Management of Osteoarthritis: The Ayurveda way
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis that affects several people across the world. It is a degenerative disease which is caused due to multiple disorders affecting the structure and function of one or more joints. The pain, swelling and limited motion of the joints is the result of wear and tear of the protective cartilage on the bone ends that occurs with age. The loss of cartilage may also be initiated due to hereditary, developmental, mechanical and metabolic causes.
Osteoarthritis mostly affects the hands, knees, hips and spine. The physical disability arising due to osteoarthritis reduces functional capacity and quality of life leading to further morbidity.
Main Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
Shirodhara is called by different names as per the classical Ayurvedic texts of Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita, such as Sirothara, Shiro Sheka, Shiro Parisheka, Shirashek, etc. Mainly, they can be categorised into the following four types.
Some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis can be similar to Rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, it is essential to get a proper diagnosis from a qualified doctor or physician before going ahead with the osteoarthritis treatment in Ayurveda.
Here are the major symptoms of osteoarthritis:
- Pain during the movement of joints
- Stiffness of joints following a period of inactivity or non-movement of the joints
- Crackling and creaking sound accompanied by pain during movement
- Muscle weakness around the joints, especially in the knee
- Swelling of joints
- Deformation of joints as the condition progresses
- Limited range of motion
Osteoarthritis as Per Ayurveda
Arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects one or more joints leading to pain, swelling, tenderness and stiffness of the affected joints. As mentioned in Ayurveda, osteoarthritis is a condition caused majorly due to Vata dosha along with the involvement of Pitta and Kapha doshas. It affects both men and women in their life stage when Vata is the most predominant, which is usually after fifty years of age.
Vata is dry and light in nature and its vitiation in any of the joints dries up the lubricating synovial fluid and depletes it. As a result, the cartilage wears away due to the friction leading to pain and limited joint mobility. In this condition, the large weight-bearing bones and joints, such as the hands, hips, knees, feet and spine are the most affected.
During the early stage of the disease, one can experience joint discomfort or cracking of the joints. If left untreated, it could progress to advanced stages leading to deformity, destruction of the articular surface, and also, complete loss of function.
Causes of Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a Vata dosha predominant condition as mentioned in Ayurvedic texts. Some of the factors that are responsible for osteoarthritis due to vitiation of Vata are as follows.
- Consuming excessive of food which has dry characteristics
- Eating insufficient meal quantity or skipping meals over a long time
- Indulging in excess of sexual activities
- Staying up late at night
- Staying hyperactive without proper rest
- Chronic indigestion and malnutrition
- Too much travelling
Other causative factors that may lead to the vitiation of Vata dosha are
- Suppression of natural urges
- Exposure to severe cold and dry weather
- Chronic stress
- Excessive bleeding
Ayurveda Principle of Osteoarthritis Management
Western medicine may be able to describe arthritic diseases to some extent, but the classical descriptions still do not accurately match with the disease entities. Therefore, Ayurveda recommends creating an individualised treatment and therapy program for the management of arthritic conditions.
For the accurate diagnosis of the individual condition, three essential processes are carried out, which are – Darshanam or inspection, Sparshanam or palpation, and Prashna or clinical interview. However, in modern medicine, the syndromes represented in modern rheumatology follow a more standardised definition based on lab results.
The perspective that Ayurveda offers regarding arthritis and its conditions is quite a unique one that follows the concepts of Agni and Ama. Agni can be represented as the biological or digestive fire which is essential for ensuring proper health and carrying out various biochemical functions in the body. On the other hand, Ama is the toxins that build up in the body due to the malfunctioning of the Agni leading to an array of diseases. The toxins get accumulated in the gut which then spread through subtle channels of the body and makes their way into the joints through Vata. Even modern medicine validates the link between the gut and various forms of seronegative, reactive and post-infective arthritis.
Hence, the osteoarthritis knee treatment in Ayurveda aims at performing procedures like Panchakarma so that the gut toxins are excreted, restoring the digestive Agni, making changes to the lifestyle and food choices that lead to the vitiation of Agni and Ama in the first place.
To get the most from the osteoarthritis Ayurvedic treatment, the practitioner and the patient needs to work collaboratively to include palliative and deeper therapies in the treatment plan. Although osteoarthritis isn’t curable, these therapies and treatment plans will help to manage the condition better.
The prognosis can be made by considering the symptoms of the disease in the individual and how far it has progressed. Generally, the osteoarthritis treatment in Ayurveda is aimed at reduction or complete elimination of symptoms, stop the further progression of the disease or at least slow it down. It is essential that the individual undergoing the Ayurvedic treatment for joint pain is aware of the goals of the treatment plan and appreciates the potential outcome that will arise out of the efforts.
Ayurvedic Procedures in Osteoarthritic Treatment
Some of the treatment procedures used in the Ayurvedic treatment of osteoarthritis are as follows.
Application of medicated paste or powder: Medicated paste or powder may be applied externally in the acute stage to alleviate oedema, pain and burning sensation.
Oral administration of ghee: In Panchakarma treatment, the administration of ghee or oils infused with bitter and astringent herbs is the first step of the procedure. The preparation of the herbal oil or ghee is done according to the patient’s condition.
Dhara: Dhara refers to the pouring of warm herbal decoctions, medicinal liquids, medicated milk over the affected joints for about 45-50 minutes. The choice of herbs or medicated liquids to be used in the procedure depends on the symptoms of the individual. The procedure is quite beneficial to reduce oedema and pain in just a few hours.
Rasayana therapy: This therapy uses formulations and procedures to restore and rejuvenate the Asthi (bone) dhatu. The Ayurvedic medicine for osteoarthritis used in Rasayana therapy has to be continued for a long time. The therapy is given as a part of Panchakarma treatment as well.
Steaming and other heating procedures: These procedures aim at improving the flexibility in the stiffened joint structures. They can also be beneficial in clearing up any blockage in the subtle channels of the body.
Virechana: Virechana, also termed as medicated purgation, is an Ayurvedic technique that cleanses the body by removing the toxins from the lower part of the body. Virechana is performed by giving herbal purgatives to the individual that also help to restore the Agni in the body.
Vasthi or Enema like procedure: These procedures are extremely effective in cleaning the lower alimentary canal as well as the subtle channels spread all over the body. Vasthi can be beneficial in pacifying aggravated Vata in individuals. Another form of Vasthi called Brimhana uses special ingredients and herbs which can help to regenerate the affected joints.
Herbs for arthritis management: The Ayurvedic treatment for knee or joint pain uses the following herbs – Tinospora cordifolia (Guloochi), Strychnos nuxvomica (vishamushti), Boswelia serrata (Sallaki), Commiphora mukul (Guggul), etc.
Lifestyle Changes for Osteoarthritis
- Take some time out regularly to move your joints or do mild exercises. Take care to not involve yourself in any hard job that might further damage the joints. Both excess or less use of your joints is bad.
- Walk for at least thirty minutes every day.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can significantly contribute to the destruction of joints.
- Excessive fasting is bad as well because it causes dryness in the body and increases Vata.
- Don’t suppress the natural urges of urine or stool, as they can lead to a vitiated Vata and several diseases.
- Use an Ayurvedic massage oil according to the prescription of your Ayurvedic doctor. Make sure to foment your joints properly after applying the oil.
Individuals with osteoarthritis should be cautious to approach Yoga techniques. If they want to do it, it is crucial that they take the assistance of a qualified Ayurvedic doctor or Yoga practitioner. Before starting out any asana practice or exercise, people with arthritis must take sufficient time to warm up their joints. As arthritis also affects the hands as well, practising Yoga may be a bit difficult. However, with due caution and assistance of the Yoga practitioner, activities like Yoga, walking, swimming can be an excellent way of maintaining strength and flexibility in the joints.
- Include lots of vegetables in the diet. You should also consume freshly cooked foods, hot soup of lentils, ghee or oils in moderate quantities, and pulses.
- Foods that are too oily or deep-fried must be avoided.
- Eat a wholesome and nutrient-rich diet.
- Avoid eating foods that are dry or cold.
- Add black gram cereals to your diet at least once a week.
- Prepare your food with Saindhava salt and spices that are known to pacify your dosha constitution.
Govardhan Ayurveda’s approach to Osteoarthritis management:
Osteoarthritis worsens over time, and there isn’t a cure for it. Ayurveda offers a holistic approach to treatment that can prevent further progression of the condition and improve the function and mobility of the joints. At Govardhan EcoVillage, we aim to manage osteoarthritis by Shamana therapies, involving medications, herbs, lifestyle changes, food, exercise, etc. and Shodhan therapies which focuses on the elimination of waste and rejuvenation of the body.
We recommend early diagnosis and treatment for the condition because that is the key to controlling osteoarthritis. Our unique fusion of curative procedures including Panchakarma and other remedial therapies like Abhyangam, Ama Pachan, Podikizhi, Kadikizhi, etc. ensure fast recovery from the condition. Every therapy at Govardhan EcoVillage is customised according to the individual conditions of our patrons which is determined after a consultation with our experienced physicians and practitioners.
Govardhan EcoVillage is one of the most trusted Ayurvedic retreats in India for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Reach out to us for the complete care and cure of osteoarthritis without the risks associated with conventional medical treatments.