the next time your back starts harping on you. Although music is therapeutic and aids in relieving or “masking” pain, Campbell stresses that it is a great complementary therapy, when used as an adjunct to your normal medication.
Herbal Help: Pump in the blood flow.
Getting fresh blood to an injury brings in nutrients needed for healing and also carries away waste products manufactured by injured cells. The herb ginkgo biloba has been shown to dilate blood vessels and may theoretically increase blood flow to your aching back. You can buy the herb in capsule form in health food stores and over the counter at many chemists. Dr, recommends a product with standardized extract. Follow the package directions for dosage information.
Try a combo.
In some cases, a combination approach may be useful where ginkgo balboa increases blood flow, curcuma can add an anti-inflammatory effect, Curcuma, a highly concentrated form of turmeric sold in health food stores, is a potent anti-inflammatory medicine that is very effective for a soft tissue injury, like a sore back, says Dr. Look for a product (capsule form) with standardized extract of 95 percent, and follow the recommended dosage on the bottle.
Pepper the pain.
Red pepper contains a marvelous pain – relieving chemical – capsaicin – that is so potent that a tiny amount provides the active ingredient in some powerful pharmaceutical topical analgesics. You can buy a commercial cream containing capsaicin and use that or simply use red pepper. A hot pepper costs a few cents, while capsaicin drugs cost a few dollars. You can mash a red pepper and rub it directly on the painful area. You can also take any white skin cream that you have on hand – cold cream will do and mix in enough red pepper to turn it pink. Whether you use a Foam or a hot pepper, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward: You don’t want to get it in your eyes. Also, since some people are quite Sensitive to this compound, you should test it on a small area of skin to make sure it’s okay for you to use before using it on a larger area. If it seems to irritate your skin, use discontinue.
Try willow and other forms of natural aspirin.
Aspirin originally came from compounds known as salicylates that occur naturally in willow bark, meadowsweet and wintergreen. Any of these herbs can be made into pain relieving teas.
Make pain vanish with mint.
You will find the compounds menthol and camphor in many over-the-counter backache medications. They are chemicals that can help ease the muscle tightness that contributes to many bad backs. Menthol is a natural constituent of plants in the mint family, particularly peppermint and spearmint, although the aromatic oils of all the other mints contain it as well. Camphor occurs in spike lavender, hyssop and coriander. Dilute essential oils in a carrier base oil such as jojoba, baby, or castor oil (10 to 12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil). Then have someone massage them into your back to help alleviate pain. You can also put a few drops of peppermint on a compress and place it against the sore area of your back. Peppermint gets the circulation moving and the blood flowing to the injured area.
Treatment with essential oils can often help relieve the painful muscle spasms that contribute to back pain. Several of these – sage, rosemary, thyme, horsebalm and mountain dittany – are rich in thymol and carvacrol, compounds that help relax muscles. To use any of these oils, add a few drops to a couple of tablespoons of any vegetable oil and massage the oil mixture directly into the affected area. You might also add a few drops of the oil to a hot bath and soak for a while, inhaling the vapors. (Remember, though, never to ingest an essential oil, as small quantities of some oils can be fatal.)