Soothing painful joints
My 56-year-old mother has been complaining of pain in her knees for the past three months. She finds it difficult to get up from her chair or to go for her usual evening walk. So she stays indoors most of the time and moves around restrictedly. She has been taking calcium tablets and medicine has been prescribed but it is not helping much. Please advise.
Why knees hurt:
Complaints of knee pain after 50 would usually be osteoarthritis — a common form of arthritis which afflicts millions of people throughout the world. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of our bones wears down over a period of time, that is, the condition results from the breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone.
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and stiffness. Joint swelling and decreased range of movement may also be present in many cases. The symptoms worsen with time. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and regular treatment may help in slowing the progression of osteoarthritis and, in turn, alleviate pain and improve joint functions.
What you can do:
Some of the risk factors for osteoarthritis like heredity, age and gender make it difficult to prevent its onset. However, some lifestyle modifications may help in halting its progression:
Exercise will help patients of osteoarthritis to improve their condition and move better. Walking, jogging, aerobics, cycling and swimming are the best. Also, do exercises that strengthen the quadriceps. Perfect your posture —maintain the two natural curves of your spine, whether sitting or standing. Yoga, when practised regularly, reduces pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Being overweight can increase the stress on weight-bearing joints such as knees and hips. Even a little weight loss can relieve pressure and reduce pain. Repetitive motions should be avoided as far as possible. Diabetic patients must control high blood sugar as it may be a risk factor for osteoarthritis.
Eat foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D — milk, fish, eggs and cereals. Ginger reduces joint inflammation. Asafoetida, onions and garlic are helpful.
Herbal supplements like Shallaki, Shigru and Hadjod (available as tablets from Himalaya) are very effective in relieving joint and muscle pain and support normal joint function. Ashvagandha, Shatavari and Haridra are other herbs that can be taken long-term. They strengthen the joints.
Heat applications are useful for joint stiffness. Also, cold applications help patients with muscle spasms and pain. Knee braces can be helpful in knee osteoarthritis.
Therapeutic oil massage: Any of the following oils may be used for gentle massage for 20-30 minutes on the afflicted joint/s followed by fomentation, twice daily.
The oils are Dhanvantaram taila, Pinda taila, Mahanarayana taila, Sahacharadi taila, Murivenna or Kottamchukkadi taila (manufactured by Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal or Nagarjuna) or Pain-relief oil (Himalaya Wellness).
Non-sticky liniments like Rumalaya liniment (Himalaya) and Myostaal liniment (Solumiks) can be used in place of oils which feel sticky.
A combination of any of the following medicines, depending on the actual condition of the patient, will be helpful:
Maharasnadi Kashaya/Rasnasaptakam kashaya /Dhanvantaram Kashaya/ Dashamoola Kashaya (Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal or Vaidyaratnam Oushadhasala, Trichur) — 10 ml taken with 30 ml boiled and cooled water twice daily, before meals.
Yogaraja guggulu/Lakshadi guggulu (Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal) or Rumalaya forte tablets (Himalaya) or Rheumartho gold plus (Baidyanath) — two tablets three times daily, after meals.
In specific cases of fatigue and weakness, Ashvagandharishta and Balarishta — 10 ml each with 20 ml of water, twice daily, after meals.
For severe stiffness and joint pain, Guggulu tiktaka ghrita /Amritaprasha ghrita / Indukanta ghrita (Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal) — 5 ml on an empty stomach followed by half a cup of hot water, twice daily for three-four months will gradually provide relief.
Dr Srikanth is a postgraduate in Ayurveda and has been a consulting physician for the past 17 years. He is currently National Manager, Scientific Services at The Himalaya Drug Company.