Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a common condition. As the name suggests, it occurs due to repetitive movement during work or leisure activities. The most common RSI treatments include over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. However, many people are now seeking more natural alternatives.
Could cannabis and CBD help repetitive strain injury? Let’s find out.
What Is Repetitive Strain Injury?
Before we delve into how cannabis-based therapies could benefit RSI, we’ll explain a little more about the condition itself.
RSI is a type of repetitive motion disorder. It is the result of repeating similar movements again and again as part of one’s profession or hobbies. Additionally, RSI may occur due to poor posture or staying in an unnatural position for prolonged periods.
Over time, these activities lead to inflammation and pain in the muscles, tendons, or nerves. RSI usually affects the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. It can also occur in the back, hips, legs, and ankles, although this is far less common.
Some of the most recognizable forms of RSI include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Ganglion cysts
- Trigger finger
Although there are many different types of RSI, the vast majority have somewhat similar symptoms.
Repetitive Strain Injury Symptoms
RSI symptoms tend to have a gradual onset. In the beginning, they may only occur when a person is carrying out the triggering activity. However, over time they may become troublesome even at rest. Without treatment, RSI can eventually lead to permanent tissue damage.
The symptoms of RSI include:
- Aches and pains
- Loss of strength
These symptoms can vary in their severity from patient to patient. Some people may only experience one or two RSI symptoms, whereas others might suffer from all of the above.
What Causes Repetitive Strain Injury?
As we have already mentioned, RSI is a result of repetitive movements or overuse of a particular body part. Therefore, it is more likely to affect people whose jobs involve repetitive motions.
RSI most often affects people in professions such as:
- Assembly line workers
- Manual laborers
- Checkout operatives
- Any work involving computers
The risk increases further for people who work in cold environments or use vibrating machinery. Furthermore, RSI can be a result of various out-of-work activities. These include:
- High-impact sports
- Playing a musical instrument
In many cases, it is possible to avoid RSI by stopping any activities that generate it. Let’s look at some other ways to prevent and treat RSI.
Repetitive Strain Injury Prevention and Treatment
RSI is a condition that is, in most cases, avoidable. If you have a high-risk profession, look at ways to make your workspace more comfortable and ergonomic. This might involve checking that you have set your desk up correctly, taking regular breaks, and using protective equipment for specific tasks.
The most effective way to treat RSI is by identifying the cause. You can then find ways to modify the activity to make it more comfortable or, if possible, stop it altogether.
Unfortunately, even once you have made these changes, the pain of RSI can persist while your body heals. The following treatments might help manage pain and any other symptoms:
- Over-the-counter painkillers
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Hot or cold packs
- Wearing a splint or support on the affected part
- Physical therapy
These days, more and more people are looking for natural alternatives to conventional medicine. And with cannabis becoming more widely acceptable, many people in legal states are wondering whether it could help with RSI. Let’s take a look.
Cannabis for Repetitive Strain Injury
Humans have used cannabis as a remedy for pain for thousands of years. It is one of the most common reasons why people use medical marijuana. Therefore, although there is little research out there regarding cannabis for RSI, there is plenty on pain in general.
There are numerous systematic reviews on cannabis for chronic pain. They include various studies employing both natural and synthetic cannabinoids to treat conditions like arthritis, neuropathy, and multiple sclerosis. Overall, they provide “substantial evidence” that cannabis can help with a range of painful conditions.
Cannabis relieves pain by interacting with cell receptors in the brain and nervous system. It regulates the release of neurotransmitters to reduce inflammation and discomfort. To date, most of the research has focused on two primary cannabinoids, THC and CBD.
THC or CBD for Repetitive Strain Injury?
Although the two have similar chemical structures, THC and CBD act on the body very differently. THC interacts directly with cannabinoid receptors, mimicking the action of chemicals that our bodies naturally produce.
These chemicals are called endocannabinoids, and they play a role in regulating many of our physiological systems. Their numerous functions include altering the way we perceive pain.
A 2017 study for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research describes how the body releases endocannabinoids in response to tissue damage. They aim to suppress inflammation and desensitize the area. Once the compounds have done their work, they break down using an enzyme called FAAH.
While THC exerts its analgesic properties by imitating these endocannabinoids, CBD works very differently. Rather than binding with cannabinoid receptors itself, it boosts the activity of our natural endocannabinoids. One way it does this is by inhibiting FAAH, the enzyme that breaks them down.
Furthermore, CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory. It appears to react with several other critical physiological systems in addition to cannabinoid receptors. However, scientists are still trying to ascertain precisely why it displays such a broad range of effects.
So, both THC and CBD may possess some benefits for RSI patients. THC is an effective pain reliever, and CBD a potent anti-inflammatory. Therefore, one important consideration when choosing how to use cannabis for RSI is whether to incorporate THC, CBD, or both.
The downside of using THC is that it has intoxicating effects. While some patients enjoy the sensation of being high, others do not. Moreover, THC is only available in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.
CBD, on the other hand, is non-intoxicating. Providing it comes from industrial hemp and not marijuana, CBD will not get you high. As a result, it is much more widely available.
Best Cannabis Strains for Repetitive Strain Injury
If you are lucky enough to live in a legal state, you can access a wide variety of marijuana strains that could help RSI. Some are high in THC, while others are more CBD-heavy. Other strains contain an almost 1:1 ratio of the two cannabinoids, giving you the best of both worlds.
Some of the best cannabis strains for RSI include:
- ACDC (high CBD)
- Cannatonic (high CBD)
- Harlequin (balanced CBD/THC)
- Girl Scout Cookies (high THC)
- White Widow (high THC)
Even if you don’t live in a legal state, you could still potentially benefit from CBD oil that comes from industrial hemp. However, some more conservative states have even banned this, so check your local laws before use.
CBD Oil for Repetitive Strain Injury
If you choose to go down the route of using CBD oil for RSI, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, CBD is available in many different forms, and you need to choose one that’s appropriate for you.
CBD oil is the most traditional way of using this cannabinoid. It involves placing a few drops of oil under the tongue, holding for up to 90 seconds, and swallowing. The advantage of this is that it can absorb directly into the blood vessels that lie beneath the tongue. It does not pass through the digestive system, where much of it would get lost.
However, using CBD in this manner can be fiddly. It is also no secret that CBD is an acquired taste. Therefore, many people are turning to other consumption methods such as capsules, gummies, and vape oils.
One of the most effective ways to use CBD for RSI is topical preparations. These are creams, gels, or ointments that you rub directly on the painful area. This method allows the CBD to get to where it is needed most, without affecting the rest of the body.
Full-Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate
Another consideration when choosing a CBD product is whether to buy an isolate or full-spectrum CBD. Isolates are great for people who want to use CBD and CBD alone. However, they may be missing out on some additional benefits.
Full-spectrum products contain a whole range of cannabis compounds, including lesser-known cannabinoids and terpenes. Terpenes are the compounds that give cannabis and hemp their distinctive smell and taste. Many experts believe that they work together with cannabinoids to create a synergistic effect called the ‘entourage effect.’
Moreover, terpenes also have some beneficial properties of their own. These include relieving pain and inflammation as this 2018 study for Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research demonstrated.
The researchers used cannabis essential oils to treat mice with paw inflammation. They found that terpenes had both anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive (painkilling) effects, although they were less potent than CBD.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis and CBD for Repetitive Strain Injury
In many cases, RSI will get better on its own once the aggravating activity has stopped. However, patients still need to find some relief while they heal, and cannabis could offer a solution.
Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD could make a fantastic natural remedy for RSI, with both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, other cannabis compounds, such as terpenes, may enhance their benefits.
However, it is essential to check your local laws surrounding cannabis and CBD to avoid repercussions down the line. We also recommend consulting a doctor before using cannabis or CBD for RSI or any other medical condition. They will confirm it is both safe and suitable for you.