How to Overcome All Types of Joint Pain with AyurvedaDr. Surya Bhagwati
Joint pain is one of the most common problems and it is one that we often ignore. We only pay heed to it when the pain gets so severe that it impairs your ability to function. Although unexplained joint pain and stiffness is normal on occasion, it should not be ignored if it is persistent or severe. In such cases, joint pain could be indicative of an underlying problem. This type of joint pain can be temporary or long-lasting. Short term pain is described as acute, while persistent or long term pain is described as chronic. Acute joint pain is usually caused by injury or overuse, while chronic pain is most associated with arthritic diseases and some autoimmune disorders.
In the case of acute joint pain resulting from injuries, rest and treatments to reduce pain and inflammation are most important. However, rest is not recommended for a lengthy duration as it can lead to degeneration or disuse atrophy. The longer that a joint is not used the more severely will it affect joint mobility. This can take a huge toll on quality of life. Unfortunately, western medicine does not have any cure for chronic joint pain and treatment typically involves the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, pain killers, and steroids. Long term use of such medications can have serious side effects and create dependence. This makes Ayurveda the best strategy for managing any type of joint pain.
Ayurveda follows a holistic approach for treating joint pain, using a combination of physical therapy, diet modifications, lifestyle practices, and herbal remedies. Most of these Ayurvedic treatments for joint pain are aimed at improving overall joint health, rather than providing quick short term relief. This means that although they can aid recovery and are a safer option for acute joint pain, they are ideal for chronic joint disorders.
The Ayurvedic Perspective of Joint Pain
In Ayurveda, there is a clear understanding that every type of joint pain is different. Moreover, it is the only ancient medical science to recognize the uniqueness of the individual. Treatment is therefore highly personalized even when dealing with joint pain. In the context of chronic joint pain, which is the main concern, Ayurveda provides some valuable insights. The classical texts mention three distinct types of musculoskeletal disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis – described as amavata, osteoarthritis – described as sandhivata, and gout – described as vatarakta.
While acute joint is typically caused by injury and overuse, Ayurvedic physicians recognized that ignoring such pain could increase the risk of chronic or degenerative joint pain disorders. In other cases however, chronic joint pain is primarily linked to vitiation of vata dosha and an accumulation of ama in the body. When these deposits accumulate in the joints, it leads to swelling and inflammation, which ultimately results in arthritic disease.
No matter the origins or the type of joint pain, Ayurvedic wisdom has a lot to offer in terms of treatment. This also varies depending on whether the joint pain is inflammatory or degenerative. As is true with any type of acute joint pain, ignoring inflammation can lead to a combination of chronic inflammation and joint degeneration. In the absence of personalized medical care, you should take steps to both reduce inflammation and also protect against joint degeneration.
Ayurvedic Treatment of Inflammatory Joint Disease
Detoxification plays an important role in inflammatory disease, especially in the early stages. For mild joint inflammation, light food, warm drinks, and rest are recommended. In mild cases, herbal decoctions are effective at countering toxicity and boosting liver function. In severe cases however, it is advisable to undergo panchakarma at a reputed Ayurvedic clinic.
Herbal medicine is an important facet of joint pain treatment and is widely recognized for its benefits. Ayurvedic herbs that are most effective in inflammatory joint pain are those with proven anti-inflammatory and detoxification effects, making guggulu, haridra, amla, and devadaru some of the best choices. In this regard, guggulu and gokshura are the most notable; studies show that in addition to reducing inflammation they exert anabolic effects that can protect against joint degeneration.
In addition to the use of herbal medications and diet therapy, there are other practices that can help treat joint pain from inflammation. Some such therapies would include Dhanyamladhara (Pouring of warm fermented liquid), as well as the panchakarma procedures of massage such as abhyanga or oil massage. When practicing abhyanga it is best to use an oil containing nirgundi as it is regarded as the best herb to protect the joints and relieve pain. Vasti or medicated enema is another panchakarma procedure that can help to reduce toxicity and reduce inflammation. Keep in mind that with the exception of abhyanga, most panchakarma treatments should be administered under medical supervision.
Ayurveda Treatment of Degenerative Joint Disease
Inflammation is a common occurrence as a precursor or symptom with degenerative joint disease, so many of the treatments above should also be used in case of chronic joint pain. As degenerative diseases develop over time and progressively deteriorate, treatment must address all of the underlying factors. Accordingly, diet, lifestyle, and herbal supplements play a critical role.
When dealing with degenerative joint diseases that also involve the immune response, such as rheumatoid arthritis, herbal medications will often include ingredients with immunomodulatory properties as found in tulsi and Ashwagandha capsules. Ashwagandha is also important as a joint pain medication because studies have demonstrated anti-arthritic effects.
Once again, the application of balms and oils is helpful, especially for pain relief. In addition to nirgundi oil, balms containing menthol and eucalyptus are known to reduce swelling and inflammation swiftly. When these approaches are used together, it protects against and slows further degeneration of the joint. Other Ayurvedic therapies that are highly recommended include taila dhara, which is an oil pouring practice, and njavarakizhi, which is a type of Ayurvedic massage.
When dealing with joint pain it is important to remember that unlike western medicine, Ayurveda is not just reactive or treatment focused. It involves a holistic approach that aims to promote every aspect of health, by correcting underlying imbalances and nourishing the body. So, in addition to using the treatments and herbal medicines for joint pain described above, you should also consult an Ayurvedic physician for personalized diet and lifestyle recommendations.
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