Ayurvedic treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis

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  • Definition
  • Causes
  • Symptoms
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  • Management
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Rheumatoid arthritis Ayurvedic treatment


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an auto immune disorder where the body’s defense systems turns against it, and mainly affect the joints but may also severely affect the eyes, skin, lungs, heart and blood vessels. It generally manifests as pain in the joints along with swelling and difficulty in movements. Unlike osteoarthritis which affects the weight bearing joints, rheumatoid arthritis affects any and most joints of the body.1

In Ayurveda, this condition is relatable to the concept of Amavata (Ama – toxin, vata- joint pain). Due to specific factors, ama (toxins) spread in tissues and enter the joints to cause restricted movements, swelling and pain in the joints. The same Ama (Toxic substances produced ) enters the dhamani by circulation with the help of vata. So both Ama and Vata aggravate simultaneously and enters different sites of the body and ultimately leads to stabdhata (immobility) in the body, this is called “Amavata”. The pathology of the entire process is complex and the disease is considered to progress very poorly in Ayurveda.2


Rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is caused due to an autoimmune action of body’s cells.  The immune cells of the body attack the synovial lining of the joints causing pain, inflammation and tenderness. 1

The reason for this autoimmunity is not known and could be due to many factors.1


Rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis generally affect the joints but may also be seen in skin, eyes, and other parts of the body. General joint related symptoms include:1

  • Pain in joints, especially during movements
  • Swelling in joints with feeling of warmth over the skin
  • Stiff joints, especially in the mornings and after period of non activity
  • Always feeling fatigue
  • Weight loss


Rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed on basis of the specific complaints, and evaluated further for signs of swelling and pain in the body. Your doctor will recommend a couple of tests to confirm your diagnosis. These include:1

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test – to measure the pain and swelling in your body
  • C-reactive protein (CRP) test – blood test to measure the pain and swelling in your body
  • Blood tests to look for RA factor and anti-CCP antibodies
  • X-Rays - Mostly used to view the areas affected and related deformities
  • CT scan - imaging test to look for the source of the rheumatoid arthritis and determine how severe it is
  • MRI scan - Used in rare cases to understand the deformities well


Rheumatoid arthritis


Rheumatoid arthritis is managed with lifestyle changes, therapies, medicines, and in rare cases, surgery.1

Ayurveda manages the condition by focusing on correcting the metabolism (amapachana). This is achieved by increasing the digestive fire (agni) either through fasting, deepana (appetizers) and pachana (digestive medicines), and also through panchakarma or cleansing therapy. 3

Panchakarma or shodhana therapy

It is a purification therapy. The aggravated Doshas from the body are expelled out in this procedure, thereby eliminating the internal causative factors of the disease. Metabolic process causes generation of large quantities of toxic byproducts in the body. Toxins deposited in various tissues vitiate Dosha, Dhatu etc and thereby causes diseases. Shodhana therapy removes toxins from body and restores the equilibrium of Dosha. Shodhana therapy consists of a three-stage purification process as follows:1

  • Purva Karma – preparatory purification prior to the main purification
  • Pradhana Karma – the main five purification methods (known as Panchakarma treatment)
  • Paschath Karma – post rejuvenation therapy

Additionally, Ayurveda also recommends a combination of healthy diet (ahar) and lifestyle changes (vihar) in order to manage rheumatoid arthritis effectively. These include:2,3

Diet Recommendations (Aahar)

  • Practice dieting (langhanam) or consume light diet to reduce weight, as it helps in reducing the burden on joints
  • Increase intake of garlic, ginger, neem leaves, karela, methi, cumin, old rice and vegetables
  • Castor oil should be taken during bed time to help eliminate the harmful toxins from the body
  • Mild laxatives should be taken to help regulate the bowel habits. These include harad, triphla, etc
  • Good Ayurvedic Plants for you: eranda, guduchi, punarnava, rasna, and gokshura
  • Consume light khichari (gruel) with multiple spices like ginger, turmeric, cumin, asafetida and coriander
  • Avoid certain foods such as-
    • Heavy or fatty foods
    • Spicy foods
    • Fried foods
    • Sweet foods
    • Fermented foods
    • Tea, coffee and refined sugar
    • Alcohol

Lifestyle changes (Vihar)

  • Follow a systematic daily way of life (Dincharya)
  • Avoid activities that cause both mental and physical stress
  • Avoid excessive exercise and physical activities
  • Avoid suppressing your urges (vegavidharan) to urinate, defecate, etc
  • Indulge in regular dry massages
  • Fomentation with hot sand bag or electric pad are beneficial in reducing pain and swelling
  • Indulge in yogasanas that help maintain range of movements, such as:


Virabhadrasana    Baddha konasana            Utthita Parshvakonasana             Uttanasana 


Rheumatoid arthritis
  1. What is Osteoarthritis? How is it caused?

Osteoarthritis refers to a type of bone and joint problem in which a person suffering from it will have pains in joints. This happens due to the wearing down of the protective cartilage on the bones due to age or other factors. While any joint in the body can have osteoarthritis, usually it happens commonly in the joints of knees, hips, spinal column and hands.

Osteoarthritis is caused due to damage of the cartilages of the ends of the bones. This damage generally occurs due to multiple factors primarily being increasing age. Apart for age, the other factors that cause the damage to cartilage are Obesity, female gender and trauma to the joint.

  1. What is Rheumatoid arthritis? How is it different from osteoarthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) refers to an auto immune disorder where the body’s defense systems turn against the body and mainly affect the joints but may also severely affect the eyes, skin, lungs, heart and blood vessels. It generally manifests as pain in the joints along with swelling and difficulty in movements.

Unlike osteoarthritis which affects the weight bearing joints, RA affects any and most joints of the body. It generally presents with swelling (hot swollen joints) as a cardinal feature and also shows some systemic manifestations (such as affects the eyes, skin, lungs, heart etc) unlike OA.

  1. What is osteoporosis? How is it recognized?

Osteoporosis refers to the condition where the bone becomes weak. Instead of the strong tissue that support the body structure, bones become brittle from inside and are capable of breaking with a minor jerk or fall. This leads to fractures in the hands, hips and legs with minor falls or injuries.

It can be recognized based on specific signs and symptoms and a BMD test. Symptoms are as follows -

  • Easily having a bone fracture
  • Pain in the back
  • Height becomes lesser than usual
  • A dropping posture
  1. What first aid should I offer to a person with a fracture?

If you witness a person developing fracture, take these actions immediately -

  • Urgently call for medical help or arrange for an ambulance
  • Stop any bleeding if there is an open wound. This can be done by applying pressure with a clean cloth or tight bandaging.
  • Avoid moving the injured area.
  • Apply ice packs to the injured part
  • If the person faints of is short of breath, put their head at a lower side and legs at a higher angle
  1. How does one know if a child has rickets?

The signs and symptoms of rickets are as follows –

  • Crooked or bow shaped legs
  • Thick joints of hands and feet
  • Protruded chest bone
  • A delay in growth milestones
  • Muscular weakness
  1. How does one have a dislocated joint?

Dislocations are usually caused due to a trauma or as a sports injury. Falls associated with contact sports such as football, basketball etc can lead to a dislocation.

Additionally, a fall on the outstretched hand and trauma due to a motor accident, too can cause dislocation.

  1. What is a Tennis elbow? How is it caused?

Tennis elbow refers to the pain in elbow due to swelling of the tendons which may occur due to repetitive movements of the wrists. Unlike the name suggests, the condition affects non-athletes as well.

It is caused due to overuse of the tendons resulting in a muscle strain injury. Any activity that requires repeated motions of the elbow and wrists can cause tiny injuries in the tendons leading to tennis elbow.

  1. What is frozen shoulder and how is it caused?

Frozen shoulder refers to a condition where the shoulder seems to be frozen in its movements. This condition cause pain and stiffness in the shoulder and restricts any kinds of movements. Medically, this condition in also known as adhesive capsulitis.

While the exact cause of frozen shoulder is not understood, it is believed to be caused due to a swelling of the joints covering called as capsule. This may happen due to long periods of immobility or trauma to the underlying nerve.

  1. How does a hip get fractured?

Generally hip fractures can be caused because of a trauma due to accident, falls, injuries or rarely violence. Hip fracture is very common in the elderly as it often happens due to a fall from height or sometimes even with twisting of the foot in people with weak bones. Younger people often have hip fracture as an outcome of a motor vehicle accident.

  1. What is meant by slipped disc?

A slipped disc refers to the swelling in the cushion between two bones, most commonly the vertebra (individual bones of the spine). This cushion is supposed to provide mobility and flexibility to the spine. This cushion between the vertebra is called as a disc and is filed with a gel like substance that provides the flexibility.

Slipped disc is the swelling of this disc which causes pain and obstructs mobility of the spine. A swelling in the cushion leads to some of the gel in the disc to protrude out between the bones.


Rheumatoid arthritis
  1. Mayo Clinic. Rheumatoid arthritis. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/home/ovc-20197388 accessed Sept 17th 2016
  2. Gaikwad PP. Ama with Special reference to Nidanpanchakatmak view of Amavata (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and Rheumatoid Factor. JIPBS 2015; Vol. 2(4): 478-481
  3. Ayurvedic approach to selected diseases. Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha. 2009

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