Aromatherapy for Pain Management

Research & Resources

A patient with a recent above-knee amputation was admitted to our hospital for inpatient rehabilitation. She had high levels of pain from the amputation, as well as increased anxiety, which frequently led to her crying and having shortness of breath before her occupational and physical therapy sessions. She was afraid to move her leg due to the anticipated pain and began to miss therapy sessions. An aromatherapy product was suggested to help her cope with her pain, anxiety and fear. After two days of using the aromatherapy product, the patient was participating in a full therapy day. She was able to decrease her pain medications and had a more positive outlook overall on her rehabilitation and potential success. The patient became an advocate for aromatherapy by the end of her stay. Printed patient education resources were provided to the patient to continue this success after her discharge home.

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the medicinal or therapeutic use of essential oils, which each have a unique effect, and are absorbed through the skin or olfactory system. It is classified by Encompass Health Best Practice Guidelines for Pain as a non-pharmacological treatment option for pain reduction. Aromatherapy is also indicated for use with patients who have depression to improve their mood and reduce their anxiety and stress while managing pain. Aromatherapy impacts the limbic system, which controls behaviors, emotions, smells and memories.

What are Common Scents that Help with Pain Management?

  • Lavender can promote relaxation, comfort and sleep
  • Lavender-peppermint can promote relaxation, calm anxiousness and soothe queasiness.
  • Orange-peppermint can uplift, energize and soothe queasiness.

Products with peppermint oil should not be used in patients with a history of atrial fibrillation.

What Populations Experience Greatest Success?

There is a wide population that aromatherapy can help, including patients experiencing acute or chronic pain, those with a high level of anxiety or fear, patients struggling with alertness, and those experiencing nausea.

Aromatherapy is an evidence-based resource for patients to decrease pain with a variety of diagnoses and conditions, and can help increase patients’ participation with therapy intended to improve their functional ability levels. Aromatherapy can also make a difference in a patient’s comfort level, satisfaction with their stay and their overall mood.