Nursing and External Applications for Pain

Matthias Girke, Britta Wilde

Last update: 25.11.2019

External applications have special importance in anthroposophic pain therapy (1).

  • Chronic pain syndromes of the musculoskeletal system involving tense or “cramped” muscles have responded well to treatment with: Arnica comp./Cuprum oil WELEDA (also available as Arnika comp./cum Cupro Oleum).

  • Sharp or pulling pain, especially in the area of the cervical spine, as well as radicular pain syndromes, can often be helped with: 
    Aconite Nerve Oil WALA (also available as Aconite Pain Oil and Akonit Schmerzöl).

These pain oils are administered as required in inpatient pain therapy, depending on the indication. They are applied during rhythmical massage therapy or rhythmical embrocation.

  • In palliative medicine, it has proven effective to treat liver capsule and metastatic liver pain with:
    Achillea millefolium (yarrow) liver compresses.
    Instructions : Pour 300 ml boiling water over 1 teaspoon of yarrow. Roll up the compress cloth in a wringing-out cloth and soak in the tea, then wring out and apply. The more thoroughly the damp inner cloth has been wrung out, the hotter it can be applied.
    See also:

External applications are supplemented with appropriate medications, such as Stannum and Bryonia for liver capsule pain.

  • In the case of abdominal pain from peritoneal carcinosis, with bloating, we can achieve an impressive improvement in symptoms with: 
    Caraway oil (Oleum Carum carvi 10%), rubbed in locally or as an oil cloth compress.

  • Chamomile oil has proven helpful for cramp-like abdominal pain:
    Oleum chamomilla 10%, rubbed in locally or as an oil cloth compress (2).

  • In case of pain syndrome due to osseous metastasis we recommend:
    Solum uliginosum comp. Oleum WALA or
    Arnica comp./Cuprum oil WELEDA (also available as Arnika comp./cum Cupro Oleum WELEDA (for convulsive pain)
    either one rubbed in locally or as an oil cloth compress.

  • To relieve tension pain due to lymphedema of the extremities:
    Borago officinalis, 6 ml borage 20% essence in 300 ml water (cool to skin temperature) (2)

  • To sooth and relieve inflammatory processes (erysipelas, congestive dermatitis):
    Farmer’s cheese (quark) compress, use low-fat; 250 g for a contact area of approx. 30 x 30 cm)
    For more information, see .

These external applications are usually applied once a day. Oil cloths can be re-used several times. The applications must be evaluated and, if necessary, adapted on a daily basis, since the condition and needs of the patient often change rapidly.

For a PDF showing a table with external applications, indications for pain treatment, substances and effects click here.

Rhythmical oil applications (rhythmical embrocation) to treat pain

We can treat the whole body or give partial treatments of the arms, legs, back, chest or abdomen with rhythmical embrocation according to Wegmann/Hauschka. This method relies on a very sensitive and conscious quality of touch that improves body awareness. The patient’s soul and spirit alternately connect and then detach from the physical and etheric bodies in response to rhythmic pressing and releasing of tissue by the practitioner. This activates the patient’s breathing, circulation and digestion, making the treated body region feel revitalized and lighter. The pain-stricken person experiences an equilibrium-supporting, ordering power which enables him or her to better modulate the pain both mentally and physically. In this sense, rhythmical embrocation is an important component of multimodal pain therapy.

Compresses for pain relief

Compresses strengthen the effect of the substance used. An oil cloth compress can be very helpful when a patient needs warmth. The essential feature of a farmer’s cheese compress is its cooling and relieving effect. For people who cannot tolerate or do not want physical contact, a compress is a good alternative to rhythmical embrocation, or can serve as a suitable introduction for the treatment process. When properly applied, compresses give protection and warmth.

External applications do not just superficially treat the skin, they also always involve human encounter, which is also an important healing element.


  1. Girke M. Innere Medizin. Grundlagen und therapeutische Konzepte der Anthroposophischen Medizin. Chap. Anthroposophical therapy concepts in pain therapy: External applications. 2nd ed. Berlin: Salumed Verlag; 2012, p. 740–744. English translation: Girke M. Internal medicine. Foundations and therapeutic concepts of Anthroposophic Medicine. 1st ed. Berlin: Salumed; 2016, p. 685–714.
  2. Fingado M. Therapeutische Wickel und Kompressen. 6th ed. Dornach: Natura Verlag im Verlag am Goetheanum; 2019. English translation: Fingado M. Compresses and other therapeutic applications. A handbook from the Ita Wegman Clinic. Edinburgh: Floris Books; 2012.

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