Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease in which the articular cartilage, that cushions the opposing bones, thins. This thinning results from trauma, excess strain on or instability of joints. It often affects weight bearing joints and the facets joints in the back. It is more prevalent with advancing age (Vata time of life) and some people are genetically predisposed to it.
It appears that the reduction of articular cartilage is mediated by “oxidative stress” – which is at the basis of most degenerative diseases. Oxidative stress is what rusts metal, turns food rancid and denatures cellular proteins – making them non functional. It reduces the ability of the cartilage cells to reproduce and make the cartilage matrix around them. Oxidative stress can be considered Vata aggravation on a molecular level and and can be offset by anti-oxidants.
According to Ayurveda, osteoarthritis is known as Sandhi-Vata. It is a result of aggravated Vata (dryness and instability) moving into the joints and disturbing the normal function of Sleshaka Kapha (lubrication of joints and nourishment of the cartilage). When the Vata disturbs the Kapha in this way, your joints begin to creak and crack. If the imbalance persists the aggravated Vata further impairs joint function and ultimately destroys the structures of the joints causing stiffness, pain and reduced mobility.
The other main category of arthritis is inflammatory arthritis, which includes rheumatoid arthritis (known as Ama-Vata). In this condition the joints become stiff, painful, swollen and tender to touch. In the modern medical science, it is considered an auto-immune condition in response to ongoing inflammation in the joint – the body produces antibodies against its own inflammatory products.
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, this process starts with a weak Agni (digestion & metabolism) due to aggravated Vata. The resulting ama (incompletely digested and metabolised food residue) circulates causing fatigue, low appetite, generalized body aches, heaviness, fever and lack of wellness. The ama blocks the micro circulatory channels and causes the Vata to localise in the joints. The body then mounts an inflammatory response (aggravated Pitta) in an attempt to digest and remove the ama. However because of the weak Agni the break down of ama is incomplete and the ongoing inflammation leaves behind toxic chemicals that add to the ama build up. The joints become swollen, red and tender. By blocking the flow of Vata (life force) into the surrounding the tissues, this ama accumulation leads to ongoing pain and destruction of the joints.
My joints ache sometimes – Maharishi Ayurveda Health Advice (3.11 mins)
Thinning of the tissues, including bones, is a result of increasing Vata, which accompanies advancing age. Aggravated Vata spreads and localises in the tissues, reducing Kapha. This disturbs the balance between tissue formation (Kapha) and tissue breakdown (Pitta) – resulting in a net tissue loss. When this affects the bones it is called osteoporosis or Ashti Kshaya in Maharishi Ayurveda.
Osteoporosis is characterized by increased porosity and brittleness of bones and results in fractures from minor trauma. As for osteo-arthritis, osteoporosis is thought to be mediated by oxidative stress. You are more prone to osteoporosis if you are underweight, you smoke, don’t exercise or are deficient in Vit D and/or calcium.
Maharishi Ayurveda focusses on reducing the underlying Vata aggravation and strengthening your Agni (digestion and metabolism) so that you can better utilise nutrients and thereby prevent further bone loss.
Osteoarthritis prevention, the Maharishi Ayurveda Approach (7.55min)
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterised by chronic wide spread pain and tenderness in the muscles, tendons and other soft tissues. It is often associated with fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression, and anxiety. People with fibromyalgia often wake up unrefreshed. The body aches may get worse with activity, cold or damp weather, anxiety, and stress
According the Maharishi Ayurveda, fibromyalgia (known as Mamsa Vata) is due to increased Vat (dryness) and ama (incompletely digested and metabolised food residue) in the muscles and connective tissues (Mamsa and Ashti dhatus). Pitta (inflammation) increases in an attempt to digest the ama. As Vata and Pitta increase, Kapha (lubrication/tissue nourishment) reduces. This disrupts normal function and leads to pain, stiffness and at times burning sensations. Ama accumulation leads to fatigue and lack of wellness.
When Vata (dryness / roughness) and ama (incompletely digested and metabolized food residue) localise in the muscles, connective tissues and facet joints of the spine, Kapha (lubrication / tissue nourishment) is reduced and pain and stiffness result. If this imbalance persists it leads to disc and facet joint degeneration. The resulting disc protrusion &/or osteophytes around the facet joint (extra bone formation) can compress the nerve roots as they exit the spine causing sciatica.