What is Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis is a common term used to describe disorders in any of the joints like hip, knee, elbow, shoulder etc. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is the single most common cause of disability among the population above 60 years old. About 10-15% of the population above 60 is estimated to be suffering from Osteoarthritis although the level of severity differs. Osteoarthritis is also called as degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis.
Osteoarthritis happens due to degeneration of cartilages and loss of synovial fluid in one or more joints. Cartilages are like shock absorbers which absorbs the impact on the joints and also reduces friction between the bones in the joint. When these cartilages get damaged, it causes tremendous pain in the joints and restricts movement. While Osteoarthritis affects all joints like elbow, shoulder, knee, wrist, hip and spine, the most common is the one that affects the knee.
Osteoarthritis Symptoms and Causes
Symptoms vary based on the joint affected and based on the extent of the disease. They also tend to develop slowly over time rather than appearing all of a sudden. Joint pains are the most common reported symptom of Osteoarthritis. The pain typically occurs especially after a long period of inactivity like in the morning after a night’s rest. Tenderness and stiffness in the joints, loss of flexibility in joint movements, swelling around the joints are also common in people suffering from osteoarthritis.
The main causes of developing osteoarthritis are
Age : People above 60 are more prone to be affected by this disease. Cartilages wear out due to normal wear and tear from advancing age.
Weight: Obesity is a main factor in developing this condition. Weight increase tends to put extra stress on joints (especially hip and knee) and this causes cartilages to deteriorate faster than normal.
Genetics: People who have others in the family suffering from osteoarthritis are at a higher risk of getting affected.
Occupational hazards: Jobs requiring people to carry heavy weights, stand for long periods of time etc. are also known to cause osteoarthritis.
Gender: Women tend to be affected by osteoarthritis more than men. The reasons for this are not very clear even now.
Injuries and accidents: are also known to cause this disease.
Osteoarthritis can be a cause for other illnesses also. Lack of movement due to this disease can often make a person lead a sedentary lifestyle which can lead to diabetes and heart problems. People with osteoarthritis also tend to fall more often which can lead to injuries and other complications.
Doctors will need a personal examination to diagnose. They will look closely at the joints where the problems exist and specially look for tenderness, swelling in the area. There are a few diagnostic tests that would be conducted to both rule out other medical issues and also to establish the occurrence of Osteoarthritis.
Joint Aspiration tests: Here, a small sample of fluid is taken from the joints using a needle which is sent for laboratory tests. This test is mainly used to rule out other medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis.
X-Rays: While cartilages themselves will not show up in X-rays, cartilage loss can be found out from the narrowing of the space between the bones.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): MRIs give a clear image of bones, cartilages and other structures in the joints for easier diagnosis.
Blood tests are also used to rule out other diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic ailment with no permanent cure in modern medicine. Objective of the treatments are to manage the symptoms. Physical exercises like walking and stretching, muscle strengthening exercises are commonly suggested even where there is some pain while doing it.
Treatments would generally start with medications to alleviate the pain. Acetaminophen, Anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant medications are used for pain relief. Surgery is proposed as a last option when medications and therapies don’t yield benefits.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Osteoarthritis in India:
Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medical system which has been practiced continuously in India for more than 3000 years, has effective treatments for many chronic ailments including Osteoarthritis. Ayurvedic treatment is based on the fundamental premise that each and every person has 3 doshas (Vata, Kapha and Pitta) and that the person will be healthy when the doshas are in equilibrium. Osteoarthritis is known as ‘Sandhivata’ in Ayurveda and is caused by aggravation of Vata dosha. Vata aggravation generally happens with advancing age however improper diet, controlling of natural urges, stress, depression etc. are also known to cause this dosha to aggravate. Vata is dry in nature which causes it to dry out the synovial fluid from the joints resulting in cartilage damage.
Ayurvedic treatment for Osteoarthritis is seen to be highly effective in controlling the further progress. Effectiveness is much higher in cases where the disease is in the early stage. Treatment procedures include massage, oil bath, bundle massage, medicated bandage and also oil and Decoction enemas.
Typical treatment time will be around 21 days and the cost will start from 1,300 USD. Cost varies based on the treatment time, type of hospital and type of rooms in the hospital.