Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it impacts lakhs of people all over the world. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that enables nearly frictionless joint motion. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, the bones will start rubbing together, causing pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. Although osteoarthritis can damage any joint, the disorder most commonly affects joints in the hands, knees, hips and spine. Also called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis can occur in adults of any age, although it is most commonly seen in older people.
Osteoarthritis symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time. Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain (affected joints might hurt during or after movement), stiffness (joint stiffness might be most noticeable upon waking up or after being inactive), tenderness (joint might feel tender when light pressure is applied to or near it), loss of flexibility (one might not be able to move the joint through its full range of motion), grating sensation (there will be a grating sensation when the joint is used, along with crackling sounds), bone spurs (these extra bits of bone can form around the affected joint), and swelling (this might be caused by soft tissue inflammation around the joint).
There are numerous factors that can increase the risk of osteoarthritis, including old age. Obesity also contributes to osteoarthritis in many ways - the more a person weighs, the higher the risk. Increased weight adds stress to weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees. In addition, fat tissue produces proteins that can cause harmful inflammation in and around the joints.
Joint injuries that occur from an accident or when playing sports can increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Even injuries that occurred several years back and have seemingly healed can increase the risk of osteoarthritis. Repeated stress on a joint might also eventually develop osteoarthritis. While bone deformities at birth, genetics, and gender (research shows that women are more likely to develop the condition) can play a role in developing osteoarthritis, certain metabolic diseases like diabetes and hemochromatosis - where the body has too much iron - can also lead to the condition.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that worsens over time, often resulting in chronic pain. Joint pain and stiffness can become severe enough to make daily tasks difficult. More importantly, depression and sleep disturbances can occur from the pain and disability of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis symptoms can usually be managed, although the damage to joints cannot be reversed. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and Ayurvedic treatments can slow progression of the disease and help improve pain and joint function.
Ayurveda offers safe and effective treatments for relief from osteoarthritis. This includes the potential of regenerating the cartilage in mild to moderate conditions, while in severe cases, the ancient science can restrict the progress of degeneration. Vata-alleviating treatments through specific herbs are suggested for lubrication and strengthening of joints. At Jeevess, Panchakarma treatments for osteoarthritis relief vary from person to person, depending on the individual’s specific condition, but the general lines of treatment would be Snehana (oleation therapy with medicated oils), Svedana (fomentation), Mridu Samshodhana (mild bio-purification), Basti (enema) and Vatahara Aushadha (vata pacifying medicines).
As unhealthy food habits are also a major contributor, we aim to correct the diet with wholesome food in optimal quantities and a timely manner to maintain the equilibrium of the three doshas. Carrying extra weight will increase the stress on weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. Losing even a little weight can relieve some pressure and reduce the pain. Drinking lots of water is a must, while spicy foods and alcohol should be completely avoided.
Physiotherapy works to positively affect osteoarthritis by helping to reduce stiffness and improve circulation. Practicing yoga asanas like Virabhadrasana (warrior pose), Setubandhasana (bridge pose), Vrikshasana (tree pose), Trikonasana (triangle pose), Bhujangasana (snake pose), and Soorya Namaskaramare also beneficial for stretching the body, relaxing the muscles, and making the mind calm.