Yoga & Ayurveda for Arthritis Management
Arthritis is the term used for all kinds of joint pain. Depending on the cause, arthritis is classified as degenerative, metabolic and autoimmune. Genes play an important role in arthritis running in families. There is no permanent treatment for arthritis; only pain relieving medications are used. Yoga practices specifically meant for loosening tension built up in the joints have been described in this article followed by dietary modifications and conclusion.
Joints are points in our skeletal system where two or more bones are connected together with a mechanism that allows movement. They are lubricated by membranes that keep the bone surfaces smooth. A torn membrane, an inflamed one or that which has uric acid in it becomes painful and causes the condition we call arthritis.
Types Of Arthritis
Arthritis is given many names depending on its cause and symptoms. When they have joint pain, maximum people are suffering from one of the following conditions:
It is degenerative i.e. age-related wearing out of the joints. It can occur sooner if the person doesn't get enough nutrition for the bones and also if they are overweight. The lubricating layer between joints is exhausted in osteoarthritis, causing pain. It is the most common form of arthritis.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid means relating to the musculoskeletal and the immune system. This is a disorder where joints are inflamed on their own and are more severely painful than osteoarthritis.
Uric acid is created as a by-product of some metabolic processes in our body. Most of it is passed in urine, but it sometimes crystallizes i.e. becomes solid and deposits at some joints. This causes swollen and painful joints. It mostly occurs in toes and wrists. This condition is called gout.
Symptoms Of Arthritis
Although painful joints are the first and most significant sign of arthritis, there are a few more symptoms which should not be ignored:
- Difficult movement of a body part
- Stiffness around a joint
- Inability to straighten a joint once bent
- Hyperuricemia: High uric acid in the blood causes crystal stones to form and deposit at various places in the body.
- Immune disorders: Sometimes the immune system goes crazy and employs white blood cells at the joints.
- Aging: With age the joints also degenerate like the rest of our body does. They become loose and painful.
- Obesity: Extra weight of the body puts extra pressure on the joints especially those in the legs and the back. This causes early wearing out of joints and the protective membranes around it.
- Genetic factors: if any of the above factors caused arthritis in your parents or grandparents, you are even more likely to develop this condition.
Women are more likely to get osteoarthritis. On the other hand, men are more likely to develop gouts. Rheumatoid arthritis is observed to have no such preference.
Treatment includes medications. Over the counter as well as prescription drugs are used for easing arthritis. Pain-relieving medications are either consumed orally or applied as an ointment. A correlation has been seen in these medications and hypertension.
Yoga For Arthritis Management
Yoga is not always about difficult poses. Here are very minute exercises from ancient yoga texts, specially created for circulating energy in all the joints. These are safe for everyone and can be practiced by the young and the elders alike.
- Toe bending: Toes of both the feet are bent away from and towards the body.
- Ankle rotation: The ankles are supported by both hands and then rotated in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction.
- Knee contraction: The kneecap is pulled towards the body by shrinking the thigh muscles.
- Knee bending: holding the thigh with both hands, knees are one at a time bent and relaxed.
- Knee crank: The leg is held by both hands and circles are made with knees.
- Half butterfly: Keeping one leg straight, the other is bent and the knee is moved up and down supported by both hands.
- Hip rotation: The leg is rotated at the hip joint, supported by both hands.
- Full butterfly: Both the legs are bent at the knees in a seated position. The soles are joined together and the toes held by hands. Then the knees are moved up and down. This motion can also be supported by both hands.
- Fist clench: The fingers and the palms are joined and separated as if a fist is being formed.
- Wrist bending: The hands are moved up and down at the wrists.
- Wrist rotation: The fists are closed and the wrist joint is rotated in full circles.
- Elbow bend: The elbow joints are closed and relaxed.
- Elbow rotation: The elbow tips are used to make imaginary circles.
- Shoulder rotation: The elbows are bent and the hands are kept on the shoulders. Now the shoulder blades are contracted and relaxed so that full circles are formed by the bent arms.
- Neck rotation: The neck is moved from side to side and then rotated in all directions first clockwise and then anti-clockwise.
All these exercises should be done in the same sequence. At least ten repetitions of each should be done, keeping the rest of the body relaxed. The base position for all exercises shall be sitting. These can be done many times a day.
In addition to practicing the above yoga exercises, a few dietary modifications should be made in order to keep joint pain at its minimum:
- Water: drink around 6-8 glasses of water in a day to prevent and ease inflammation. Water also flushes excess uric acid from the blood.
- Herbal tea: Tea made with flowers and herbs ease inflammation of the joints.
- Spices: Spices such as carom, cumin and asafetida are excellent for removing joint pain.
- Nuts & seeds: Almonds, sesame seeds and mustard seeds should be consumed as whole and oil.
- Fruits: Fruits especially citrus fruits are great for easing joint pain.
- Milk: Milk should be consumed to keep balance of macronutrients in the diet since we are going to restrict some protein sources from the diet.
- Beans: Beans aggravate arthritis; examples are edamame, green beans, drumsticks, etc.
- Legumes: Peas, black eyed bean, kidney bean, etc. should also be avoided.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts etc. are not recommended.
- Alcohol: Alcohol worsens all kinds or arthritis.
- Meat & fish: They are not recommended since they contain chemicals that produce excess uric acid in the body.
Arthritis is very common especially in adults and the elderly, but there is not much awareness about it. It can be prevented as well as eased with the yoga practices mentioned here. Also, the dietary modifications should be strictly followed since they are based on ayurvedic principles. These practices should be followed as family routines since arthritis tends to pass on through generations. Arthritis is manageable, if not treatable.