Essential Oils For Carpel Tunnel - CBD An option? | cannabisMD

Using Natural Oils to Treat Carpal Tunnel

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Natural Oils Treatment

Carpal Tunnel: The Basics

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a term for an irritation to the median nerve from inflammation, compression, or some type of injury to the area. The median nerve runs from the elbow through the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway made of ligament and bones on the inside of both wrists. The nerve then connects to the thumb and first three fingers, and it is responsible for controlling movement and sensation there.

How do I know if I have CTS?

Accurately diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome will take a few different types of tests performed by your doctor, but if you’re not ready to make an appointment just yet, you can get a pretty good idea by checking the symptoms yourself:

  • Do you experience pain, tingling, or numbness in your thumb and first three fingers?
  • Do you experience pain, tingling, or numbness in your wrist or even as high as your elbow?
  • Do the symptoms seem worse at night?
  • Do you experience weakness in your affected hand?
  • Is your affected hand more clumsy than usual?
  • Is there less feeling and motor control in your hand?

If you answered yes to these, don’t panic: it could be a temporary stress on the median nerve due to a minor unknown injury (sleeping on it wrong, stressing it at the gym, etc). If your symptoms linger, it’s probably a good idea to check in with your doctor, as further evaluation is necessary to determine the cause of the discomfort. If you are diagnosed with CTS, take a deep breath. It is not considered to be a medical emergency, and most cases will go away with proper attention and care.

How do you get carpal tunnel?

Many times, people don’t know what exactly caused their carpal tunnel. It has long been believed to be damage due to repetitive motion, often performed in the workplace. Doctors have recently discovered, however, that this condition could also be hereditary. CTS is linked to pregnancy as well. Oftentimes, pregnant women will experience oedema, the retention of fluid in the wrist which can compress and irritate the median nerve, and cause CTS symptoms until swelling goes down.

It is totally possible that CTS can manifest as a result of other conditions. Most times, you’ll need to treat the underlying condition before CTS will be responsive to any type of treatment. In many cases, rheumatoid arthritis has been found to be the culprit, so managing that would take precedence over treating the symptoms of CTS directly. This is because, often times, when the symptoms of arthritis have been properly managed, CTS will be eradicated on its own.

What treatments are available?

If you are diagnosed with CTS, the first thing your doctor will likely try is a wrist brace. Keeping your wrist straight and stable will discourage any movement that would exacerbate the symptoms, which gives the nerve and ligaments time to heal. Because CTS usually goes away completely, other standard treatments are typically aimed at pain management: your doctor will probably tell you to stock up on ibuprofen or aspirin while you heal. However, if your symptoms persist and become unmanageable, your doctor can administer corticosteroid injections into the carpal tunnel, which provides temporary, localized relief. They have been found to be more effective at treating the pain and inflammation than taking steroids or medications orally. If you do not show any improvement in 6 months, your doctor may recommend surger.

What is the carpal tunnel surgery recovery process like?

Carpal tunnel release surgery is an outpatient procedure, which means you are sent home shortly after the surgery. While it may be considered a minor procedure, carpal tunnel surgery recovery time can take anywhere from several weeks to several months, sometimes longer if you’ve gone an extended time without treatment. The carpal tunnel surgery recovery process typically involves prolonged wrist splint use, physical therapy, and lots of at home care and attention. This is why doctors will typically approach this option as a last resort.

Can I treat carpal tunnel naturally?

There are dozens of natural and DIY treatments for CTS. Most of these methods can also be applied to aid in carpal tunnel surgery recovery as well. Understanding what the body needs to do in order to calm down the symptoms of CTS, and begin the healing process, is the first step to finding an effective home remedy. When it comes to CTS and other nerve-related pain, it’s important to look for treatments or methods that:

  1. Reduce inflammation: Whether it’s the actual median nerve that is inflamed, or the area around it (due to oedema or an injury), substances with anti-inflammatory properties are recommended when treating CTS.
  2. Increase blood flow: This study, in the National Institute of Health, suggests that carpal tunnel may be linked to or exacerbated by poor circulation. Alternatively, progressed carpal tunnel can lead to circulation problems, so making sure you are using a product or method that increases circulation – especially locally – is ideal.
  3. Relieve pain: Of course one of the biggest complaints of CTS is pain. Try to look for a natural remedy that not only provides healing benefits, but also has an active ingredient that will help ease the painful symptoms.

Think arthritis might be the cause of your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? Treat that first: Different Types of Arthritis and How Cannabis Can Help.

Plant Oils and Carpal Tunnel

Essential oils are becoming increasingly popular for carpal tunnel, because many of these natural oils offer the anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and circulation boosting properties required for proper treatment. It’s important to remember that quality is paramount when it comes to any type of plant oil or extract intended to be used medicinally. Many companies will sell ‘fragrance oils’ or ‘perfume oils’ packaged similarly to essential oils, so make sure you do proper research, and ask questions if you aren’t sure. Perfume and fragrance oils do not pack the same medicinal benefit as essential oils.

There are a wide variety of essential oils for carpal tunnel, and finding the ones that work best for you may take some experimentation. Most true essential oils are going to be extremely potent, so handle them with care. Many of these oils will ‘burn’ the skin when applied neat, so any type of administration will require dilution in a carrier oil first. Something like coconut oil, hemp, avocado, and even olive oil would work. A safe ratio is typically going to be about one to two drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil. Feel free to use one or more of these oils to create a unique blend:

  1. Wintergreen has a cooling effect, which can be pleasant for the typically burning, throbbing pain of carpal tunnel. On top of that, it has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and pain relieving properties, making it one of the most powerful (and popular) essential oils for carpal tunnel. Like most essential oils, this oil is highly potent and requires a carrier oil when used topically.
  2. Eucalyptus has a warming effect which encourages healing blood flow to the affected area while soothing the area with heat. Ideal for adding to an essential oil blend, especially when used topically, this essential oil for inflammation also has analgesic and antispasmodic properties.
  3. German chamomile is often overlooked, despite it containing chamaluzene, the most powerful anti-inflammatory in the essential oil world. It’s also known to promote healthy blood flow and can even act as a sedative for the nervous system. Always dilute German chamomile to avoid skin irritation and burning.
  4. Ginger root is a well-known anti-inflammatory, and eating it fresh (or dried in powder form) can treat irritation and swelling from the inside out. But did you know the essential oil of ginger is especially good for treating localized pain, inflammation, and nerve tenderness? Most potent when used topically, make sure to dilute this oil before application to avoid burning the skin.
  • Lavender is not just for a good night’s sleep; this is a powerful essential oil for inflammation, pain, and spasms. It promotes circulation and brings a flow of oxygen to the joints. On top of that, it has also been studied and proven to be beneficial in postoperative healing and treatments. If you are looking for an essential oil for carpal tunnel surgery recovery, lavender is one you should keep on hand. Use it topically in addition to a diffuser or spray so you can reap the aromatherapeutic benefits as well. Dilution of lavender is not necessary.
  • Clove oil has been used for hundreds of years for all things pain. It works similarly to benzocaine, causing a numbing effect by blocking nerve signals from the body to the brain. Clove is strong, so be careful when handling it.

If you find a blend you like, stick to it. Otherwise, keep a few different essential oils on hand to use as you see fit. Massaging the oil into the site of pain at the first sign of irritation can help relieve symptoms faster. Applying pressure on the acupressure points known as the Inner and Outer Gates is also recommended with the application of essential oils. Doing this 3-5 times daily (or as much as needed) has been found to be huge for carpal tunnel relief.

Some things to remember about essential oils:

  • A true essential oil is comprised of naturally occuring chemicals and will be potent, so knowing how to use them safely is important.
  • Rarely are they recommended for internal use.
  • Using a proper carrier oil is important when using an essential oil topically, orally, or even in a bathtub full of water. Always review which essential oils can be used neat, and which ones require dilution.
  • Essential oils are made of the pure distilled essence of the plant, while fragrance and perfume oils will be diluted and often use artificial fragrances. Make sure to check your labels so you know what you are getting.
  • If you get pure essential oil on your skin, don’t use water! Cleanse the area with a carrier oil, and wipe off with a clean, soft towel. Repeat as necessary.

Hemp Oil & Cannabis Oil for CTS

Another plant oil being used to treat nerve-related pain like CTS is cannabis oil, an extract of the cannabis plant. Many people shy away from this type of treatment, mostly due to the vast amount of incorrect information being tossed around on the internet and in the media. To clear common confusion right off the bat, not all cannabis oil is the same. What you get largely depends on a) what company and state you purchase from, b) the extraction process of the product, and c) what specific plant species (or even strain of species) was used in extraction. Educating yourself so you know exactly what you want when purchasing or making your own cannabis oil will help you achieve your desired result.

The first rule of thumb when seeking medicinal cannabis oil to treat carpal tunnel is making sure you are getting true cannabis oil. Many people confuse it with hemp oil, which isn’t too surprising as both marijuana and hemp plants are the same species, Cannabis Sativa L, and some people aren’t aware there is a difference between the two. While both are technically the same species of plant, marijuana and hemp have been bred to do completely different things:

  • Marijuana has been made popular mostly for recreational use. Farmers specifically manipulate and hybridize most recreational marijuana plants to be high in two chemical compounds, classified as cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that has impressive medicinal value but is most popular for its intoxicating effect, and cannabidiol (CBD), a less popular but highly medicinal chemical compound that has little to no side effect whatsoever.
  • Hemp is grown and harvested for industrial purposes: the stalks and leaves are used for making paper, clothing, and biofuel, and hemp oil is made from hemp seeds. Because the plant itself is naturally low in cannabinoids, this oil is neither intoxicating or medicinally beneficial. In fact, in order to be considered hemp, the plant must not contain more than 0.03% THC, which is not enough to do much of anything. What hemp oil does have, however, is a high nutrient content. It is rich in protein, insoluble fiber, antioxidants, and was found to have the perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids recommended for maximum health. Hemp oil is used mostly in food and beauty products, and is not considered to be ‘cannabis oil’ in any way.

Quality cannabis oil, made from marijuana, will have a high percentage of both cannabinoids THC and CBD. THC and CBD work together within a human system called the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate pain sensation, inflammation, and neuropathic pain. In fact, the endocannabinoid system has been found to work with cannabis to help regulate neuropathic pain in a big way. This study found that one puff off the old peace pipe three times a day for five days “reduced intensity of pain, improved sleep, and was well tolerated.” A study in 2015 stated that cannabinoids are proving to be effective when treating neuropathic pain, chronic pain, and even pain from some cancers.

Cannabis oil can be taken orally to help ease carpal tunnel pain. Dosing depends on how severe your condition is, and what your doctor recommends. While THC and CBD do work well together, CBD has been found to be a powerful agent on its own for treating nerve related pain, and can be purchased as an isolated compound in CBD oil. This is a good route for people who want to take cannabinoids orally for nerve pain but do not wish to have any of the side effects that come with THC.

If you would rather treat the pain locally, topical cannabis oil might be your best bet since your skin is also a part of the endocannabinoid system. Applying cannabinoids to the surface allows them to penetrate into the endocannabinoid system directly, working immediately on the affected area without having to run its course through your digestive system first. Using cannabis oil topically will not get you high, no matter how much you use or what percentage of THC is in your product, so don’t worry. You can use topical cannabis oil for carpal tunnel much like you would essential oils, or even with essential oils for maximum benefit. Don’t forget the acupressure!

How To Access Cannabinoids For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you haven’t noticed, medical marijuana has been pushed front and center in the news even more than normal lately. California rang in the new year by legalizing recreational marijuana, you can legally smoke pot in public places in Nevada, and United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has most recently made some bold statements, voicing his intent to rescind an Obama-era policy that directed federal prosecutors not to interfere with states activities in regard to marijuana product sales and legalization. Although marijuana has always been federally illegal, rescinding this protection would give the federal government reason and right to come down on medical marijuana providers and users, even in states where it is totally legal. Sessions has never been shy about his personal feelings towards marijuana, like wrongfully associating marijuana use to heroin addiction. As clear as it is that the United States Attorney General has a personal distaste and very strong opinions on the matter, at the end of the day, that’s all they are: opinions. Very few (if any) of his harsh words in opposition of cannabis are substantiated. In fact, he has stirred up so much controversy lately, and not just over marijuana laws, that there has been a call for his resignation and, ironically, support for the legalization of marijuana has never been higher (no pun intended).

As dangerous as it would be to take away the hands-off approach to marijuana laws the Federal Government has been exercising, much of this recent commotion appears to be somewhat over-exaggerated, as nothing has really changed (yet). Sessions said that although he “won’t commit to never enforcing federal law,” he reminded the people that marijuana is, and has been, and will remain illegal on a federal level. His recent statements about marijuana laws are “perfectly consistent with what he has said with regard to marijuana law in the past.” The National Cannabis Industry Association has stated in response to the industries nervous chatter about Sessions and his clear misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the plant: “We look forward to working with him to ensure that states’ rights and voter choices on cannabis are respected.”

Confusion over marijuana laws have become a big concern for those considering the use of any type of cannabis oil for medicine. If you have decided that cannabis oil is the right choice for you, understanding the law is essential:

  1. First and foremost, always remember that yes, marijuana (and products made with it) is a Schedule I Drug and is federally illegal. For now, states continue to have the right to monitor, legalize, and decriminalize this industry as they see fit with no interference from the federal government. The federal government does, however, have the power to overstep state laws and enforce federal law, although the likelihood of this happening is pretty slim.
  2. The food and drug administration (FDA) does not recognize any marijuana product or extract as a dietary supplement, therefore they do not regulate the industry in any way. This gives companies the freedom to make whatever claims they want, and unfortunately, many times the product inside the bottle does not necessarily match the label on the outside. It’s important to take the time to do proper research so you know you are purchasing from a reputable company. Look for companies with verified reviews and excellent customer service who can answer your questions clearly.
  3. 29 U.S. states (and Washington, D.C.) have legalized marijuana in some way. The laws are changing at a more rapid pace, at state and even county levels, so keep an eye on any changes to your region.
  4. Shipping cannabis oil in the mail or crossing state lines with cannabis oil can be risky and illegal (for now).
  5. CBD oil (cannabis oil containing little to no THC) is more easily accessible, although still highly regulated. Check your local laws.

If you have any questions regarding cannabis oil or laws regarding medical marijuana, talk to your trusted medical professional. If you live in an area where cannabis oil is legal and accessible, make sure you are very clear about dosing requirements and any potential side effects. While it is considered safe, it is still a powerful drug and should be used responsibly. Overdose is possible, but it isn’t lethal. Contrary to what some politicians might be saying, marijuana has never actually killed or injured anyone. It may, however, contradict some medications, so take that into account, especially if medicating orally. Always listen to your body and do what works best for you. Treating carpal tunnel syndrome takes time, patience, and dedication. The sooner you begin treating and caring for it properly, the sooner you can expect to experience a life free of carpal tunnel pain.

Editorial Staff

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