Carpal Tunnel Surgery vs Medical Marijuana: A Comparison | cannabisMD

Carpal Tunnel Surgery vs Medical Marijuana: A Comparison

Carpal Tunnel Surgery vs Medical Marijuana: A Comparison

A majority of us use our hands daily and regularly without a second thought. Less-invasive treatments like wrist braces of corticosteroids may help, but in the more severe cases, you may require surgery. However, if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, this everyday necessity will evoke:

  1. Pain
  2. Numbness
  3. Tingling

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on your median nerve which gives you feeling in your thumb and your fingers excluding your little finger (i.e. pinky). As the nerve goes through your wrist it passes through your carpal tunnel. Your carpal tunnel is a narrow nervous path made of bone and ligament. When you get swelling in your wrist this tunnel is squeezed and pinches your median nerve. It is this squeezing and pinching that causes your carpal tunnel. As time passes carpal tunnel syndrome can weaken your muscles in your hands and wrists. If symptoms persist for too long your condition will worsen and your doctor may even recommend surgery.

What Are Carpal Tunnel Surgical Procedures?

The two types of surgeries for carpal tunnel release are open surgery and endoscopic surgery. Both involve a surgeon cutting the ligament around the carpal tunnel to take pressure off your median nerve. After surgery, the ligament will heal with more room for the median nerve to pass through.

Open surgery involves a larger cut or incision, from your wrist to your palm, which is up to 2 inches long. Endoscopic surgery makes one opening in your wrist and may also make one in your arm. These cuts are smaller in size, at about half an inch each. The surgeon then places a tiny camera into one of the openings which guides him as he cuts the ligament.

Open Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

During open carpal tunnel release surgery, the surgeon cuts your transverse carpal ligament. This releases pressure on your median nerve, thus relieving your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Open surgery includes an incision at the base of the palm of your hand. This enables your surgeon to see the transverse carpal ligament. The skin is then stitched closed after the carpal ligament is cut. The nerve and tendons gap is where this incision is made. Once the wound is closed up with stitches it eventually heals by filling up with scar tissue.

Carpal tunnel release surgery does not require you to stay in the hospital for long and you are able to return home the very same day. It is commonly done under local anaesthesia. Unlike general anaesthesia, local anaesthesia is pain control medication for a specific area. Local anaesthesia will not make you sleepy and may be used with other pain medications for stronger pain relief.

After open surgery, the hand is wrapped and the stitches are removed 1 to 2 weeks later. The symptoms may go away directly after surgery or take several more months to subside. You will be recommended to not use your hand heavily for up to 3 months. When you can return to work varies. It depends on whether you had surgery on your dominant hand and what is physically required of you at work.

If you have open surgery on your dominant hand and do repetitive actions at work, like typing or assembly-line work, you may be able to return after 6 to 8 weeks. If the surgery was done on your non-dominant hand and your job does not include repetitive actions, you might be able to return as soon as 7 to 14 days. If you have an endoscopic surgery, you may be able to return to work sooner than with open release surgery.

Is Surgery Worth It?

Most people who undergo surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome have fewer to no symptoms. In rare cases, symptoms return or there is a temporary loss of strength when pinching or picking up an object. If your thumb muscles were severely wasted away and weakened prior to surgery even after hand strength and function may be limited. Studies do not show that one surgical procedure, endoscopic or open release, is better than the other.

The complication rates of open surgery and endoscopic surgery are very low. Major problems occur in less than 1 percent of patients which is a very positive outcome. There is a small risk of the median nerve of other tissues being damaged during surgery. Recovery for open surgery may be slower than endoscopic surgery. There may be some pain in the wrist and hand after surgery, including possible infection and risks associated with general anaesthesia. However, most carpal tunnel surgeries are done with local anaesthesia. Temporary nerve problems might be less likely with open surgery, but the painful scar tissue may be more likely to form after open surgery than after endoscopic surgery.

Medical Marijuana and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is classified under chronic pain and as such has been treated with medical marijuana in states with legalized medical marijuana. Though research in the level of efficacy is still lacking, there are some novel studies and plenty of anecdotal tales of successful treatment of carpal tunnel with medical marijuana.

A study was recently conducted to better understand chronic pain patients seeking treatment with medical marijuana. A few of the patients were diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and were being treated with medical marijuana. Another more qualitative study interviewed patients with “carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, glucosamine and chondroitin” and investigated “marijuana for pain.”

Other anecdotal support comes from online reports of major success amongst carpal tunnel patients using medical marijuana for treatment. Generally, medical marijuana can lessen inflammation of soft tissues, nerve damage, and joint pain, making it a viable treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome treatment. States with medical legalization include this ailment, with reason. Further medical research on specifically the level of efficacy in severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome will be necessary to completely replace invasion surgeries.

If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, don’t be too alarmed. It is common, so you are not alone and it is something that can be cured. Whether it be through surgery, medication and/or CBD oil.

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