Morning stiffness and pain in the joints – many know these symptoms. But they also experience that these symptoms disappear through movement. This may be an indication for osteoarthritis, a deterioration of the musculoskeletal system, which is observed worldwide – independent from the different population groups.
In conventional medicine osteoarthritis is considered as the most common chronic joint disease. This means the wear and tear of the joints, which often occurs through disturbed conditions of strain. These joint problems are diagnosed up to 17% between the 20th and 25th year of age and from the 65th year of age onward they can amount up to 90%. The emphasis is on “can” amount.
If you rest, you rust. In osteoarthritis it is important not to rest, but to stay in motion. It is thereby essential to distinguish between arthrosis, Snadhivata, a non-inflammatory disease of the joints, whereby the structure of the joint is disturbed through wear and tear and arthritis, and Amavata, an inflammatory disease of the joint caused by an auto immune disorder, a disturbance of the body’s defense which may also be triggered through infections. One example to be mentioned is mainly rheumatoid arthritis. Pain is the central symptom accompanying the course of this joint disease.
Fight for survival
From the Ayurvedic point of view, the presence of metabolic deposition, Ama, is an important factor to distinguish between those diseases. Ama means immature, uncooked. If the digestive power Agni is weakened, food is insufficiently digested and metabolized, and it comes to deposits and slags. In their characteristics those are very similar to the bioenergy Kapha (cold, damp, heavy, thick, sticky, muddy, and slimy). Kapha cares for the construction and the protection of the body. But the body is not able to distinguish between Kapha and Ama. Therefore, Ama is led to the positions of Kapha, the joints, and is deposited there. In this way, Kapha is displaced by Ama. This in turn leads to swelling and adhesions.
Basically at the beginning of every arthrosis treatment, it is important to clarify the involvement of Ama and to remove it. Methods to improve digestion, nutritional advice and a review of the lifestyle habits support the removal of toxins. A detoxification cure under medical control is highly recommended.
„At an advanced age the air-space energy Vata dominates“
During the course of the treatment a reduction of the bioenergy Vata should be focused, as both arthrosis and arthritis occur due to an increased Vata. Vata stands for the principle of movement – in its characteristics it is rough, dry, light, mobile, and cold. This relates to the symptoms of arthrosis and arthritis. Movement is restricted leading to deformities of the joints. When touched, the joints feel dry, mostly cold and rough.
According to the Ayurvedic understanding, arthrosis means Sandhivata Vata of the joints. This may be a normal aging phenomenon, because the air-space energy, Vata, dominates at an advanced age. In Ayurveda the life phases refer to the relating bio-energies, Doshas: during youth – the development and growth phase – the water-earth energy Kapha dominates. Fire energy Pitta becomes active from puberty, gives the power for the enforcements of ideas and goals, to start a family and professional success characterize this period of life.
The nervous system becomes more sensitive
From the age of sixty, bioenergy Vata takes the lead and influences the physic and mental balance according to the individual constitution. Experiences create a space for wisdom, but the nervous system becomes more sensitive. It is often observed that the memory performance is reduced and sleep becomes light and irregular. On the physical plane, it may be observed that the subcutaneous fatty tissues become thinner, the skin dry and the bone density decreases. Cartilage, bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles lose their elasticity because of dryness. The synovium (synovial fluid) decreases.
An increased Vata, i.e., dryness, cold, stress, insomnia, indigestion, lack of rest, and a disturbed circadian rhythm affect the joints. These need a lot of nutrients for their construction and maintenance, otherwise the synovial fluid dries out faster and the joint gap height decreases. The absence of a buffer between the joints leads to pain during the sequence of movement – and as a response, precisely what is needed mostly will be avoided: movement. The movement ensures that the tissues are well supplied with blood and the joints are supplied with nutrients. Only when the normal process of aging is exceeded one speaks of a degenerative joint disease.
All those diseases – rheumatism, arthritis and arthrosis – are not curable according to Western oriented medicine. However, a timely professional, medical and Ayurvedic treatment may significantly improve the joint mobility and reduce pain. For the affected person this means an enormous increase in life quality and an activation of the self-healing forces.
The general Ayurvedic therapeutic approach is based on balancing of bioenergy Vata – be it through a well-adjusted, regular diet, a regular daily routine or through enough moments of rest to refill the reserves.
Osteoarthritis / Sandhivata
- affected are large, single joints
- local, non-migratory pain, swelling, stiffness
- the pain is dependent on movement, penetrating and clear
- grating noises in movement
- evening stiffness; deterioration after moving
- oil and steam treatments provide relief
- muscle loss
- sensory disturbances
- slowly spreading process
- freezing and cold sensation
- dryness, dry skin, stool/ constipation
- restlessness, unsteadiness, sensitive
- light body structure, slim joints
- roughness, rough skin, brittle, rough hair, brittle, rough nails
Arthritis / Amavata
- long lasting stiffness
- steady pain
- local pallor or redness and sensitivity
- local increased temperature, stiffening of the joints/misalignments
- more than one joint is affected
- spreading from one joint to the next
- Ama throughout the whole body
- pain in the limbs
- increased need to urinate
- increase in salivation, loss of appetite, constipation, flatulence, vomiting, loss of taste
- extreme fatigue
- heart pain
- remove Ama
- as soon as Ama is reduced, the same treatment as in Sandhivata may be applied
Learn to slow down
Examine your way of life regarding deceleration. More clearly said, this means reducing stress and tension, noise, computer work, frequent travel and electromagnetic pollution. Vata needs grounding and tranquility. Meditation and yoga are very much recommended as a support. Yoga helps to promote the flow of energy, removes blockages in the energy channels – nadis – strengthens Agni, increases the elasticity of the tendons, muscles and ligaments and supports the removal of slags. Besides yoga, it is helpful to care for positive habits and rituals. These activate the self-healing power, train self-perception, and strengthen self-confidence. Self-massage of the affected joints with special herbal oils and herbal pads helps reduce the pain. Warm clothing protects against cold and alleviates the pain.
Food should predominantly be warm, moist, fresh, and easy to digest. Prepare with enough salt, ghee (clarified butter), but no flavor enhancers. Reduce raw food and when you do eat the raw food, eat it only at midday after a warm meal. It is recommended to regularly drink hot water, ginger and herbal tea.
In manual therapy, it is important that nourishing treatments reduce Vata and soothe the nervous system. Abhyanga, a full body oil treatment (Snehana), nourishes the tendons, muscles and ligaments, strengthens the digestive fire Agni, stimulates metabolism and supports the removal process of slags. Local treatment with hot steam or wet sauna (Svedana), supports Agni and the metabolism, removes blockages and redirects blocked Vata back into the right position.
In addition, the removal of slags is supported. With hydrotherapy and phytotherapy, i.e., moist, warm fomentations with special herbs, Vata is moisturized, nourished and soothed. Special joint treatments with herbal bags, oils or pastes stimulate circulation, loosen slacks and activate the healing process in arthritis.
The motto is:
“Look after yourself and care for yourself.“
If you have enough time, a stay in a health spa clinic is highly recommended. A Panchakarma cleaning cure is most helpful in combination with effective therapeutic measures and Ayurvedic herbs to remove Vata from the body. The regeneration phase which follows on the cleansing phase has a nourishing and stabilizing effect.
“Look after yourself and care for yourself” is the motto. For many persons, this may be quite unusual and you have to learn it first – it is worth doing it!
…..to be continued