Arthritis is a common joint disease, which was earlier the domain of elderly. However, nowadays young people are getting affected by it. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative bone disease, which causes the inflammation of joints when the bone cartilage wears off. As the bone begins to rub on other bone without the protection of cartilage, it becomes painful enough to hamper the daily routine of an individual.  Arthritis commonly affects the large weight-bearing joints such as the knee and hip, and also hand, feet, and spine.

Ayurveda classifies arthritis as a vata disorder. Vata is somewhat like the internal wind that keeps the things flowing internally but it gets affected by a hectic lifestyle, overexertion, staying up till late, excessive worry, fear, loneliness or not eating enough food.

Arthritis Statistics

  • 39 percent of Indians suffer from arthritis
  • 65 onwards – 5 out of 10 women suffer from arthritis
  • Arthritis is more common in women than men

Root Cause of Arthritis as per Ayurveda

The primary seat of vata in the body is the colon, hence that’s the place where the earliest warning signs of vata disorder will appear. The excess vata compromises Agni (digestive fire) and leads to the accumulation of toxins known as Ama.

What does this mean? Your bone disorder starts in your gut. And, if you don’t address your digestion issues, like constipation, bloating, acidity, the ama or toxins will continue to build-up unhindered and will begin to look out for another place to lodge –  your joints.

The buildup of toxins or ama manifests in osteoarthritis or sandhi vata.  The initial symptom is dryness of joints and frequent cracking or popping upon movement, usually without swelling. Other than the joint pain, the other symptoms of arthritis are:

  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Clicking sensation
  • Joint Locking
  • Joint catching

Since ama shares many qualities with kapha dosha, it has an affinity with shleshak kapha, which is responsible for the lubrication of joints and their smooth movements. Because of the catabolic nature of Vata, the shleshak kapha gets weakened resulting in wearing of the cartilage and drying up of the synovial fluid inside the joint capsule. 

 A brief word on Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

RA though an autoimmune disease is also considered a Vata Dosha in Ayurveda. In RA as the ama gets aggravated, metabolic waste is formed and it begins to affect your joints, which will manifest as Arthritis or ama vata. The classic symptom of arthritis is joint stiffness in the morning. However, as the day advances, the joints become limber. As arthritis progresses, your joints will become sore and inflamed and if the condition is not treated the joints will lose their shape and alignment. When the vata gets more vitiated it invades the blood and the joints and produces gout, or raktavata – a painful condition where joints swell up.

Treating Osteoarthritis with Ayurveda by Balancing Vata

The treatment for arthritis starts with re-balancing vata.  To pacify the disturbed vata you should avoid foods that will aggravate it, like brinjal, bitter gourd, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, green peas.

The permissible vegetables for a vata patient are spinach, fenugreek leaves, and carrots. Radish can be taken.

Protein foods like pulses, peanuts and paneer are out of bounds for a vata patient because such foods will increase the level of uric acid and disturb the vata balance. Cereals like whole wheat, jowar are allowed. Rice has to be eaten sparingly.  

1. Deepan or intensifying the Agni or the digestive fire

Vata imbalance is an outcome of the sluggish digestive fire. Therefore, Ayurveda works towards intensifying the digestive fire with the help of spices and dietary changes.

  • Include Agni-kindling spices like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, saffron, and turmeric
  • Eating a piece of ginger with drops of lemon juice will help ignite the digestive fire
  • You should avoid cold drinks at meals and ice cold foods because cold foods can extinguish the digestive fire. It can cause stomach cramps and bloating, whereas warm water ignites the digestive fire.
  • It is recommended to remove the foods in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) from the diet as they increase the inflammation in the body. The nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers.

2. Shodhan or removal of waste

For removal of toxins, Ayurveda suggests oil basti enema for arthritis patients because in the body the center of vata is the colon – the large intestine, but bone tissue (asthi dhatu) is also a site of vata.

The mucous membrane of the colon is related to the outer covering of the bones. Therefore, any medicine which is given rectally to the patient corrects the vata disorder and nourishes bone tissues.

3. Herbal therapy

Several herbs with anti-inflammatory properties can help in treating osteoarthritis. American College of Rheumatology has found these herbs as effective as commonly prescribed knee medicines and with fewer side effects.

Ayurveda recommends herbs like Boswellia, Turmeric, Ashwagandha, Ginger, Triphala, Guggulu, and Shatavari have all been shown to decrease inflammation by interfering with the production of inflammatory chemicals in the body.

4. Massage

Application of oil is a powerful antidote for relieving arthritic pain. The practitioner will use medicated oils which can seep into the skin and provide relief from arthritis. Abhyangam is a full body massage where medicated oils are used to relieve pain and stiffness in the affected joints.

Another such massage is Janu Basti. In this massage warm herbal oil is poured over the knee and this oil is retained inside a well made with whole wheat flour. The pouring of oil helps restore the lubricating fluid in the joint and improves the mobility of the knees. 

Arthritis is associated with your lifestyle, the kind of foods you eat and the amount of stress you bear. Ayurveda is a holistic therapy as it aims to correct the disorders in your body. However, if you approach Ayurveda at the time of knee replacement, it will be too late. Therefore, when your bones and joints complain and you are in the habit of eating painkillers, it’s the time to correct your lifestyle errors. Get in touch with a qualified Ayurveda doctor and say goodbye to arthritis forever.


Dr Monika Sethi

Dr. Monika Sethi has done her BAMS from Atreya Ayurvedic Medical College, Bangalore. She has a deep interest in the issues related to women health, skin diseases, bone health, and obesity.

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