Whether you are 20 or 80, you should take measures to protect yourself from disorders like osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
According to statistics, it is now found that almost one in two people can develop one or more bone and joint disorders. Many of you, while reading this article, may be experiencing a burning sensation, pain or swelling in your neck, knees or back.
All these are symptoms, which if ignored as “part of life”, can later lead to chronic bone and joint disorders. How do you deal with it? Modern medicine has its own impressive arsenal of drugs and treatments which help us address and live with these conditions.
In this article, let us take a look at how the 6,000-year-old science of Ayurveda can extend a healing hand to ailing bones.
As explained in our earlier articles, Ayurveda is an ancient science that combines physical, psychological and spiritual techniques in its approach to health.
According to Ayurveda every human functions as a living being through the three vital energies known as vata (wind), pitta (fire) and kapha (water). Imbalances in these energies lead to the various disorders.
What causes bone and joint disorders? The most common factor, says Dr. T.L. Xavier of Sampurna Ayurvedic Centre, is an aggravated wind element, the controlling factor of the musculo-skeletal system of the body, combined with internal toxins (ama). Let us take a look at some of the common ailments that can arise out of this.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory and degenerative disease in which the joints become swollen and painful.
The muscles, ligaments, synovial membrane and the cartilage become inflamed, making movement of the joints extremely painful.
Though rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t figure in ancient Ayurvedic texts, similar symptoms correspond to a situation referred to as ama or rakthavata. Here ama/toxins accumulate in the body which is then carried to the different parts of the body where circulation is sluggish or slow, such as the hands, knees, etc, causing pain, swelling, burning sensation and atrophy.
The first treatment is to burn up the toxins by reviving the digestive “fire” for which various oral herbal medicines will be recommended.
Efforts will also be made to neutralise the drying characteristic of the wind element through various medicated oil massages. This helps to loosen stiff joints, accelerate the removal of toxins, nourish tissues and relieve pain.
Different herbal oils are used depending on the nature of the patient and the disease.
For example, for older people, oils which improve circulation might be recommended; for muscular and nerve atrophy it might be another oil, which has regenerative properties. These are the reasons why a good doctor’s diagnosis is important before commencing any massage treatment.
Since vata/wind has a cold characteristic, herbal steam baths called swedhana might be recommended.
As for diet, wind-provoking food such as potatoes, pulses, etc have to be avoided.
The doctor will also give life style advice such as avoiding extremely cold substances, eating heavy and coarse food.
Osteoarthritis is commonly identified as a non-inflammatory, degenerative joint disease. The joints most frequently involved are those of the spine, hips and knees. In most patients, the disease is confined to one, or only a few joints. As the disease progresses, movement in the affected joint becomes increasingly limited.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, addressing the osteoarthritic problem involves herbal treatments as well as external massages to harmonise the imbalanced energies as well as balance and restore the correct functioning of bone tissue.
This is a type of arthritis affecting the cervical and the inter-vertebral discs of the spine, producing pain in the neck region. Trauma, incorrect posture of body, prolonged typing or writing with flexion of neck aggravate the symptoms. When this disease becomes chronic, giddiness, numbness of hands and even paraplegia can occur. Treatment
Here, massage treatments which involve pressure to the neck are avoided. Instead, oil is applied gently under the doctor’s supervision. Certain oil treatments such as shirodhara, shirovasti (forehead oil bath) might be administered.
The various internal herbal medicines such as gugguls and triphalas are known to provide relief. These herbal formulas provide decongestion of the spinal canal and nerve roots.
The wind element, other than governing the musculo-skeletal system, also governs our immunity system. When the disturbed vata reduces immunity and causes degeneration of tissues, it can lead to auto-immune disorders such as lupus.
Though complete healing of these disorders is difficult, Ayurveda goes a long way in providing comfort.
The primary aim when treating this kind of disorder is to restore the immunity so that the body can fight the disease itself.
The treatment in this disease is to balance the wind element, eliminate toxins in the body that causes the deterioration of tissue, and stimulate the digestive fire (agni) to prevent further accumulation of toxins.
Appropriate lifestyle practices such as yoga and meditation are also recommended so that the patient achieves healing not only of the body but of the mind and the soul.
People today are waking up to the potential of Ayurveda as well as other forms of alternative healing. Substantial amount of research has been conducted on the health benefits of Ayurveda, and further studies are ongoing.
In addition to improving the body’s overall state of health, Ayurveda helps a person to deal with chronic diseases and reduces stress and anxiety.