Tips for healthy joints

Written by | Anatomy, Ayurveda, Health

Eighty percent of individuals over 50 suffer from joint pain due to obesity, poor diet, overexertion or genetics. In Ayurveda, joint pain indicates that the joint is poorly nourished as a result of a toxic overload. The causes, however, can be eliminated holistically with changes to lifestyle, and local treatment can stop the pain.

Who hasn’t heard a parent or grandparent complain about joint pain? Whether it’s your shoulder, hip or knee, no joint is safe, and that’s when you aren’t fending off tennis elbow from hours of sitting at the computer or actually playing on the tennis court. This debilitating pain can be the result of lifestyle, genetics or repetitive movements.

Ayurveda identifies two main types of joint problems. The first type is associated with poorly nourished joints or low bone density and overall joint weakness. This kind of problem starts with some discomfort and a cracking sound, and can eventually lead to an immobilized joint. Because the bone is not getting the nourishment it needs, it starts to degenerate. The second kind is associated with a toxic overload in the joints. As ama (the sticky, toxic waste product of incomplete digestion) accumulates in the joint, it first creates a feeling of stiffness and heaviness. If the ama remains there for a long time, the joint will become swollen and painful. Damp, cold weather can aggravate this kind of joint problem.

Vata-related problems

If the aspect of Vata that regulates circulation and nerve impulses is aggravated, the first type of joint problem can occur. Circulation, metabolism and the ability to absorb food are weakened, and as a result, the bone tissue does not receive the nourishment it needs and eventually degenerates.

The weakened circulation creates a drying effect on Shleshaka Kapha, the subdosha of Kapha that regulates joint lubrication. If the joints are not properly lubricated, this can lead to discomfort, cracking of the joint and reduced flexibility.

Treating tendonitis

Ayurvedic medicine recognizes that all ailments result from doshic imbalance. For this reason, they are classified by the dosha that is subject to the problem (Roga) followed by the dosha causing it (Doshaja). The type of treatment depends on which dosha is responsible. The tendons are related to Rakta Dhatu, which is managed by the Pitta dosha. As problems related to the tendons usually aggravate Pitta, tendon problems are classified as Pitta Roga.
In Ayurveda, tendonitis can either be inflammatory or non-inflammatory, unlike in modern medicine which always classified it as inflammatory. If the Vata or Kapha doshas are the cause of the disorder, then it will be non-inflammatory in nature; if Pitta is the cause, then it will be inflammatory.

Three types of tendonitis

Vataja (non-inflammatory tendonitis): Characterized by quick onset with variable degrees of pain and symptoms. The pain either migrates or moves around in a very localized area of the body (elbow, knee, etc.) and the periods of pain are irregular and can vary from one day to the next. The pain can be quite acute but does not usually last long; early morning and late afternoon tend to be the worst times of the day, and autumn the worst season.

Pittaja (inflammatory tendonitis): Characterized by progressive onset with consistent degrees of pain and symptoms. The pain is localized and has a burning quality, and if the pain migrates, the skin develops red colourations. The pain is acute and burning in nature and can last for long periods of time. Midday and midnight are the most difficult periods of the day, and summer the most difficult season.

Kaphaja (non-inflammatory tendonitis): Characterized by a slow onset with a consistent degree of low-level pain. The pain tends to be deep rather than superficial and acute, and it stays localized, slowly and progressively spreading to new sites. Edema or swelling can accompany this type of tendonitis. Morning and early evening are the most problematic times of day, and late winter and early spring the most difficult seasons.

3-step treatment

Step 1: Remove the causal factors that are making the dosha increase. If the tendonitis is Pittaja, all the dietary factors that aggravate Pitta need to be removed.

Step 2: Use specific external treatments to reduce pain. This includes applying special oils and herbal compresses, and ingesting the two most effective anti-inflammatory plants: boswellia and cumin.

Step 3: Increase strength in the tendons, ligaments and muscles with light exercise.

Treatment for Vataja

Step 1: Adopt a lifestyle and diet that reduces Vata.
Step 2: Apply Mahanarayan oil or cold pressed sesame oil twice daily in the morning and evening, and follow with a local application of heat for 20 minutes.
Procedure: Cover the afflicted area with a thick coating of oil. Do not massage the area. Cover with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Leave the hot water bottle on the area for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the oil has been absorbed.
Step 3: Use gentle exercise like isometrics to strengthen the tendons.

Treatment for Pittaja

Step 1: Adopt a lifestyle and diet that reduces Pitta.
Step 2: Apply castor oil twice daily in the morning and evening, and follow with a local application of heat for 20 minutes.
Procedure: Cover the afflicted area with a thick coating of oil. Do not massage the area. Cover with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Leave the hot water bottle on the area for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the oil has been absorbed.
Step 3: Use gentle exercise like isometrics to strengthen the tendons.

Kaphaja treatment

Step 1: Adopt a lifestyle and diet that reduces Kapha.
Step 2: Apply Mahanarayan oil, Balaswagandhadi oil or cold pressed sesame oil, twice daily in the morning and evening, and follow with a local application of heat for 20 minutes.
Procedure: Cover the afflicted area with a thick coating of oil. Do not massage the area. Cover with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Leave the hot water bottle on the area for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the oil has been absorbed.
Step 3: Use gentle exercise like isometrics to strengthen the tendons.

Sources: livestrong.com, ayurveddoctor.com, divyaayurveda.com, ayurtimes.com, everydayayurveda.org, ayurvedictalk.com, joyfulbelly.com

Last modified: October 29, 2018

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