We all get sore sometimes.

I remember telling someone once, “Oh, all musicians are injured.” That’s probably true. If we’re not all injured in some way, we’re all managing discomfort from something or trying not to develop something.

Musicians certainly aren’t the only people with ongoing, annoying, and distracting physical conditions. Hours and hours at the computer will do it, or chronically bad posture, or anything involving repetitive motion. Or sleeping in the wrong position, moving the wrong way too quickly, genetics, low-pressure systems, too much pizza, whatever.

The point is, we all have things that hurt. For some, the things that hurt get in the way of the things we really need to be doing.

Also for some, our usual way of managing discomfort from the things that hurt also comes with distracting side effects.



Question everything

I need to be clear about the intentions for this post. I am a piano doctor, not a people doctor. All suggestions in this post apply to situations where you might be looking to try an alternative to your usual pain solution.

Maybe the suggestions will work for you, maybe they won’t. There are no promises here, only suggestions based on anecdotal experience (my own and and those of many other people) and my available references. This post is for people who want to try something different and don’t know where to start.

If you know me at all by now you’ll know that I fully support ongoing, healthy skepticism. Question everything, including what you’ll read here. If you’re still with me and still curious I’m happy to have you along for the read (ride?).

However, if you agree with the suggestion to question everything, I would also invite you to question your usual health management practices. We tend to forget to add that into the mix because it’s familiar, and familiar is a hard thing to challenge.

“I need my brain!”

Recently I was speaking with someone who has ongoing struggles with pain. I don’t know their condition, but they were finding relief with dōTERRA‘s Deep Blue Rub (DBR). They acknowledged that it didn’t replace the prescription medications they were normally using, but the DBR did help lessen the severity of the condition.

This person is using the DBR as the thing they reach for first when their condition flares up. They said that by using it they are able to lessen the frequency of their use of the prescription*.

They said something that really stuck with me. “I need my brain!” Using the prescription certainly does the job of managing their condition, but it comes with the cost of severely messing with their ability to focus.

This is where essential oils really shine.

*Please note: this person’s prescription is one that is to be used as needed, not a regular-use med. I will never, ever tell you to stop taking any required prescription! Please, use common sense.

For my musicians

That statement, “I need my brain,” really drove home my reason for being so passionate about essential oils. This is so important for musicians, but also for anyone else who relies on being able to concentrate.

Essential oils manage very well that space between suffering through something and taking an over-the-counter medication for it.

I say this all the time. This is the real reason behind my entire business. Musicians, how many times have you had to ask yourself this question:

Do I suffer through this distracting thing? Or do I suffer through the side effects of taking the easy solution?

I’ll hazard a guess and say you’ve asked yourself this question fairly often.

The tale of the missed solo

True story. Someone had a solo in an orchestra performance, and they missed their entry. For my non-musicians: this is the kind of thing people notice.

This person had a deep, nasty, horrible cold, the kind that makes you really sleepy and makes it impossible to breathe through your nose. They decided to take a decongestant before the concert. We’ve all done that. The problem was, they grabbed the nighttime version by mistake.

You can fill in the rest of the story. Perhaps the caution on the box should say, “Avoid operating heavy machinery or performing on stage.” Granted, this story is not about pain but rather about side effects, but I hope you get my point.

How to use essential oils to manage painful situations

Here’s where we have to be careful. I am not indicating that any essential oil will cure or treat any condition. They do manage symptoms very well, if you know what to do. Just please, check your expectations and be willing to experiment.

Ok class, whip out your notebook, this is on the test. Here is the key to using essential oils to manage a painful condition:

Early and often.

That’s it.

I actually chose the term “painful situations” strategically. Yes, we’re talking about things that hurt physically, but it also work very well for emotional pain. I won’t go deeper in this post, but please keep this in mind as you go about your daily business.

Back to the point. “Early and often” is exactly the difference between how we use oils and how we use optional meds. Remember, we’re not talking about regularly-scheduled daily meds here, but the ones you reach for as you need them.

Pain med-free for over three years

So many of my personal stories are about being Department Chair, but hey, it’s my reality.

When I was Department Chair the first time (2014-2018), I would never leave the house without my bottle of super extra-strength, fast-acting, head tension-busting pills. At my worst I was going through a bottle every month. Every four-to-six hours, like clockwork, that pain would return, sometimes blinding, sometimes throbbing, sometimes just below the surface.

Every time my little tension friend returned I had to ask myself whether I wanted to use a pill for it this time, or wait and see whether I really needed it. I knew this habit was an ulcer waiting to happen so I didn’t want to use the pills if I didn’t really need them.

We all know how this works: we wait to see if we really need the pill, and by the time we decide we do, the pain is so severe the pill doesn’t do anything anyway.

Eventually I started also getting the intense, gut-stabbing nausea that I knew was coming, so I had to stop and reassess my optional med use. That was in 2016, and a full year before I started using oils. It was a long year.

The very last time I took a pill to manage my throbbing head was the day I realized the pill wasn’t even working, but the oils at least took the edge off. That was it, and I never looked back. That was well over three years ago and I haven’t taken any over-the-counter medications since. For anything. Truth.

Early and often

If you’re looking to use oils for managing discomfort from distracting conditions, this is your new mantra. Say it out loud. I can’t hear you! Say it again. Once more.

First, the “early”.

The moment you feel like something might be creeping up, put an oil on it. As soon as you think you might possibly be cooking up something, put an oil on it. Low-pressure system? Oil it. Ate a trigger food? Oil it. Starting to see squiggly lines, or becoming over-sensitive to noise? Oil it.

Then, the “often”.

If something already hurts, reapply as needed. Dilution of your oils is an important factor here, and you can be strategic about this. If you’re using oils often, watch for skin sensitivity. This is one of the reasons we strongly recommend diluting your essential oils with a carrier oil. Use this graphic as a guide.

Dilution guide

Dilution guide


The only way you can over-do topical application is if your skin gets cranky. If you apply an oil and it’s too intense, add a carrier oil to it, wipe off, repeat as often as needed.

A “carrier” oil is a vegetable oil, like coconut, or grapeseed, or olive, whatever. Do NOT add water, it will make it worse! You know when you eat a hot pepper and you drink water and it’s more intense? It’s exactly like that.

My Top Five favourite oils for managing discomfort

We all develop our favourites, but here is a general guide of oils I personally use. It’s not based on anything other than what works for me, and what many other people report works for them.

Remember that we are all different. You know when your doctor prescribes something and says, “If it doesn’t work, come back and we’ll try something else”? Same here. What works for me might be different for you.

Also, please remember this is just a guide, not a list of promises.

Deep Blue Rub

  • Apply like you would any other topical relief rub
  • Works very well on muscles, head, joints
  • Smells like peppermint candy
  • Since it’s in lotion form it’s already diluted

Deep Blue essential oil blend, or Past Tense blend 

  • Apply topically to location, like the Deep Blue Rub
  • Works well on smaller locations like hands, feet, head, but good for larger muscles too
  • Dilution recommended


  • Apply topically
  • Stellar for head
  • Distracts the nerves and has a cooling sensation
  • A bit like a portable ice pack
  • Dilution recommended


  • Think of it like CBD but from an entirely different plant
  • Can be used topically, has a warming sensation
  • Can also use internally, take 1-2 drops under the tongue, or put in a veggie cap and ingest*
  • Combine with Deep Blue (oil or rub) to crank it up a notch


  • Works very well in combination with other oils
  • Add to Deep Blue, Peppermint, or Copaiba. Or all of them
  • Take under the tongue* or in veggie cap with Copaiba

That’s a good general list to start, but it’s a very short list. There are many others.

*If ingesting use only dōTERRA’s oils please, and maximum of 18 drops in a 24-hour period.

Which oil to grab?

Here are some suggestions for common situations, in my personal order of preference. If you need more information on exactly how to use these oils please contact your oily support person.

When I started compiling this short list of oils, I kept listing the same ones with a few others added in. You know in “Wheel of Fortune” in the bonus round at the end, where they always list “RSTLNE” and then the contestant can pick a few more letters?

Here is the equivalent “RSTLNE” list for oils: Deep Blue (oil or rub), Past Tense, Frankincense, Copaiba. I’ll call it “The Standard Oils” for our purposes here. Each entry begins with my personal recommendation of what to grab first for managing discomfort.

  • Head: Past Tense, early and often. Any of The Standard Oils, plus Peppermint
  • Muscles: Deep Blue Rub, early and often. Optional: add Frankincense, Copaiba, Eucalyptus
  • Joints: Deep Blue Oil. Any of The Standard Oils
  • Digestion: Peppermint, ZenGest/DigestZen, Fennel
  • Tendons/Ligaments: Lemongrass. Any of The Standard Oils, best used in combination with Lemongrass

If you’re looking for emotional support oils, read this blog.

Looking for oils to help with cold & flu symptons, here’s a post on that!

Just the start

The above list is just a quick guide to get you started.

It’s important to realize that a medication has been designed for a specific purpose. If it’s designed to manage pain, it will certainly do that, possibly with some other effects thrown in. Sometimes those side effects are not worth the price.

Essential oils are not designed to do anything. They just are what they are, which is wonderfully rich and chemically complex substances. If something doesn’t work, try something else. If something reacts in a way you don’t like, stop using it and try something else.

You may find, as so many of us do, that you’ll experience side benefits from using oils instead. I use Past Tense on my head, but it also helps me stop wanting to punch people in the throat. Everyone wins.

Remember I said there would be a test? Here it is.

Question: What is the key to using oils for managing discomfort?

Answer: Early and Often.

Did you pass? I’ll let you take the test again if needed.