Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative arthritis, is a type of arthritis that is caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of the cartilage of one or more joints. Most cases of osteoarthritis are age related and have no known cause; and are referred to as having primary osteoarthritis. This is due to loss of protein in the cartilage as an ageing process, which eventually leads to degeneration of the cartilage and of the joint. Secondary osteoarthritis is caused by other diseases or conditions which usually include obesity, repeated trauma or surgery to the joints, congenital abnormalities, gout, diabetes and other hormonal disorders. Swelling, pain and stiffness of the joints are common symptoms of this condition, which usually affects the hands, feet, spine and large weight bearing joints such as the hips and the knees.
The Ayurvedic treatment of osteoarthritis is aimed at reducing the symptoms and slowing down the basic pathology of the disease. To reduce pain, swelling and stiffness, medicines used are: Triphala-Guggulu, Yograj-Guggulu, Punarnavdi-Guggulu, Maha- Rasnadi-Guggulu, Maha-Rasnadi-Qadha, Dashmoolarishta, Maha-Vat-Vidhwans-Ras, Vat-Gajankush-Ras, Agnitundi-Ras, Vishwa (Zinziber officinalis), Nirgundi (Vitex negundo), Kuchla (Strychnos nuxvomica) and Guggulu (Commiphora mukul). Medicated oils like Vishgarbha oil, Mahanarayan oil and Mahasaindhav oil are used for local application on the affected joints. This is followed by a medicated steam fomentation of the affected areas using decoctions like Nirgundi-Qadha and Dashmool-Qadha. This procedure is called 'Naadi-Sweda', and is very useful in reducing pain and swelling of the affected joints.
In order to halt or slow down the progress of the disease, efforts have to be made to repair the damaged cartilage of the weight bearing joints. Medicines like Trayodashang-Guggulu, Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu, Sinhanaad-Guggulu, Laxadi-Guggulu, Shankh-Bhasma, Praval-Panch-Amrut and Asthishrunkhala (Cissus quadrangularis) are used for this purpose. These medicines have to be given for prolonged periods, sometimes up to two years in order to have a good therapeutic effect. Patients who do not respond satisfactorily to these medicines are given, in addition, medicated enemas of a special medicine called 'Tikta Ksheer Basti', which consists of milk boiled with several medicines. Repeated courses of this enema have to be given for several months.
It is important to treat obesity and other conditions associated with osteoarthritis. The use of a walking stick helps to relieve pain in a vast majority of people having mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Regular activities like swimming, walking and yogic asanas can help to reduce pain and stiffness in the joints.