In serious pain? Aromatherapy and reflexology could help

There are so many conditions that cause serious, long-term pain. Fibromyalgia. Arthritis. Back injuries. Nerve damage. Migraines. Multiple sclerosis. Shingles. Cancer.

Is it any wonder that opioid addiction is an epidemic?

But there are effective alternatives to opioids if you’re dealing with chronic pain… no matter what the cause. And some of them may surprise you. like aromatherapy and reflexology.

These natural therapies sound like treatments you’d get at a spa after a stressful week. Or try at home for the occasional headache.

But they’re heavier hitters than you might think. And research shows they can make a serious dent in serious pain.

Aromatherapy and reflexology relieve cancer-related pain

A clinical study currently underway at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center found that aromatherapy and reflexology can significantly reduce pain for women undergoing radiation therapy for cervical cancer.

Women who treat their cervical cancer with radiation experience some serious pain. But researchers found that those who had essential oil aromatherapy and foot reflexology for 30 minutes before their treatment had far less pain. In fact, their pain levels decreased by a whopping 60 percent.

But there’s more good news…

These women also typically experience lots of anxiety. But women who got essential oil aromatherapy and foot reflexology had lower anxiety levels too. Their anxiousness dropped by about 20 percent. Not too shabby.

All this means a better quality of life, less medications and less side effects for women dealing with a serious illness.

“It’s nice to have something that really helps these patients that’s not another medication,” said Dr. Lisa Blackburn, a clinical oncology nurse specialist and principal investigator of the study. “Not only do these integrative therapy sessions have virtually no side effects, but patients required about 40 percent less pain medication than those who didn’t receive these therapies.”

Do aromatherapy and reflexology work for other types of pain?

So, here’s what I’m thinking…

If aromatherapy and reflexology work for something as serious as cancer-related pain, wouldn’t they be helpful for other types of pain too?

The answer is yes. And there are studies to prove it. In fact, a 2016 study found that aromatherapy massage and reflexology significantly reduced pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis too.

So why not give these therapies a shot?

I’d suggest finding a natural health practitioner who practices reflexology and aromatherapy and treating yourself to a session. Having someone else perform these therapies on you will allow you to relax completely, which will only amplify the benefits.

But if funds are tight and you want to try these therapies on yourself first, you absolutely can. Aromatherapy is especially easy to try at home. The best essential oils for pain relief are:

  • Bergamot
  • Cinnamon
  • Geranium
  • Ginger
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass

These have all been shown to provide pain relief in clinical studies. So, purchase a few, and see if they work for you. Once you have a supply of pain-relieving essential oils, you can:

  • Inhale the oil directly from a bottle or add some to a cotton ball/piece of cloth to take on-the-go
  • Put some in an essential oil diffuser
  • Mix it with a carrier oil (like almond or grapeseed oil) and where it like perfume
  • Mix it with a carrier oil and massage it into a painful muscle or joint

DIY reflexology is a little more complicated because each spot on your foot corresponds to a different area of your body. That means, the point(s) you need to apply pressure to will vary depending on where you’re experiencing pain. You may want to get a book on reflexology from the library to get started. You can also watch this helpful video on reflexology for back and foot pain.

At the end of the day, though, nothing feels quite as good as having someone else give you a reflexology foot massage. Trust me. I’ve had them, and they’re amazing. If you want to get reflexology on a budget, look for local massage therapy schools. Students often need to practice on people to receive certification. So, why not lend them a hand (or a foot) and relieve your pain while you’re at it?

Editor’s note: If you suffer from chronic pain and conventional medicine has let you down, or you just want to escape the potential dangers of OTC and prescription drugs even for occasional pain, you must read Conquering the Pain: An Alternative Doctor’s Fresh Look at the Newest and Oldest in Alternative Pain Therapies. Click here to get your copy today!


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and