As winter arrives, the elders of our houses are in constant fear of their joint pain and stiffness aggravating as old age and cold temperatures worsen the painful conditions of joints. Pain and stiffness come hand in hand where stiffness is the difficulty in the movement of a particular joint.
When a person suffers from pain and stiffness in joints without any apparent trauma, it may be due to a variety of different disease conditions. Some common causes are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gouty arthritis and bursitis of joints etc and these can be differentiated with the help of blood tests, X-rays, the nature of pain and observation of the aggravating factors while the treatment for each differs according to the disease condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can be identified by the presence of Rh factor in the blood and symptoms of joint pain, swelling, inflammation, morning stiffness etc. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder most common in elderly individuals with bone degeneration and drying up of lubricant in between the joints.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Lakshmi Varma K, Consultant and Advisor at LYEF Wellness, explained, “The accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints due to its improper excretion or increased production leads to gouty arthritis, the symptoms of which include redness, excruciating pain, swelling and stiffness. Bursa is a fluid-filled sac in between the bones that act as a shock absorber and lubrication. The inflammation of this again causes pain and stiffness. Thus, for proper treatment, it is necessary to correctly identify the cause of pain.”
Talking about joint pain and stiffness in light of Ayurveda, she said, “All functions of the body are controlled by the three functional entities called dosha. Among them, Vata dosha is responsible for the movements of the body and the breaking down of things among other functions. Thus with this dosha being vitiated, it causes difficulty in movements, pain, degeneration and other musculoskeletal diseases. These diseases that pertain to the musculoskeletal system with pain and stiffness as prominent symptoms are grouped under the heading of Vata vyadhi.”
Since the properties of Vata include coldness and dryness, Dr Lakshmi Varma K said, “When these increase during the winter, the problems of Vata also increase. This is the reason why the condition of the people who suffer from such pains worsens during the winter. Their joints may be stiff in the morning when they get up from bed, at night when it’s colder or even after doing some physical activity. This stiffness is usually relieved by the application of heat, especially in cases of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.”
In the case of osteoarthritis, she suggested, “The application of warm oil help in reducing the symptoms. On the other hand in rheumatoid arthritis oil application is not indicated. Here paste of hot potency drugs can be used to apply on the joint to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness. In case of gouty arthritis and bursitis etc, medicines are to be given internally to bring down the inflammation and purify the blood.”
She highlighted, “There are many Ayurvedic medications given internally and applied externally that give good results in joint disorders. During the winter it is also beneficial to wear socks or gloves to keep the limb warm and to take bath in hot water. Some common drugs used to treat vatavyadhis include Rasna, Bala, Kokilaksha, Eranda, Shunti, Nirgundi, Arka etc. Even though hot pastes and oil applications can be done at home to get some relief, it is always better to consult a doctor for proper differential diagnosis and treatment advice.”