Effectiveness of Infused Herbal Oil for Treating Lower Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common conditions in modern society. It affects all age groups and is a major reason for health care usage. Evidence suggests that 80% of adults experience back pain in their lifetime9. Its impact can cause physical, social, psychological and economic distress. Usually low back pain is reported as self-limiting like acute or subacute but, if left untreated it is evident that it turns into a chronic pain in 10% of the population.

Those experiencing chronic pain find it affects them in their daily activities by disturbing their quality of life8. The conventional treatment for chronic back pain involves prescribed medications and other adjunctive therapies. But research suggests that extensive use of prescribed medications for pain relief can lead to abuse of these drugs with serious consequences9. (For example, in 2016 a study showed that long-term acetaminophen use has led to increased risk of heart attacks, bleeding in the digestive system, and impaired kidney function.4)

Therefore, it is recommended that people with chronic pain take a holistic approach using massage with infused herbal oils. Evidence has shown that certain remedies are helpful and that many find them useful in daily life.4 A study conducted in 2001 on massage and back pain found that: “Massage decreased lower back pain, depression, and anxiety, and improved sleep. The massage therapy group also showed improved range of motion.”9

To achieve the best benefits of massage, people have used essential oils, herbs, and other natural pain relievers for hundreds of years. Herbs can be used to relieve aches and pains due to inflammation. From ancient times, one of the more versatile uses of herbs is mixing them to make infused oil. These oils work in two ways: 1) They cause an emotional and physical response, and 2) They penetrate the skin to underlying tissue and distribute their therapeutic properties.1, 4

There are many herbs found locally which have amazing therapeutic properties and are used to make infused oil. Knowing some of the differences can helpful to choose the best herb for the situation.1,4 A few of them which are used for maximum therapeutic benefit are Garden cress seeds, Oregano, Sesame seeds, and Himalayan salt infused in olive oil. These herbs have amazing healing, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and analgesic properties.

GARDEN CRESS SEED – Also known as Lepidium Sativum, this is an edible fast-growing herb which has been used in folklore medicine for a centuries. The seed contains significant amount of plant sterols which are anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. It also contains phenolic compounds which work at a molecular level and inhibit inflammation. The seed, when infused in the carrier oil and applied to joints or muscle pain, helps recover from muscle weakness, reduces muscle tension, and promotes pain relief.6

SESAME SEED – has been used as a traditional remedy against various ailments for centuries. Sesame seed oil has high antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Sesamol, Sesamolin and Sesamin are the antioxidant components present in its seeds. Among these, Sesamin is a lignin with anti-inflammatory properties which helps in pain relief, reduce spasms, and increases range of motion when applied to the affected area. Many studies have shown that sesame seeds, when infused in oil and applied to the painful area, stimulate blood flow due to its excellent emollient properties.3, 10

OREGANO – is a herb found locally and widely used in the culinary arts. Besides its wonderful taste, this herb also serves in various ailments due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Oregano leaves are high in phenols, which are natural phytochemical compounds with beneficial antioxidant effects. The two most abundant phenols in it are thymol and carvacrol. Among these, carvacrol has antimicrobial, antitumor, anti-mutagenic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiparasitic properties, making it one of the most active components of oregano when infused in carrier oil.1

HIMALAYAN SALT – is the world’s purest and richest, boasting 84 minerals and trace minerals. It’s become increasingly popular as many have attributed numerous health benefits to it. The healing properties of pink Himalayan salt are believed to restore restful sleep, relieve muscle aches, and increase energy in the body. Other than being beneficial for muscle aches and pains, it can also be used to relieve muscle spasms. When the salt is infused in carrier oil and applied to the surface of the body, the natural antioxidants present can help to prevent free radical damage and thus reduce the possibility of future muscle pain.5

OLIVE OIL – is valued not only for its flavor, but also for its range of wellness benefits. Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fat. Studies have shown that oleic acid is linked to reduced biomarkers of inflammation17 such as C-reactive protein. This oil – when infused with herbs – doubles the benefits with its rich properties and gives the best results. Extra virgin olive oil is considered the highest-quality olive oil to be used as carrier oil with herbs. It is unrefined and contains more nutrients compared to other processed varieties.2

Randomized Control Trial

The objective of this randomized controlled trial is to determine whether a course of massage combined with herbal infused oil confers greater improvement of pain due to non-specific low back pain in the general population. Despite the popularity of the above mentioned herbs individually, there is a need to determine the effectiveness of these herbs when mixed together. There are large number of primary studies which show that use of different herbs in infused oil for treatment of joint and muscle pain is effective. But, the efficacy of Garden cress seed, Oregano, Sesame seeds, Himalayan salt and olive oil when mixed together will be demonstrated in this study. It will provide a conservative approach in treatment of non-specific low back pain and enhancing quality of life.

Hypothesis

Infused herb oil will be effective in treatment of non-specific low back pain

Or

Infused herb oil will not be effective in treatment of non-specific low back pain.

Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

  • People who are suffering with non-specific low back pain
  • Participants who are willing to participate in the study
  • Those participants who were allergic to herbs were excluded from the study
  • Severe disk lesions or osteoporotic conditions were excluded
  • Any mental or cognitive dysfunction where the participants cannot give consent

Method and Material

The purpose and procedure was explained to the participants followed by recording their consent and enrolling them in this study. A self-screening questionnaire was completed by the participants on the first day for determining the functional disability due non-specific low back pain. The Questionnaire included personal details, Area/Intensity of pain and their functional abilities. The functional activities were graded from 0 to 5, 0 – No pain, 1 and 2 – mild pain, 3 and 4 – moderate pain, and 5 – severe pain. The participants who qualified were provided with a bottle of infused oil with herbs. The herb infused oil was prepared using a mixture of all 5 herbs mentioned previously, which had been coursely ground in equal amounts, and then mixed with olive oil to increase its effectiveness.

The application of oil was explained to the participants. This included first cleaning of the area with lukewarm water and applying the oil directly (3 times a day and keep it on for 5 minutes) with firm pressure. The participants were asked to continue the application regularly, with other back pain preventive measures to be taken. After one week, the participants were assessed again by filling the same back pain questionnaire and results were compared. None of the participants received any kind of treatment during the one week time period which could affect the effectiveness of oil.

Results

Data analysis was conducted by qualitative analysis in Ms Excel. There were a total of 42 participants who demonstrated non-specific low back pain. No drop-out was seen during the course of study. Among 42 participants, 29 were females and 13 were males.

The average age of participants included in study was 49 years, with a maximum age of 76 years and minimum age of 21 years.

Maximum participants (33) didn’t have any medical conditions like arthritis, diabetes, or skin allergies. Only 7 participants had a history of arthritis, 1 with cardiac arrest, and 1 with diabetes.

The application of herb infused oil for 1 week showed significant changes in overall pain of the participants. 81% of them experienced severe pain initially which reduced to only 5% after 1 week. This also led to 67% of participants experiencing only mild pain symptoms. The details are mentioned in chart below.

There were significant differences noted in functional activities with a decrease in intensity of pain. For each activity, drastic change were noted in participants having severe pain and moderate pain.

As shown in the chart above, there were no participants experiencing severe pain after 1 week of oil application except for sleeping activity still 2% experienced severe pain. Also there were significant changes in moderate pain level in all the activity which is mentioned in chart below. However, no specific changes were noted in sleep pre and post values.

Also, number of participants experiencing mild pain increased after 1 week which signifies that there were no participants left with severe pain symptoms during these activities. The comparison is seen in the chart below.

Remarkable increase in number participants was seen with no symptoms of pain in these activities after 1 week. Though there were less change noted for sleeping activity. The details in relation with all the activities are mentioned in chart below.

 

Discussion

The herb infused oil prepared included oregano, sesame, garden cress seeds, Himalayan pink salt and olive oil. All the herbs has their own significant value and possess anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, analgesic properties individually – all of which were proven effective in treatment of various painful conditions. Since, these herbs were effective in reducing pain and inflammation in various conditions, we tested whether a combination of these herbs will be effective in with back pain.

To assess and compare the pain score we used a questionnaire which showed a decrease in NPRS score and pain in other functional activity. Herb infused oil, when applied to skin regularly for 1 week, helps reduce inflammation and decrease pain by penetrating through the skin, working at a muscular level. Study participants also experienced less stiffness and increased mobility which led to a decrease in pain. When kept on the skin’s surface for a few minutes, these herbs penetrates the micro level in skin and help block the pain receptors which results in decreased pain symptoms.

Conclusion

Herb infused oil showed effectiveness in enhancing treatment in participants with non-specific low back pain.

References

  1. Ali, B., Al-Wabel, N. A., Shams, S., Ahamad, A., Khan, S. A., & Anwar, F. (2015). Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 5(8), 601-611. doi:10.1016/j.apjtb.2015.05.007
  2. Benefits of Olive Oil and its properties. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/olive-oil.aspx
  3. Bhat, K., Kumari, R., Pathak, N., & Rai, A. (2014). Value addition in sesame: A perspective on bioactive components for enhancing utility and profitability. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 8(16), 147. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.134249
  4. Chrubasik, J. E., Roufogalis, B. D., & Chrubasik, S. (2007). Evidence of effectiveness of herbal antiinflammatory drugs in the treatment of painful osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain. Phytotherapy Research, 21(7), 675-683. doi:10.1002/ptr.2142
  5. Francis. (2020, November 04). Learn more about the benefits of a himalayan salt bath. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://healingpicks.com/learn-more-about-the-benefits-of-a-himalayan-salt-bath/
  6. Garden cress seeds: Benefits, uses and side effects. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://www.alwosta.tn/en/blog/75_garden-cress-seeds-benefits-uses-and-side-effects.html
  7. Kanodia, A. K., Legedza, A. T., Davis, R. B., Eisenberg, D. M., & Phillips, R. S. (2010). Perceived benefit of complementary and alternative Medicine (CAM) for back PAIN: A national survey. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 23(3), 354-362. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2010.03.080252
  8. Kong, L. J., Fang, M., Zhan, H. S., Yuan, W. A., Tao, J. M., Qi, G. W., & Cheng, Y. W. (2012). Chinese massage combined with Herbal ointment for athletes WITH Nonspecific low back PAIN: A randomized controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-8. doi:10.1155/2012/695726
  9. PMC, E. (n.d.). A Comparison of the Effects of 2 Types of Massage and Usual Care on Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC3570565
  10. Sesame oil benefits and uses. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/sesame-oil.aspx

 

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Dr. Mahmoud Sous, PhD has 16 years of clinical experience in physiotherapy for back pain. He has tremendous expertise in working with different approaches of treatment like soft tissue release, prevention of injuries, and restoration of normal functions.

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