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How Medical Marijuana Helps Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand and fingers.
  • Compounds found in medical marijuana called cannabinoids have been shown to help reduce inflammation of the carpal tunnel known to cause these symptoms.
  • Cannabinoids have also been shown to help moderate pain signals as well as to slow the progression of nerve damage in carpal tunnel syndrome patients.
  • Medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide carry a variety of products suitable for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Can patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome benefit from the use of medical marijuana? As evidence mounts of medical marijuana’s anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties, more and more patients with CTS are turning to medical marijuana to reduce the damage and relieve their symptoms.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that causes sharp pain in the wrist and the back of the hand and sometimes tingling in the palm and numbness in the fingers. In severe cases of CTS, patients suffer from complications such as slower nerve impulses, loss of feeling in the fingers, and loss of strength and coordination.

These symptoms are the result of swelling of the carpal tunnel and subsequent compression of the median nerve as it passes through the wrist and into the hand. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome can have a variety of causes. The most common cause is repetitive motion (such as typing, playing an instrument, or using certain tools). Hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes can also cause CTS. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is traditionally treated by reducing repetitive motion or practicing a more ergonomic motion that causes less compression of the carpal tunnel. Sometimes surgery is required. In the most severe cases, oral steroids or steroid injections are required to ease the pain. If all else fails, patients might turn to opioids.

All of these treatments come with risks and side effects ranging from nausea and ulcers to liver disease and osteoporosis. Opioids are highly addictive and can even be fatal in some cases. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome patients are increasingly turning to medical marijuana as a safe and effective alternative or adjunct to traditional pain relievers and anti-inflammatories used to treat CTS. 

How does medical marijuana help carpal tunnel syndrome patients?

Although medical marijuana is not a cure for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it can significantly ease symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness in some patients. Medical marijuana can also help alleviate sleep disturbance caused by pain and numbness. 

How does medical marijuana treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

Compounds found in the aromatic female flowers of the cannabis plant called cannabinoids have been shown to be effective at reducing inflammation of the carpal tunnel in some patients thus relieving the pain and numbness. Cannabinoids are also believed to help regulate the flow of pain signals caused by nerve damage. 

Cannabinoids produced in cannabis are known technically as phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids relieve inflammation and pain by stimulating receptors in the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), in a manner similar to our own naturally produced endocannabinoids.

Learn more about the human endocannabinoid system

No research has been done to determine the efficacy of medical marijuana in treating carpal tunnel syndrome specifically. However, several studies have been undertaken to determine the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating pain and inflammation with encouraging results. 

According to a report published in 2013 by the Tongji University School of Medicine, researchers claimed that compounds extracted from cannabis significantly decreased inflammation in animal models. 

Another report published in 2012 in the European Journal of Pharmacology reported that cannabinoids helped to decrease inflammation in rats with inflammation of the lungs.

In addition to mounting evidence for the anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabis, three separate studies in recent years reported that cannabinoids showed promise as a treatment for neuropathic pain

A 2017 animal study showed that CBD and THC lower pain levels in mice with neuropathy. A review from 2018 cannabinoids can help reduce pain due to neuropathy. And the results of another animal study performed in 2020 study suggest that CBD-infused topical preparations can help relieve neuropathic pain. 

Links to these and other studies can be found at the end of this article.

How is medical marijuana used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

For local pain relief marijuana dispensaries nationwide offer a variety of CBD and THC-infused topical creams and ointments. Topical applications applied to the wrist and hands can help to reduce inflammation and ease compression of the median nerve. 

Furthermore, systemic use of cannabis can help patients get a better night’s sleep. Aside from reducing the pain and numbness that can keep patients awake, cannabis also has a sedative effect.  

Several delivery methods provide systemic relief. Smoking, vaping, and dabbing of dried marijuana flower or cannabis concentrates offers fast relief. Purified cannabinoid inhalers also offer a fast onset time. 

Moreover, there are several oral applications such as cannabis oil tinctures, capsules, and edibles. Although oral medications offer a slower onset time and lower bioavailability, they are more convenient and discreet to use and provide accurate dosing. 

Another factor to consider is the strain of medical marijuana or the formula of the product being used. A strain can contain a handful of cannabinoids and several different terpenes. Terpenes are the essential oils found in marijuana and cannabis extracts. There are scores of terpenes and each offers specific medicinal benefits. The combined effect of the cannabinoids and terpenes is known as the entourage effect

The most common cannabinoids used in medical marijuana products are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). There are also some less common cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabinol (CBN) and others. Each cannabinoid produces its own set of effects.

THC is the intoxicating cannabinoid found produced in marijuana. However, THC can be used in small doses or in microdosing without causing intoxication. Moreover, the raw form of THC, called THC acid, or THCa, is also non intoxicating.

All products containing more than trace amounts of THC should be purchased at legal marijuana dispensaries. However, products containing CBD and CBG produced from hemp can be purchased over the counter. Anyone can buy CBD oil online without a medical marijuana card. 

Some patients might find that CBD alone is enough to reduce the inflammation that causes carpal tunnel syndrome. 

It’s important to understand that cannabinoids and terpenes affect each patient differently. It might take some experimentation to discover which cannabis strains or cannabis-infused medicines are the most effective.

Conclusion

For some patients, cannabis-infused topical creams can help to alleviate the inflammation and pain that often accompany nerve-related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Furthermore, systemic delivery methods such as inhaled and edible cannabis can help patients enjoy a better night’s sleep. However, every patient will react to various cannabinoids differently.

For best results, CTS patients should be treated under the supervision of a knowledgeable and qualified medical marijuana doctor. 

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