Carpal Tunnel

Can Medical Cannabis help with symptoms of Carpal Tunnel? Read on to find out more. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a prevalent issue that affects the hand. People with this condition often report pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand and wrist. Lifestyle changes, wrist splints, environmental changes, and even surgery are potential treatments for carpal tunnel.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness, pain, tingling, and weakness in the hand and wrist that occurs when the pressure in the wrist compresses the median nerve. The median nerve gives sensation to the thumb, index, middle finger, and half of the ring finger, though the pinky is not typically affected. It is a medical condition recognized and operated on by orthopedic surgeons for over forty years.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow canal in the wrist. This part of the wrist connects the median nerve and tendons to the hand and forearm. 

The parts of the carpal tunnel include:

  • Carpal bones are formed in a semi-circle and make up the bottom and sides of the tunnel. 
  • Ligament is at the top of the tunnel and is a muscular tissue that holds the tunnel together.
  • Median nerve provides feeling to most of the fingers and gives strength to the base of the thumb and index finger.
  • Tendons are rope-like structures that connect muscles in the forearm to the bones in the hand, allowing them to bend. 

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include the following:

  • Weakness when gripping objects with the hands
  • Pain or numbness in the hands
  • Tingling feeling in the fingers
  • Swollen feeling in the fingers
  • Burning sensation in the fingers
  • Pain or numbness that is worse at night

What are the causes?

Research shows that women and older people are more likely to develop Carpal Tunnel.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Heredity is likely an essential factor. The carpal tunnel is naturally smaller in some people, and the amount of space for the nerve can vary. These traits can be genetically passed along through generations. 
  • Repetitive hand use or wrist activities over a prolonged period may aggravate the tendons, causing inflammation that puts pressure on the nerve.
  • Hand and wrist position. Activities involving flexion or extension of the hand and wrist for longer can increase nerve pressure and pain. 
  • Pregnancy can cause hormonal changes that may cause swelling and nerve pressure.
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel

Those at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome do activities or jobs involving repetitive hand, wrist, and finger use. Factors that place people at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Long-term, high-force use
  • Extreme wrist motions
  • Heredity
  • Pregnancy
  • Gender
  • Hemodialysis
  • Wrist fracture or dislocation
  • Hand or wrist deformity
  • Arthritic diseases
  • Thyroid hormone imbalance
  • Diabetes
  • Alcoholism
  • A mass in the carpal tunnel.
  • Ages 30-60
  • Amyloid deposits

Other Types of Tunnel Syndromes

There are two other primary types of Tunnel Syndromes: Cubital and Radial. Here, we’ll find out more about these two medical conditions. 

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome happens when the ulnar nerve from the shoulder to the hand gets pinched at the elbow. The ulnar nerve provides feeling in the pinky finger and half of the ring finger on the palm and back of the hand. The signs of cubital tunnel syndrome are typically tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers, though some may experience soft tissue or elbow joint pain. 

The causes of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome may include the following:

  • Bending your elbow repeatedly or for long periods.
  • In some patients, the nerve may slide out of its initial positioning and irritate the nerve. 
  • Leaning on the elbow for prolonged periods. 
  • Fluid buildup in the elbow causes swelling.

Radial Tunnel Syndrome

Radial Tunnel syndrome occurs when the radial nerve is pinched at the elbow. The radial nerve travels from the neck to the back of the upper arm. When the radial nerve is pinched through the radial tunnel, it causes fatigue or dull, achy pain at the top of the forearm or the back of the hand or wrist when it is being used. Radial tunnel syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissues. 

Radial tunnel syndrome causes may include the following:

  • The radial nerve gets pinched from the neck to the hand. 
  • Arm overuse with pushing and pulling motions. 
  • Hand overuse by gripping, lifting, or bending the wrists.
  • Repetitive twisting of the arm or wrist.

Testing and Diagnosing CTS

First, the physician will perform a physical exam and review medical history. Next, they will perform an exam which may include:

  • Tinel’s sign: The doctor taps the median nerve at the wrist to see if there is a tingling sensation in the fingers.
  • Wrist flexion test or Phalen test: The patient rests their elbows on a table and allows the wrist to fall forward. Those with carpal tunnel syndrome will quickly experience numbness and tingling in the fingers. 
  • X-rays of the wrist may be ordered for those with limited wrist motion, arthritis, or trauma.
  • Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies show how well the median nerve works to control muscle movement.

Treatments for Carpal Tunnel

Carpal Tunnel treatments may include:

  • Splinting the hand. This helps keep your wrist from moving and eases the compression of the nerves inside the tunnel.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications. These may be oral or injected into the carpal tunnel to reduce swelling.
  • Surgery. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is typically done as an outpatient. There are two types of carpal tunnel surgery: open and endoscopic. This eases compression and pressure on the nerves in the carpal tunnel.
  • Specific Exercises. Stretching and strengthening exercises can be helpful in people whose symptoms have improved. A physical or occupational therapist may supervise the physical therapy.
  • Workplace changes. Changing the position of your computer keyboard or other ergonomic changes can help relieve symptoms.

Can medical marijuana help? 

Yes, it seems that way. Many people report that there are several potential benefits of using medicinal marijuana for carpal tunnel syndrome. The therapeutic benefits may include the following: 

  • Anti-inflammatory effects can decrease swelling and pressure.
  • Better Sleep Quality
  • Decreased chronic pain 
  • Improved symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
  • Uplifted Mood 

Last Updated: June 14, 2024

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