Arthritis and Spine related problems are two of the commonly found Crippling diseases that affect people across the world. While Arthritis is a condition affecting people especially in the latter decades of their life, spinal problems mostly occur due to various reasons —ageing, lifestyle irregularities, vertebral injuries, infections and tumors. Both the Arthritis and Spinal problems restrict your mobility and without proper treatment, they can lead to severe disabilities.
Millions of people suffer from Arthritis. In fact, Arthritis affects approximately 80% of people over the age of 55 in India. It is estimated that by the year 2020, over 60 million people will suffer from this often-disabling problem. The chronic pain associated with Arthritis can very seriously affect one’s quality of life. If left untreated, it can also lead to Physiological problems such as muscle breakdown or weakness as well as Psychological difficulties such as Anxiety and Depression.
Arthritis can affect any part of the body, even the Spine. The spine is made up of individual bones called Vertebrae, which provide support for the Spine. These vertebrae are connected in the front of the spine by inter-vertebral discs that help support the spine and also allow it to move. The many ligaments and muscles that are attached to the back of the spine provide the power for movement.
Arthritis occurs when the cartilage in the joints is worn down as a result of Wear and Tear, Aging, Injury or Misuse. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of Arthritis, also includes Loss of cartilage, Overgrowth of bone and the Formation of bone spurs. This causes the bones under the cartilage to rub together, causing Pain, Swelling and Loss of motion of the joint. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint but most often occurs in the hips, knees, hands or the spine.
In a healthy spine, vertebrae are separated and cushioned by soft, spongy inter-vertebral discs and interconnected at vertebral joints known as facet joints. These hinge-like structures are coated in cartilage and encapsulated in a lubricating fluid that allows the bones to articulate against one another comfortably. Over the years, the cartilage in these joints gradually begins to wear away until bone-on-bone contact and arthritic pain eventually occurs. While this condition can develop at nearly any level of the spine, it is most common in the cervical and lumbar regions in the neck and lower back, respectively. This stands to reason when you consider the mobility that we require from each region, as well as the tremendous weight burden placed on the vertebrae.
Osteo Arthritis and the Spine:
Spinal Arthritis is a very painful and restrictive condition, worse than other forms of Arthritis due to the high amount of nerves present in and around the spinal structures, especially those concerning the facet joints and inter-vertebral discs.
Spinal Arthritis can cause the inter-vertebral discs to degenerate which increases the risk of them herniating, a condition that would require further treatment. Facet joints of the Spine can be affected by the deterioration of cartilage or the formation of bony overgrowths and can limit movement significantly.
Back Movement and Flexibility decreases in proportion to the progression of back pain induced while standing, sitting and even walking.
Over time, bone spurs (Small irregular growths on the bone also called Osteophytes) typically form on the facet joints and even around the spinal vertebrae. These bone spurs are a response to joint instability and are nature’s attempt to help return stability to the joint. The enlargement of the normal bony structure indicates degeneration of the spine. Bone spurs are also seen as a normal part of aging and do not directly cause pain, but may become as large as to cause irritation or entrapment of nerves passing through spinal structures, and may result in diminished room for the nerves to pass (Spinal Stenosis).
Osteoarthritis in the spine can cause Stiffness and Pain in the neck or in the lower back and is anatomically divided into:
- Lower back (Lumbar Spine) osteoarthritis, sometimes called Lumbo Sacral Arthritis, which produces stiffness and pain in the lower spine and Sacroiliac Joint (between the spine and pelvis).
- Neck (Cervical Spine) osteoarthritis, sometimes called Cervical Spondylosis (Spondy- implies the Spine, and – osis is an abnormal condition), which can cause stiffness and pain in the upper spine, neck, shoulders, arms and head.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis is another type of Spinal Arthritis.
Who gets Arthritis and Why?
Some people are more at risk for developing Arthritis than others. The following are some factors that contribute to a person’s risk of developing arthritis:
- Age: Arthritis is more common in people over the age of 50
- Overused Joints from work or sports related activities
- Injury or Trauma to the bones (like Fractures)
- Obesity: excessive weight places stress on joints
- Family history
- Gender: women are twice as likely to get Arthritis
- Chronic Illness such as Diabetes, Cancer or Liver disease
- Weakened Immune System
- Infections such as Lyme disease
Symptoms of Spinal Arthritis:
Generally, the Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis include Inflammation, Stiffness, and Pain in the Joints. In the Spine, symptoms may also include one or more of the following:
- Back pain that comes and goes.
- Spinal stiffness in the morning, such as after getting out of bed or after activity; often, this pain decreases with rest or, for some, after exercise.
- Pain, tenderness, or numbness in the neck
- Lower back pain that runs down into the buttocks, thighs, or pelvic area, Sciatica
- Pain or tenderness in the shoulders, hips, knees, or heels
- A Crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone
- Weakness or Numbness in legs or arms
- Limited Range of Motion, difficulty bending, or walking
- Spinal deformity etc.
The explanation of Spinal Arthritis may seem weird to modern world people but, Ayurveda is an Ancient Healing Science utilizing herbs for centuries. Most of the patients respond very well to Ayurvedic treatment as the principles of healing are focused on balancing the “Vata” – the culprit behind pain due to nerves.
According to Ayurveda the ‘Vata’, the principle of movement is the predominant function with the Skeleto-Muscular System and the Nervous system. Problems relating to these systems are predominantly caused by vitiated Vata.
The vitiation of Vata is caused by two mechanisms: One of them is Obstruction to Vata (Margasya Avarana) due to malfunctioning of Kapha and Pitta. The other one is, increase of Vata independently i.e. the Degenerative Problems (Dhatu Kshayam). The sacrum is situated in the Vata area of the body and this disease is caused by aggravated Vata and Ama (Toxins), which cause stiffness and reduce mobility in this area. Treatment involves Detoxification and elimination of Ama and also a Vata pacifying Diet, Lifestyle and Herbal preparations.
Cervical Spondylosis (Greeva Sandhi gata Vata); Lumbosacral Osteo Arthritis (Katee Sandhigata Vatam or sometimes Gridhrasi Vatam) & Ankylosing Spondilitis (Amavatam).
Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of India, provides permanent relief from these devastating diseases. The therapies and herbal medications involved soothe the pain and facilitate movement. The Strength of Ayurveda in the area of Spine and Joint Treatment is globally appreciated as it addresses the root cause of the issue & the results are fantastic.
Ayurveda offers a wide range of treatment to combat the disease. If you turn towards Ayurvedic treatment at the initial stage of the disease, it will surely help you to alleviate your symptoms.
According to Ayurveda, it is a disease you are likely to be attacked in the fourth decade of your life, this is the period of Life when the Vata dosha dominates. Hence the Treatment given for Osteoarthiritis is mainly Vatahara (which alleviates Vata dosha). But in some cases it can be associated with Kapha dosha and Aama (which is formed in the body by improper digestion of the food due to weak digestive power). So the treatment that could be offered to you by an Ayurvedic physician will be with a keen deliberation on the doshas and their conditions.
Principles in the Treatment of Arthritis in Ayurveda mainly Reduces the Symptoms, Maintains Joint Functions, Minimizes Disease Activity, Helps in Treating the Complications and also aides in adjusting the Dietary as well as Life Style Changes.
The Ayurvedic Therapies and herbal medications for Arthritis and Spine related disorders are decided based on individual’s body constitution, Lifestyle, Diet, Stage of the disease etc. At The Kerala Ayurvedic Care, we provide Authentic Ayurveda which help you attain a deeper sense of healing, by reducing the pain and preventing the deterioration of the physical condition. These Treatments are normally focused on alleviating stress on the affected region of the spine, increasing flexibility and mobility, and managing pain in the short-term.
An excellent way to promote good Spine health and reduce the likelihood of developing chronic Arthritic pain is to Maintain a healthy body weight throughout your life. We all know the potential devastating heart and lung damage that can be caused by obesity, but this disease is also a frequent contributor to Spinal deterioration because of the additional strain placed on the spinal column as a result of excess body fat. This additional weight speeds up the wear and tear on the lower back and neck and causes spinal arthritis to develop earlier than one might reasonably expect.
Another way to avoid spinal arthritis is to Steer clear of activities that could cause Traumatic injury. While this is an intuitive point, damaging your back or neck can affect the spinal cartilage and, even after you have healed from the injury, arthritis may develop and have a more lasting impact. Even seemingly minor injuries experienced playing high-impact sports can take their toll and lead to the development of arthritis. Additionally, sports or other activities that require repetitive bending and twisting, as with golf, are common spinal arthritis causes.
Arthritis is not a death sentence. But you don’t have to live with pain. In fact, many people who have Arthritis continue to live active and productive lives. Educating yourself about your condition and managing your symptoms are the keys to not letting Arthritis slow you down.