Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may start out as tingling on the wrist and fingers but when left untreated, it can become painful and may debilitate your movement in the long term. Affecting one out of ten people during their entire lifetime, CTS is the most common nerve compression syndrome. Certain treatments are available but in this article, we’ll explore some essential oils for carpal tunnel syndrome relief and how to use them.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS is a condition where a nerve from your forearm that travels through the carpal tunnel (hence the name) in your wrist and fingers called the median nerve is compressed.
Those with CTS experience tingling, numbness, and even burning sensations in the thumb, index, and middle fingers and aches would even radiate up through the wrist and forearm. In untreated extreme cases, this results in temporary or partial paralysis, and the pain and aches in the fingers and wrist causes loss of grip strength and dexterity.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
There is very little that is known about what causes CTS, but experts have agreed that there are certain medical risk factors that increase the chance of developing CTS. These include genetics, excessive secretion of growth hormones, tumor growth in the carpal tunnel area, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, pregnancy for women, and diabetes mellitus.
A popular external factor that is cited is occupation. Those who engage in work with highly repetitive arm, hand, and wrist movements like those in the manufacturing and construction industries are said to be associated with higher incidents of CTS.
CTS is also prevalent among office workers in the IT and computer industry, gamers, video and media editors, and other occupations that deal with computers a lot. Repetitive keystrokes and mouse gestures, finger placements on console controllers, and poor ergonomics are cited to be the factors to develop CTS, however this is yet to be scientifically and medically established.
Prevention and Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are certain treatments and preventive measures to manage the pain associated with CTS.
Splints and braces worn on the wrist work by helping to limit movement in the area and therefore help reduce the pain experienced by those who have CTS. This is a great way to restrict any unnecessary or sudden involuntary movement of the hands and wrist at night to help you sleep. This the most accessible way to manage the pain, however this is merely a band-aid solution to the problem without addressing the root cause.
Corticosteroid injections is a more straightforward way to deal with the pain while you are still figuring out how to go about treating CTS. Corticosteroids work by decreasing the swelling of the median nerve. This is however not recommended to be considered as a treatment method in the long term.
For more extreme CTS cases when other modes of treatment have been deemed ineffective, surgery is the most appropriate solution. A ‘carpal tunnel release’ surgery is performed to relieve the swelling and pressure on the median nerve. Coupled with physical therapy and a bit of lifestyle and occupational adjustments, CTS sufferers will likely observe that symptoms are less experienced.
Do Essential Oils Help With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
There are some alternative measures that are said to help treat CTS like stretching, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and of course, using essential oils.
It is important to remember that essential oils work merely to alleviate the pain and discomfort that comes along with CTS, and not CTS itself.
A number of essential oils are great anti-inflammatories and analgesics to help you manage the symptoms of CTS.
Best Essential Oils for Carpal Tunnel
Scientific studies have shown that lavender essential oil helps in managing mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. Lavender is a potent anti-inflammatory and has been found to have strong antinociceptive properties–the action of blocking the detection of pain.
Lavender also generally aids in sleeping; those with CTS experience difficulty to get a good night’s rest because of the recurring pain.
Basil is another powerful analgesic and helps in soothing muscle aches and pain.
Peppermint is a great essential oil to use for CTS since this helps with the swelling and relieves wrist paint. Menthol, an active compound found in peppermint, also helps in soothing the pain and discomfort by ‘distracting’ the sensory neurons in feeling the minty and cool feeling rather than sensing the pain.
Tea tree oils’ potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties are also great against CTS. Tea tree oil is a popular ingredient used in many topical treatments and lotions for skin conditions.
Another popular ingredient for lotions both for cosmetic and medical use, eucalyptus oil is another oil that helps in general aches and pains.
Ginger is known for its potency in helping treat many ailments, and CTS is but one of many of them. Ginger has potent anti-inflammatory properties which will help in alleviating the pain and swelling caused by the pressure on the nerves.
Using Essential Oils For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief
The most effective and straightforward way to use essential oils to relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is to apply it topically as a lotion or salve.
We suggest that you use high quality oils like those from our recommended brands to ensure the best results.
Remember never to apply these oils directly on to your skin, as the last thing you want to do is cause further pain and discomfort. Always dilute essential oils with carrier oils. Do patch tests first on non-affected parts of your skin and observe for at least 30 minutes. Once you show any adverse reactions, discontinue using the essential oil blend immediately.
Essential Oil Blend For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Simply mix 3-5 drops of the essential oil of your choice to an ounce of carrier oil. You can switch up the recipe according to your preference and what you observe works the best for you. Apply on the affected area and gently massage; don’t be too rough or you might flare up the pain. Rest your arm or wrist for a few minutes afterwards. You can do this several times a day.
You can also put the essential oil blend in a small roller bottle so you can use this anytime and anywhere you need.
Putting this essential oil blend before you put on a splint or wrist brace also works wonders.
This topical essential oil blend is also great for other types of nerve compression syndromes like tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS) around the ankles and cubital tunnel syndrome in the elbows.
Precautions to Remember
It pays to put out this disclaimer: along with the wide lack of knowledge surrounding the syndrome itself, the alternative methods in treating CTS are also widely debated and disputed. Your first course of action should always be to consult a medical professional and seek their advice before trying out alternative methods. The last thing you want to do is to subject yourself to more pain and harm that could’ve been avoidable. Also make sure that using essential oils does not interfere with any medications already prescribed for you.
It is important to note that alternative methods like acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and essential oil treatment help manage the symptoms of CTS and not CTS itself.
CTS has also been found to be a symptom itself of a bunch of other medical conditions, which is why it is important to have yourself checked by a medical professional to make sure you don’t get into treatments that might aggravate and cause more medical problems. For example, CTS is very common for women in their early pregnancies.
Speaking of, women should avoid stronger essential oils like tea tree during pregnancy. Their potent smell and effects can cause adverse reactions to women who are in their early stages of pregnancy.
While there is much yet to be known about carpal tunnel syndrome and how to effectively get rid of it, there are ways to manage the pain that comes along with it.
Essential oils are a great natural alternative option you can look into for dealing with CTS. Along with these treatments, it is also important that you make adjustments to your lifestyle and work like using ergonomically correct chairs, desks, and peripherals for your job, and always remembering to take breaks and not strain yourself when doing manual work.