Aromatherapy for Winter sports
Winter sports including skiing, ice skating and snowboarding, sledding and ice hockey are traditionally enjoyed in cold countries during the winter months, although with artificial ice and snow there is now more opportunity to try these sports in warmer climates too. Although winter sports are great fun, injuries are a common event and can range from minor bumps, bruises, strains and sprains to more severe injuries such as dislocations, and fractures. Many injuries are, however, preventable, caused when people are inadequately prepared or lose concentration by carrying on rather than stopping when tired or in pain. There are, in fact, many things that can be done to prevent injuries such as learning how to safely participate and abiding by the rules of the sport, using appropriate protective equipment and clothing, being aware of weather conditions as well as procedures for getting help, drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after the activity, warming up thoroughly and cooling down properly.
How aromatherapy can help prevent and relieve sports injuries
Essential oils can be useful for sports not only in helping to prevent and relieve injuries but also in helping to stimulate and relax the mind and body to increase fitness levels and performance. They can be used before sporting activity to warm, stimulate and prepare the muscles, uplift the mind and boost energy levels, and after sports to soothe overworked muscles, injuries and aid post-exertion recovery.
The most useful essential oils are those that help to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.
- Ginger – has a warming, stimulating, analgesic action. It helps increase circulation and is great for tired, muscles particularly when they are cold and contracted / tight. Safety: Take care with sensitive skin.
- Lavender – is excellent for relaxing the mind and body and relieving muscular aches and pains. It can also help to support healing and recovery where tissue has been damaged. It is great for headaches (if you have enjoyed a little too much ‘après-ski’) and can also aid a more restful and restorative night’s sleep. Safety: Avoid in early pregnancy or if history of miscarriage.
- Peppermint – has valuable pain-relieving, antispasmodic properties and a soothing, cooling effect on the joints and muscles. It can also help to relieve fatigue, stimulate the mind and revitalise energy levels.
- Rosemary – has rubefacient properties which means it warms the skin, muscles and joints and increases blood flow and oxygen supply which can help with the removal of toxins or lactic acid. It is excellent for relieving tight, over-worked muscles and can also help to revitalise, strengthen and focus the mind. Safety: do not use if pregnant or epileptic.
- Other useful aromatherapy oils are Clary Sage and Sweet Marjoram. These are excellent anti-spasmodics that are helpful for easing pain and discomfort particularly when combined with Lavender.
- In terms of carrier oils, Arnica infused oil is highly recommended for soothing bruises, sprains and muscular aches and pains.
Aromatherapy blends for Winter sports
Pre-Sport Massage Lotion
To help prevent injury to muscles, ensure that you warm up properly and take time to apply a pre-sport massage lotion to your limbs, which will enhance your warm-up routine. Remember to massage in a direction towards the heart.
Mix 14ml of Moisturising Lotion, 4 drops Rosemary essential oil, 2 drops Black Pepper and 1 drop Ginger.
Post-Sport Bath Soak
After activity, remember to cool down properly to reduce the risk of injury. If you have access to a bath a lovely warm soak can be wonderfully soothing for tired muscles.
Mix 1 cup of Dead Sea Salt with 8 drops Lavender essential oil, 6 drops Sweet Marjoram and 3 drops Clary Sage. Stir into the water to dissolve then enjoy a soothing soak.
Post-Sport Massage Oil
Research has shown that having a massage after vigorous exercise can help to suppress inflammation, reduce pain and help the muscles recover (1). Massage into affected areas, ideally after a warm bath or shower, in a direction towards the heart.
Mix 14ml Arnica infused oil 2 drops Lavender, 2 drops Sweet Marjoram, 1 drop Peppermint, 1 drop Plai and 1 drop Rosemary.
Cold Compress for Sprains / Strains
If you have been unfortunate to suffer a minor sprain or strain, apply RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevation). Cold compresses are best suited to the immediate treatment of soft tissue injuries. To make a cold compress, take about 100ml of iced or refrigerated water and add between 5-6 drops of Lavender essential oil. Place a folded piece of material on top of the water and let it soak. Next wring out the excess water and place the material over the area to be treated and repeat when it has warmed up to body temperature – in any event, a cold compress should not be left on the affected area for more than 10 minutes.
Breathe Easy Massage Oil
To help increase lung capacity and improve respiration, extremely important for sports relying on good lung capacity, put a couple of drops of either Frankincense, Eucalyptus Smithii or Peppermint essential oil onto a tissue and inhale deeply. Alternatively, make a massage blend as shown below and apply to your upper back and chest.
Mix 10ml carrier oil, 3 drops Benzoin essential oil and 2 drops Frankincense.
Compeed plasters are a must for all those who are taking serious exercise this Winter. These plasters are not cheap – but when it comes to blisters they are second to none, and are like a second skin when applied! If you are worried about infection where the skin in open, pop a tiny drop of Tea Tree essential oil in the centre of the plaster before application – although be careful not to use too much as it may prevent the plaster sticking and protecting the vulnerable area.
I hope I have given you lots of ideas on how aromatherapy can be used to help prevent injury as well as reduce pain caused by over-exercising or minor strains and sprains. Remember to always warm up, cool down and use the wonderful, aromatic essential oils provided by Mother nature. Happy exercising!
Disclaimer & Safety Advice
- Science Translational Medicine 01 Feb 2012: Vol. 4, Issue 119, pp. 119ra13 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002882