Disorders of the musculoskeletal system are prevalent globally and affect all age groups. They are broadly classified as inflammatory disorders (Gout and Rhematoid Arthritis) and non-inflammatory disorders (Osteoarthritis).
Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints, such as wrists, knees, fingers or hips. The disease is characterized by the pain, stiffness, and swelling of the affected joint. Arthritis can also affect connective tissues and other organs of the body. The chances of having this condition increases with age as your joints get worn down over the years.
Arthritis usually causes pain around your joints but can also manifest the following symptoms:
- Swollen joints
- Redness of the joints
- Trouble moving
- Problems doing daily tasks
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that develops as a result of strain on a specific joint. It is characterized by progressive loss of cartilage with remodeling of subchondral bone and deformity of the joint involved. The friction at the joint causes pain and joint stiffness that can affect the quality of life.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects joints and tissues. Human body is equipped with a defense mechanism where the foreign invaders like bacteria and virus are removed from the system. In some cases, the immune system attacks the healthy cells in the body including those in the joints. The exact reasons for this condition is still unknown. If the treatment is not initiated early it can lead to cartilage destruction, and in extreme cases, fusion of joints.
Causes of arthritis:
Some of the common causes of arthritis are as follows:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Abnormal kidney function
- Certain medications
- Environmental factors
- Underlying medical conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease
An Ayurvedic Perspective of Arthritis
Arthritis is classified as two types, Sandhigat Vata (Osteoarthritis) and Ama Vat (Rheumatoid Arthritis). Sandhigat Vata is a condition caused by malnutrition aggravating the joints that are already injured by infections or a previous injury. It is a condition where there is pain and swelling in the big joints. As with many other diseases, the process of digestion is important to understand the root cause of the condition. Improper digestion results in the formation of toxins as by products which accumulate in the digestive system. Vata collects in the colon and can be aggravated by the following:
- Consuming unhealthy foods of food that is excessively cold
- Eating food at irregular times
- Excessive traveling
- Being extremely busy with rushing around
- Being in stressful jobs or situations
- Sleep deprivation
- Traumatic events
- Some Medications
Aggravated Vata along with Ama is transported into the joints. Together, Vata and Ama destroy the soft tissues in the joints and later damage the bones. The toxins can also clog the channels supplying nutrients thereby causing further damage. The effects on the joints results in the classic symptoms of osteoarthritis which include inflammation, stiffness, pain and swelling.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is caused by the accumulation of toxins and the malfunctioning of the defense mechanism. There is a drastic accumulation of toxins in the body along with an increase in heat (Pitta). The imbalance of these elements affect Ojas (Element of body’s strength and immunity) initiating the disease cascade.
Ama is carried by Vata and reaches sites predominant with Kapha (phlegm) like joints. The sticky toxin clogs micro-channels called ‘srotasa’ that nourish the body. This process not only depletes Ojas but also clogs the channels. The Ama (Toxin) that reaches joints is considered a foreign body resulting in an immune response. This is believed to be the cause of the autoimmune-disease.
Pitta can be aggravated by the following:
- Consumption of unhealthy and overheated food
- Exposure to extreme hot climate
- Not eating food when hungry
- Living in stressful situations
- Extreme exercise regimen
- Taking too many hot showers
- Being angry or exposure to anger
Ayurveda follows a holistic approach with the focus on the health of the individual and alleviating the condition. Ayurvedic treatment can help in providing relief from the effects of arthritis or help in the prevention of getting it worse. If identified early, the disease can be managed appropriately. The treatment may focus on improving digestive fire and removing unhealthy elements from the body. Following a healthy diet will be central for improvement. Ayurvedic therapy can help in reducing inflammation, swelling and pain. In rheumatoid arthritis, Ayurveda emphasizes on reducing the toxins along with herbs to reduce inflammation and nourish the body to enhance immunity.
Prevention is the best medicine and following a lifestyle that supports strong Agni, reduced Ama and balanced Vata, Pitta, and Kapha is beneficial.