Joints hold the bones together and are designed to provide movement within the skeletal system. The main function of bone is support, while the joints give flexibility to our structure. This is made possible with the help of the synovial joints. Synovial joints connect the ends of bone by a joint cavity or capsule containing synovial fluid which allows freedom and fluidity in the articulation of our movements.
Doshas play an integral role in joints. All of the supportive tissues, bones, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue, are Kapha dosha, while the joint cavity or space where the bones meet is an element ruled by Vata dosha. Nerve impulses are transmitted to the muscles that ensure movement through the ligaments, again a function of Vata dosha. So according to Ayurveda treatments, vitiated or disturbed Vata dosha can create imbalance within the joints resulting in pain and discomfort. And the most commonly affected joints are fingers, knees, wrists, ankles, elbows, and toes.
When the aspect of Vata that governs the circulation and nerve impulses is aggravated, an individual’s circulation, metabolism and ability to absorb nutrients from food is weakened. Common symptoms of Vata imbalance in the joints are dryness, popping and cracking, muscle tics and spasms.
Ayurveda offers simple guidelines and herbal remedies for balancing excess Vata in the joints:
- Follow Vata pacifying diet, taking meals at regular times each day.
- Self-oil massage every evening.
- Maintain a regular schedule, sleeping and waking at the same time each day
Another type of joint issue is associated with Ama (digestive toxins) in the joints and is characterized by a heavy, stiff feeling. In a condition of AmaVata, Ama is carried by misdirected or vitiated Vata into general circulation throughout the body. It can cause blockage in vital channels of the body that carry nutrients to the tissues and can lead to dysfunction of the joint.
Some lifestyle guidelines suggested by Ayurveda to help reduce Ama and restore balance are:
- Avoid dairy, particularly ice cream and cheese. Have warm, nourishing, easy to digest meals instead.
- Sip hot water and tea made from dry ginger root
- Use unprocessed, raw honey instead of white sugar
- Apply a thin layer of castor oil to sore joints before applying a heating pad
- Practice deep, abdominal breathing
- Avoid long naps during the day
Hence Ayurveda has much to offer with lifestyle suggestions and herbal supplements to support healthy bones and joints.