Quick question as we start today’s segment. What do musicians, sculptors, and writers have in common? That’s a simple one really, I’m sure you already got the answer (it’s in the title after all).
Apart from being incredibly creative, these are just a few of the occupations that require manual, repetitive hand motions. It’s these repetitive wrist actions that have been sighted as the number one cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). That’s right; from that hunky construction worker with vibrating tools to Trump’s personal assistant, anybody can get CTS.
According to research, CTS is one of the most common and wide spread entrapment neuropathies that affects over 3% of all adults in the US alone.
The syndrome is usually characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands that could extend to the arm. Gradually, the muscles at the base of the thumb atrophy waste away leading to poor grip strength. Without treatment, carpal tunnel can have a very negative impact on your quality of life due to permanent numbness.
Currently, CTS treatment revolves around wearing wrist splints along with a lengthy spell of painful corticosteroid injections. Alternatively, there are surgical procedures where the transverse ligament is cut – which brings us to our topic of the day.
Are there indeed better ways to treat carpal tunnel syndrome than dosing with steroids or undertaking painful surgery? Of course there are, but you’ll have to stick around to find out.
First, we need to better understand what CTS is and if you have the syndrome in the first place. After all, what kind of doctor would I be if I didn’t try to fully explain something, the regular kind?
How Do You Know You Have Carpal Tunnel?
So, how do you know its CTS and not just a bit of wrist fatigue? Well, if you’ve been feeling some numbness, pain or tingling in your hands and fingers, you’re right to be concerned.
Also known as median nerve compression, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a progressive and painful condition that occurs due to the compression of the median nerve as it moves through the wrist at the carpal tunnel. So you see, we’ve all got a couple of carpal tunnels – it’s the syndrome part that you don’t want.
Medical authorities describe CTS as the most common and widespread of all entrapment neuropathies where the peripheral nerves are not only compressed, but also traumatized.
As the name suggests, the carpal tunnel is a narrow opening formed by a semi-circle of bone and ligament. The median nerve runs through to control movement and feeling in all fingers except the pinky. So naturally, compressing or pinching this nerve will affect those functions.
But what exactly causes this compression?
Causes and Risk Factors of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Directly or indirectly, there are a number of factors associated with carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Genetics – The carpal tunnel could be smaller in some people who pass on these traits to their children and so on.
- Anatomical Factors – Dislocations, wrist fractures and arthritis all deform the small bones in the wrist putting pressure on median nerves.
- Gender – CTS seems to be more common in women than men. Perhaps because the tunnel is smaller in women.
- Fluid retention could also increase pressure within the carpal tunnel irritating the median nerve; very common during pregnancy or menopause.
- Other medical factors could also contribute to developing CTS. These include obesity, kidney failures, thyroid disorders among others.
- Workplace Factors – These are hands down (no pun intended) the most common factors attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s feasible that working with vibrating tools or operating an assembly line that requires prolonged and repetitive wrist flexing could create harmful pressure on the median. Other occupations that could put you at risk of CTS include cashiers, musicians, hair stylists, bakers, and others that require repetitive hand motions.
In the US alone, 3% of the population has the condition. Statistics do reaffirm that about a third of all people with CTS may improve on their own without any specific treatment, but that’s usually within the span of an entire year.
The sad truth is, carpal tunnel is ruthlessly progressive; most cases will worsen overtime depending on what activities you do. That’s why early diagnosis to know if it’s truly CTS is crucial. Here are some tell tale signs of carpal tunnel that should help you diagnose yourself.
Signs And Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of CTS start off mildly and gradually progress to more severe signs as the condition worsens. You might first notice your fingers getting numb or falling asleep, especially at night.
Some mornings may even see total numbness in the hands and tingling all the way to the shoulders. This aching and discomfort is usually accompanied by dismal loss of manual dexterity.
However, the true hallmark of all neuropathy entrapment syndromes is numbness. It’s those who ignore treatment that really face the full brunt of CTS.
What Happens If I Don’t Treat CTS?
I’ll keep this short and simple in case you thought carpal tunnel was just something you get when you’re tired. The last thing you want to do is ignore any repetitive numbing or tingling sensations in your appendages. Unless you want to lose your hands to something that is absolutely treatable, I’d advise having your doctor on speed dial; at least for a diagnosis if nothing else.
That’s because as carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, the median nerve becomes more and more restricted. This leads to all sorts of impulse and coordination issues in the hand. The pain and numbing will become worse as the symptoms graduate to cramping.
Gradually, you will lose most of the feeling in your fingers leading due to slow nerve impulses. Your hand strength, coordination and grip will be next to go, as the muscles in your hand shrink and atrophy. Eventually, you may end up with permanent muscle damage and lose all function in one or both hands.
Sorry to scare you guys, but it’s clear that this is not joking matter. I’m dead serious when I say that you could lose your hands. And for what, something that you could have even treated at the comfort of your home?
But not to worry, because I’ll be showing you all the different ways you can alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel and maybe even treat it altogether.
How Can I Treat CT Naturally at Home?
I’m sure you’re wondering when I’ll bust out the essential oils huh?
Well, perhaps more important than that is knowing how to prevent and even self treat as soon as you notice early symptoms (in conjunction with essential oils of course). The last thing you want is to have to go through surgery or rely on corticosteroids to manage the condition.
So if you’ve been wondering if there’s something you could do to both prevent CTS and ease the pain while still going about your daily activities, indeed there is.
Preventing CTS – Typically, most people don’t even know that they’re prone to getting carpal tunnel. Fortunately, all the expected symptoms as well as people who are more at risk of getting the condition is laid out above.
For example, people who perform repetitive tasks with their hands are more at risk of developing the condition. More so if some members of your family already have the condition. Here are a few prevention measures for CTS:
- Take Regular Breaks – Hey, I’m not telling anyone to quit their jobs. No matter how hard and repetitive they may be, man’s gotta eat, right? However, you should try to take frequent breaks from such tasks and rest your fingers a bit. This will get the blood flowing back to the entire hand. Likewise, try to work with a relaxed grip so you don’t overwork your muscles unnecessarily.
- Improve Posture and Wrist Form – It’s crucial to use the right posture when working. Do not bend your shoulders forward or compress your neck. As for the wrist, don’t bend it all the way up and down. If you can manage a relaxed mid position, then that’s recommended. Keep things like keyboards at elbow height or lower.
- Occupational Therapy – While underrated, an occupational therapist can help save your hands, back, legs, and even life. These experts teach you how to perform your job and those repetitive tasks in a different way that is kinder to your wrists.
- Keep Warm – You’re more likely to develop stiffness and hand pain if you work in a colder environment. So if you can’t control the temperature at the workplace (i.e. meat freezer staff) then invest in some warming gloves and keep those wrists toasty.
Other Natural Treatments (Non-Surgical and Non-Steroidal)
Bracing and Splinting
For your treatment to advance much faster, doctors recommend keeping your wrists straight and neutral through the night. This reduces the pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel.
To achieve a neutral position even when asleep, you can wear a brace or splint and restrict mobilization that way. You could also wear the splints during the day whenever possible. It’s all about giving the wrist as much rest as possible.
Carpal Tunnel Exercises
Whether you’re working, shopping, or resting, there are a few basic exercises you can perform any time of the day to relieve CTS symptoms. These exercises and stretches are super easy and won’t even require any special skills or equipment. You can protect your wrists with the following easy movements:
a) Spider Pushups – Who knew that the spider nursery rhyme would be a great stretch for the hands? Start with your hands in an upside down prayer position, then with the fingers spread widely, try to steeple the fingers by separating only the palms – like finger pushups.
b) Shake Em – The name says it all. For this one, you just shake your hands as if they were wet and you’re trying to air dry them. Shaking for a few minutes every hour will prevent the median nerve from getting cramped.
c) Armstrong Stretch – Here’s the deepest and most effective stretch for CTS. With your wrist extended an elbow straight, place one arm straight out in front. Spread your fingers and use your other hand to apply pressure on the hand. When you reach maximum flexibility, hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch hands, rinse, and repeat. Do this several times a day and you’ll see a major improvement.
Can Essential Oils Help with CTS
Being on the computer all the time typing away pretty much every single day of my life certainly has had its setbacks. You wouldn’t believe how many days I’ve woken up with painful, cramped and uncooperative fingers.
Thankfully, I’ve got a special essential oil blend that I use to get my hands, wrists and fingers more fluid and flexible like a contortionist’s. I owe it all to this blend for keeping my hands carpal tunnel syndrome free year after year despite my job.
Unfortunately, repetitive hand motions make up most of our jobs in this day and age we live in. And it’s these rapid movements that could cause nerve issues all over our bodies along with CTS.
So, what do you do when you have early or advanced carpal tunnel and are already facing the possibility of wrist surgery? Start with Mother Nature’s own healing tonic first of course – essential oils.
Whether in the early or later stages, essential oils offer the best remedy for CTS and similar conditions (arthritis). These healing oils are packed with anti-inflammatory properties to bring down any swelling and analgesics that ease the pain associated with CTS.
And the best part is, you won’t have to deal with the unwanted side effects of steroids or surgery. Here are some of the essential oils to make sure you’re well stocked on.
Best Essential Oils For Carpal Tunnel
We all know about the incredibly potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of eucalyptus essential oil. That’s why having it at the very top of the list is a no brainer. Eucalyptus has been shown to be quite effective at bringing down any swelling while reducing pain at the same time.
This makes it the ideal remedy for a wide range of painful inflammatory conditions. But wait, there’s more. Eucalyptus oil also has an innate ability to boost blood circulation to the applied area. So if you want to ease the pain while treating your carpal tunnel at the same time, you know what to get.
2. Wintergreen and Peppermint
Sometimes, I like to group these two essential oils because they complement each other to create an even more effective cure. Wintergreen certainly may not be the most popular essential oil, but it’s got some excellent cooling and anti-inflammatory properties that make could rival the best of them.
Likewise, peppermint also boasts of a secret ingredient (menthol) which allows it to soothe the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Together, these two wonder oils will have your wrists relaxed and indifferent to numbing.
Here’s another oil that’s already leading in a different medical field. When it comes to treating osteoarthritis, frankincense has substantial anti-inflammatory benefits that could also prove useful in the fight against carpal tunnel.
But what really makes frankincense shine is its regenerative properties that could help restore lost feeling and coordination in the fingers and hands. This can be a godsend if you’ve had CTS for a long time.
Here’s an oil that will forever be known for its crucial role as a kitchen condiment. But as studies are quickly revealing, turmeric essential oil could also be useful in treating a wide range of issues; both digestive and for skincare.
When applied to joints and muscles, turmeric oil contains an anti-inflammatory agent called curcumin that lowers inflammation and boosts circulation. Definitely a must have for all CTS patients.
A 2018 study was carried out on the effects of lavender for moderate carpal tunnel. Research showed that CTS patients could improve significantly with a topical lavender essential oil ointment treatment.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, lavender essential oil is an extremely versatile oil that could treat a wide range of issues. What’s more, lavender is among the mildest oils that can sometimes be applied directly without the need of a carrier oil.
Natural Product For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As mentioned above, my go-to essential oil blend for CTS is no other than the L’orpur Pain Relief Blend which provides extraordinary relief to all symptoms of carpal tunnel. It contains a few of the above essential oils (eucalyptus, peppermint, wintergreen) as well as menthol, clove, camphor, marjoram, sage essential oil diluted in sesame and almond oil. So no mixing, blending, diluting involved – it is ready to use.
Natural Essential Oil Blends And Recipes For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Recipe 1: Olivia’s Blogger Blend for Carpal Tunnel
- 8 drops wintergreen
- 7 drops peppermint
- 30 ml sesame oil
- Small roller bottle
Here is an essential oil blend that can keep your wrists loose and fingers nimble for years. Once you get used to it, it’ll become your signature scent around the workplace – a sweet, minty scent topped off with hints of sesame.
To make use of this recipe, drip the minty essential oils in a small roller bottle and top it off with sesame oil. Shake well to mix and then roll all over an around the wrists. Repeat twice daily, once in the morning and at night.
Recipe 2: Ultimate CTS Pain Reliever
- 4 drops lavender
- 9 drops marjoram
- 6 drops eucalyptus
- 30ml sweet almond oil
It’s no secret, carpal tunnel tends to get more painful as it advances. But if you’re in pain, that might just be a good sign because it shows your nerves are still responsive. You need to start treatment immediately before you advance to a stage of numbing or worse (total loss of feeling and coordination).
To ease the pain, mix all the essential oils as shown above in a small container and add some sweet almond oil to dilute. The oils we used here have potent analgesic and cooling compounds that will ease the pain and promote faster healing.
Recipe 3: Stimulatory CTS Massage Blend
- 8 drops ginger
- 7 drops turmeric
- 6 drops peppermint
- 30 ml apricot kernel oil
The last thing you want to experience while working with your hands is a loss of feeling. Once your fingers get numb, you know that the median nerve is under intense pressure.
This blend will get the wrist inflammation down and improve blood circulation to all areas of the hand. Just mix the above essential oils in a non reactive bowl and call in the cavalry for a relaxing hand and arm massage. Doing this once a day or so should see your CTS improve significantly.
Recipe 4: Special Essential Oil CTS Blend for Pregnancy
- 12 drops helichrysum
- 8 drops german chamomile
- 7 drops black pepper
- 5 drops lavender
- 60 ml (2 oz.) sunflower / olive oil
If you were paying attention earlier, then it’s clear that pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to fluid retention. Unfortunately, most essential oils are not recommended for use on children and pregnant women.
That’s why I’ve cooked up this here special recipe that is absolutely safe to use during pregnancy. However, make sure you don’t get any on the baby.
The above essential oils have potent pain relieving and diuretic properties that will work well for moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. Dilute the essential oils in the sunflower / olive oil and apply generously on the wrists. A massage will also help keep the circulation flowing and promote fluid draining from the arms.
We’ve come to the end of yet another highly informative segment. Can’t wait to wrap it up so I can also cook up one of the above recipes and give my poor fingers some tender loving and care. Just kidding!
If you’ve read everything from top to bottom, it’s clear that carpal tunnel can be totally avoided. And if your job involves rapid, repetitive hand motions, you don’t have to quit because of CTS.
Just learn how to perform those activities in a way that’s kinder to your wrists, and to take breaks every once in a while. But most importantly, make sure you follow some easy home remedies and use the above essential oils to your advantage.
So take care of those hands guys, you only get one pair with no spares.