Ayurveda is based on the premise that disease is the natural end result of living out of harmony with our environment, Ayurveda being just not only a mode of treatment but a complete science in itself has the potential to give succor and relief to the patients suffering from rheumatic problems. Rheumatic problems are reflected in the form of pains with associated fever, swelling and occasionally other systemic manifestations. According to Ayurveda the 3 doshas namely vata symbolizing air, pitta the fire responsible for digestion etc and kapha the stabilizing force symbolizing earth in totality donate the physiological state of a person.
Rheumatic complaints are called as vata vikaras; vata relates to the skeletal framework and nerves. There are different varieties of Rheumatic complaints; amongst them arthritis, spondylitis, sciatica, frozen shoulder, slipped disc, gout etc. are the most destructive ones affecting the bones and nerves.
Basically rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic sub acute systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease where in antibodies develop against the components of joints and mistakenly destroy cartilages, synovial fluid, bone and joint tissue. Mainly involves smaller joint of hands, wrists ankles, knees, the joints of hip and elbow are less commonly involved. As per available statistics 1% of the total world population suffers from this disease. Since it is an autoimmune disease what actually triggers it is still not very clear. Some of the factors which may be in some way responsible are genetic predisposition, smoking, alcoholism and infection by micro organisms.
The concept of Ayurveda in terms of rheumatic problems here is the theory of Ama Vata. Causative factors being emotional distress, exhaustion for long periods, excess sexual activity, improper diet. This ama /toxin shows an affinity to bone joints, where it deposits itself. If allowed to continue unchecked, the inflammation becomes chronic and destroys joint causing nearby muscles to shrink.
Pain, stiffness in muscles & joints increase gradually with accompanied tiredness and generalised fatigue. In some the symptoms develop suddenly followed by fever, body ache, tastelessness and indigestion. Presently NSAID’s are the main stay in treating this disease. However many have serious adverse effects. More and more people now desire to know if less adverse, effective, alternative treatment is available to them apart from instituting the systemic therapy.
Effective treatment involves immediate elimination of ama/toxins. Use of anti-arthritic, poly herbal preparation which help strengthen the bones, tissues, skeletal and neuromuscular tissue thereby giving comfortable movement to joints and muscles. Use of locally acting anti inflammatory drugs in traditional formulations in the form of medicated oils for massages also prove highly effective.
Among degenerative diseases osteoarthritis invites a special note. Poor blood circulation to joints, due to dryness, over exertion; in turn leading to low nutrient supply is the main aetiology. An imbalance of kapha dosha, thus leading to depletion of synovial fluid that provides lubrication and acts as a cushion to joints is the causative factor. Under the influence of vata, wearing away of the cartilage in the joints causes friction, leading to pain and limited joint mobility. It mostly affects weight bearing joints like hip and knee joints.
Symptoms include edema, pain, tenderness etc. Undertaking Ayurveda treatments like pizhichil, abhyangam, jaanu vasthi, elakhzhi etc. in the early stages helps prevent further damage to joints, helps in their recovery, easen the pain and swelling; in the process improving nutrition and circulation to joints. Likewise regular abhyangam/body massage, swedana (fomentation), good food, excercise and planned lifestyle can avoid the onset of OA and enable one live a healthy and painless life. Another commonly encountered problem worldwide is gout/metabolic arthritis. It is characterised by painful swelling of joints, tenderness and redness of affected areas i.e. joints of legs especially big toe, wrists and elbow levels The main causative factor is increased levels of uric acid in bloodstream. Since vata is said to be the main factor in rheumatic ailments, vasti /enema is the best suggested treatment. It is used as a suppressor and as an immunomodulator. The main site of vata is said to be the colon. Thus direct application of vasti to colon/pakwasaya helps not only in regulating and coordinating vata dosha in its site, but also control other doshas namely pitta and kapha involved in pathogenesis of diseases. Vasti has a multidimensional thereupatic effect. In ailments like Prolapsed disc, low back pain and other spinal diseases, this system of medicine has proven its efficacy.
Ayurveda is as old as Indian ethos of holistic approach. Its age is indeed timeless having redefined the concepts of health. Advocating a life of physical, mental and spiritual discipline, it believes in the innate abilities of nature and body to cure itself.
Following a preparatory regimen before performing the detoxification by means of sneahanam (oleation by internal and external administration of fats) and swedana(fomentation) helps increase the toxin, which are brought to the koshtha/abdomen from where they are eliminated by detoxification therapies. These pre-regimen treatments like pizhichil, uzhichil, abhyangam, ela kizhi etc. help in perfusion and diffusion and increasing osmotic permeability into tissues.