I used to be a massage therapist. True story. 8 years with both a private practice and a massage business in which I tried to herd cats. Hippie cats. Who were too often “just not feeling the energy” of some particular Tuesday, or the movie they just watched, or their most current ringtone, to see a client. Not my favorite part of the job, those one. 😉
My favorite part was getting into that zone. When you have a client on the table and they don’t feel the need to fill the quiet spaces and your hands seem in sync both with their breathing and with Enya. I loved how my head wasn’t in the equation 99% of the time. How my thumbs were drawn like magnets to the one spot along their scapula they had been feeling all week and forgot to mention. I would sometimes make grocery lists while my palms and elbows and fists just did their thing.
I wish I had my favorite brand of essential oils back then. I had tried every other brand of oils out there, and didn’t particularly care for any of them. I had so many negative (or ho-hum) experiences with so called “therapeutic” oils that I used a few for aroma and that was that.
I would’ve love these oils for my clients, and oils for myself. Or oils that would work on us both at the same time.
I work with several massage therapists on our Organic Home Health team now. So this list is both for them and for those of you who need some better self-care and some more tools in your toolbox.
(The extra bonus of using essential oils in your practice is the fact that your clients will love them, and so it can create a supplemental income for you. This comes in handy – ha – when, like me, your body starts to feel the hundreds of hours of rubbing you’ve been doing and you want to cut back your time or need to fall back on something else.)
Essential Oils for Massage Therapists – You First
Because I know you. You, who talks a big game to your clients about self-care and self-love, but who can be so busy pouring your heart into helping them honor and respect their own bodies needs that you don’t even hear your own. You, who probably needs a wee little reminder that your body is your most important business tool and it needs a little maintenance each day too.
These are the tools for your tools*:
- Top quality, wholefood, nutritional supplements – Okay, not totally an essential oil, but you know as well as I do that nutrition comes first. That no amount of oil can make up for a body needing more nutrients. And that’s hard when you’re scarfing down a Lara bar and your kombucha between clients. A good supplement won’t make up for good eating habits…..but they aren’t meant to. That’s why it’s called a supplement. (Do you know how long it took me to realize that one?) And when your body is well-fed and well supplemented, you’re gonna feel it in your energy, your stamina, and your whole body. My partner essential oil company has a whole-foods based, non-GMO, freaking amazing specimen of genius. Seriously, I can’t even describe it. I dare you to just try it.
- A Blend for Grounding Yourself – Because you’ve got to ground yourself before you start soaking up all that juju. I used to give a great massage, soaking up all my client’s aches and pains, allowing them to walk out feeling amazing, and me, despite the great tip, hobbling through the door. No bueno. Whether it’s the client you love or the one that seems to leach your brains from your fingertips, feeling rock steady comes first before you put your hands on their body. Grounding blends are just for that. And you will feel it.
- A Blend for Muscles and Joints – This one’s for all those little aches and pains you get from the serious exercise that is full body massage. It’s not only cooling, but it helps to relax and calm your joints and muscles. You know what it means to not nurture your body. This is the oil that will do that.
- A Blend for Massage – There is actually a “technique” which uses 8 oils, including this blend, in a topical application protocol. The massaging blend is similar to the muscle and joint blend except some people just respond to it better. It’s again soothing and relaxing for the muscular and skeletal systems.
- Oregano – I’m throwing this one in here because LMTs rarely talk about some of the issues of touching that many people. Let’s just call it “skin blemishes”. Or funk. Or “Ew, I’m not sure my client has washed their feet in a few days”. And sometimes you need something extra cleansing. Oregano MUST be diluted, highly. But it can make a great cleanser, or even something to dab on problem areas. It has a strong aroma, so don’t use this immediately before a massage or they’ll think you came from a pizzeria.
- Clove, Melaleuca, Immune Blend, Bug Repellent Blend – This one is about boundaries. All of these oils help you to love, give, and nurture someone else in healthy ways that still honor your own boundaries. Think of these when you’re struggling with more than just grounding, but seriously need to establish boundaries between you and your clients. Use them aromatically with your journaling, affirmations, meditation etc.
- Other oils for joints, muscles, and relaxation: Along with the blends mentioned above offered by my favorite company, and because we’re all different and sometimes just need different things, I would also look into the benefits of oils like White Fir, Cypress, Lemongrass, Frankincense, Wintergreen, Birch, and Cardamom. All of these support muscles, joints, and connective tissues. My favorite blend is White Fir, Lemongrass, and Frankie….my joints just loooooooove this blend!
Find a self-care routine that works for you. Work with amazing people to support you on it. Feel better.
Essential Oils for Massage Therapists – Clients Next
I think there are two categories in which most massage therapists support their clients: the physical and the emotional. The emotional is harder to cover because every essential oil has an emotional impact. Getting a good book to help you understand the oils and getting a good arsenal of oils for your clients to choose from is helpful. I’ve included just a few favorites below.
With a good arsenal of oils, you can also allow your clients to let their nose and their intuition guide them. I find most people are intuitively drawn to an oil they need to work with. (Sometimes we’re repulsed by an oil we emotionally need, and you can either choose to work with it, or you can come back to it later. Both are okay.)
Keep in mind that you can add an additional cost to your massage to cover the cost of your oils, especially if you’re using something like Frankincense in your massages. I would also recommend finding a solution that allows you to customize the aroma easily for each client without overusing your essential oils, such as using smaller “single use” size containers for your massage oil or cream that will allow you to add a few drops (anywhere from 1-4) to the carrier oil. If you don’t do this you’ll find you end up using 2-3x the amount of oil they actually need. This might not be hurtful, but it is wasteful.
Some of the more popular oils for massage therapists in their practice:
- Blend for Muscles and Joints- Again, it’s just a favorite from our company, especially if someone comes in complaining of tension or feeling achy. You don’t need much, and I wouldn’t use this in a full body massage. Instead, I would add a drop to the area of concern and layer over it with your carrier oil.
- Massaging Blend – Same thing as above, but some people just prefer this blend. Having options is nice.
- Lavender – This one is well-known for its calming effect. I used to hate it because it’s so overused in massage, spas, etc. But the stuff you usually smell is a poor quality and sometimes even synthetic. So if you’re not a fan of lavender, give my brand a try. The aroma is much lighter and sweeter.
- Blend for Grounding – I think busyness and overwhelm are an epidemic in our culture. How many of your clients are coming in partially for the massage and partially because it’s a socially acceptable (mostly) excuse to be still? The Grounding Blend can really help them relax and find their footing again.
- White Fir – I just love the aroma of this one. It’s good for anyone wanting to support the joints and muscles, but don’t want an overpowering or overly feminine aroma. It’s a little like a Christmas tree, but with a fresh, slightly sweeter smell.
There are also some precautions to consider:
- Be sure you’re not overusing oils on your clients OR yourself. If you’re applying oils all day, everyday, possibly in a small room, you might overwhelm your senses or just overwhelm your body. Although most oils are safe to use daily, and many even undiluted, the frequency at which you might be using them is different than normal use, so you’re gonna get more on your skin and in your body than a person normally would. It might be better to use less oil and send your client home with a small sample to use the rest.
- Be sure you understand your clients health history. There are some oils that can cause issues with people with epilepsy or on certain medication. Wintergreen, or oils containing it, require the most care. In general, the risk is low if the dose is low and infrequent, but it’s still a good idea to check their health forms and educate yourself on any contraindications.
- Watch for sensitive skin. A person can be sensitive or allergic to anything, even if it’s properly diluted. If you see redness occurring, immediately apply more, plain carrier oil to the area and wipe off. You may want to repeat this a few times.
- Don’t use cheap oils. You get what you pay for and those $10 oils might smell okay but risks increase with cheap oils. Adulterants often smell the same as the oil, but can cause negative reactions. Cheap oils might be distilled with a chemical solvent, which can cause skin reactions. Invest in good oils, and teach your clients to also. If you’d like to know which company I use and recommend, contact me here.
- If you’re selling the oils, don’t oversell. A good way to lose your clients is to always talk about your favorite products. It’s awesome to share, but follow their lead. Integrate them into your practice, invite them to learn more, an keep the material you have laying around, as well as your first intention, education-based. When you educate a consumer, you empower them. They’ll remember you when they feel ready for more.
- Diffuse with care, too. I think diffuser are a great way to support the body and the emotions without so easily overwhelming it. But remember that some clients may be sensitive to strong aromas, even natural ones. And when you’re diffusing all day, you may become immune to them and not realize how overpowering it might be. It might be a better idea to turn the diffuser off between clients and allow them the choice to turn it on for their session. I would also consider a smaller diffuse that only runs for 30-60 minutes, so you have the ability to change out the water and the oil you’re diffusing from one client to the next.
This is by no means an extensive list of oils or precautions. If you’d like to chat to one of our massage therapist team members about using oils in your practice and any questions you have, reach out to me here and I’ll connect you.
* If you’re interested in knowing more about which company I use and recommend, please contact me here.