Rheumatism is an auto-immune disease. You are attacked by your own immune system in the sense, antibodies that are supposed to destroy foreign particles and germs, attack your own cells and tissues and seek to destroy them. This affects multiple organs in your body and needs to be treated on time.
According to Ayurveda, rheumatism has its origin in vitiated Vata. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common forms of rheumatism. Any form of rheumatism is characterised by severe pain and inflammation. It can lead to bone deformity as well.
According to Ayurveda, rheumatism takes place when there is an increase of ama or toxins in the various joints of your body. Ama is formed when you suffer from improper metabolism, digestion, or excretion.
Common symptoms include:
- Pain and swelling of joints and muscles
- Stiffness of the joints
- Structural deformities
These symptoms aggravate when ama combines with Vata.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Under Ayurveda, the treatment for any of rheumatism consists of two kinds of treatment viz.
- Samana chikitsa or pacification therapy and
- Sodhana chikitsa or purification therapy
According to Ayurveda, if the balance of the doshas is disturbed, it sets off a chain reaction that affects the other parts of the body. This includes your basic body tissues or dhatus and waste products or malas.
Your vatas can get vitiated due to many reasons. Some of these reasons can be natural and some can be due to your fault. The natural causes include seasonal changes while the man-made reasons include unhealthy lifestyle, wrong food habits, misuse of your sense organs, and even suppressing natural bodily mechanisms.
Ayurvedic doctors make use of the above-mentioned treatments to eliminate the symptoms associated with rheumatism.
Let’s look at them in detail.
This includes restoring the normalcy of all the vitiated humors with the help of medicines.
Sodhana or purification is recommended when medicines do not work. The doshas become so much vitiated that they need to be eliminated from the body. Ayurveda makes use of a five-step purification process or panchakarma in this case. The doctors decide on the procedure depending on the stages the various doshas are in.
This is a time-consuming and complex process and needs to be practised with a lot of care. Only qualified and experienced physicians and trained therapists can perform panchakarma. If done correctly, it gives great results with any kind of rheumatic disease. Panchakarma is a three-stage process and consists of purvakarma or pre-treatment, pradhana karma or main treatment, and finally paschat karma or post-treatment.
During the first stage, your body and mind is prepared for the primary treatment of pradhana karma. The steps include snehana or oleation, swedana or sudation, and massage therapy. This helps in loosening the toxins present in your body.
Next comes the primary treatment and this includes five steps or panchakarma. The steps are naysa or nasal therapy, virechana or medication purgation, vamana or medicated emesis, nirooha vasti or enema with the help of herbal concoctions, and sneha vasti or enema with herbal oils.
After the pre-treatment and primary treatment, it takes some time for the body to return to normalcy. This is a slow process and is achieved by a following a strict and balanced diet. This is one of the most important things in post-treatment care.
The treatment is usually carried out in a series of consecutive steps which depend on the nature and stage your disease. It is more difficult to treat people who have Vata constitution compared to people with kapha constitution.
Let’s see what happens during this stage by taking the example of rheumatoid arthritis.
- The first step comprises of Amapanchanam or detoxification. It is done with the help of stomachic or deepana and digestive or pachana Sudation therapy is also a part of the treatment during this step. It works by correcting digestion and metabolism in the body and also reduces pain and inflammation.
- The second step begins only when the digestion becomes normal. Anti-inflammatory medicines are prescribed and you need to undergo purification therapy. This helps in expelling the antibody-antigen complexity from your body. After this, the treatment course shifts to pacification therapy along with external therapies like pindaswedam or kizhi, dravaswedam or dhara, and upanaham or poultice. This is again followed by oleation therapy or the external administration of ghee or oil on the body. This helps in reducing the pain and inflammation.
- Step three comprises of raktha prasadm, swedana, and Vata samana. Medicines are given during this stage and the main emphasis lies on preventing the recurrence of the disease. Ayurveda takes a two-phase approach for this — oral medicines are prescribed to boost immunity followed by, rejuvenation therapies like kayasekam (pouring of lukewarm medicated oil on the body) and pindaswedam (combination of massage and sweat therapies).
All these help in eliminating all the symptoms associated with rheumatism and gives you a pain-free life. However, it is important that you follow certain rules and regulation to ensure that these symptoms do not come back like:
- Following a strict vegetarian diet (if you cannot, then not more than 25% of your meal should consist of non-vegetarian food)
- Eat foods that can easily be digested
- Sleep only during the night and do not miss it
- Drink lukewarm water always
- Keep yourself warm
- Use warm water to take bath
- Take immunity-boosting medicines during season changes
Also, make sure to visit your physician at regular intervals and get yourself checked. This will keep the disease at bay and let you live a normal life.
Vata is something that governs all the movements in your mind and body. It depicts all the forces of the air like dryness, vacuum, lightness, coldness, dehydration, and wind. In the body, it controls contraction and relaxation of muscles, movement of internal fluids like lymph and blood, breathing, transportation of food, and a whole of other activities.
There are five types of vata and they are: prana, udana, vyana, samana, and apana. Together, they are known as panchavayus.
Prana vayu functions in the upper regions of the body like head, neck, and chest. It connects the atmosphere to the inside of the body. It is responsible for carrying out the various functions of the sensory organs like responding to stimulus etc.
Udana comes next and it also acts on the same regions. However, it works in the opposite way. The direction of the force is outward and upward. It enables the body to expel things like carbon dioxide and water and even to vomit.
Vyana affects the chest and heart. It is like the natural pacemaker and controls the functions of the heart. It is responsible for controlling circulation in the entire body. It also initiates actions and movements in various parts of the body.
Samana acts on the abdomen region. It ignites the digestive fire within and ensures that the food is digested properly by controlling the intestinal movements. It also ensures that food assimilation takes place properly and takes cares of excretion as well.
Apana vayu is present in the pelvic region. It controls the reproductive system, urinary system, and other excretory organs.
If Vata is disturbed, it affects the entire body.