Healing muscular pain with Ayurveda

Pain is a common phenomenon irrespective of age, job, food habits, race, etc. Dr Gowthaman analyses the cause, prevention and management of muscular pain while suggesting a holistic approach with Ayurveda medicines and therapies.

Muscle pain is the commonest, affecting all age groups. Pain is related to aggravation of the functional element of the body that is termed as `Vata Dosha`. According to the ancient medical system pain could be due to accumulation of toxins, which in turn leads to obstruction of circulation resulting in pain.

The following foods cause pain: Meat diet, cheese foods, cakes, pastries, candies, packed and processed foods with less fibers. Vitamins, minerals, and anti oxidants further increase the dryness of the muscles, which directly results in pain and stiffness.

a. Pain in one particular muscles or group of muscles, usually radiated to nearby joints.
b. Stiffness of muscles
c. Excruciating pain and stiffness of joints

Classification of muscular pains according to Ayurveda
a. Vata Type: Nature of pain includes throbbing, cutting, severe which is variable and migrating. Increases in cold condition, exposure to cold, eat or drink cold foods and drinks etc. Other general symptoms include dry or scaly skin, cracking or stiffness of joints, constipation, gas trouble, nervousness, irritability, fear, anxiety and anaemia. It feels better when some hot therapy is applied.
b. Pitta Type: This is pain accompanied by burning sensation, redness and inflammation and pain increases in hot weather or exposure to heat. Other general symptoms include diarrhea, loose or frequent stools, anger, sweating, fever, high irritability, etc.
c. Kapha Type: There is swelling, stiffness, edema and loss of movement of the affected muscle or group of muscles. It increases in cold, wet weather. Other general symptoms include heaviness, aches, excessive oil secretion, dull and persistent pain, mucus in stool etc.

Ayurveda’s approach to pain management

Ayurveda advocates the prevention and management of pain through daily routines.
1. Abhyanga – Oil is applied all over the body followed by warm water bath. This should be done everyday for better blood circulation and nourishment to the whole body.
2. Purification of the body – As per Ayurveda, the accumulation of toxins is the primary cause for muscular pain. Ayurveda advises different purification therapies depending on the seasons like end of the season and beginning of next season etc. Like Purgation type of purification therapy is advised during winter or end of winter.

Ayurveda therapies for pain management
Ayurveda recommends personalized therapies for the prevention as well as management of pain.
a. Abhyanga: Involves a full body massage with Ayurveda oil for 45 minutes. The oil is selected after understanding the patient’s body nature, the season, and disease condition, if any. The number of strokes and pressure vary with the condition of the individual.
Benefits: Its rhythmic motion helps to relieve joints and muscles from stiffness and makes all body movements free. This treatment increases blood circulation, which in turn encourages quick removal of metabolic wastes and toxins.
Indications: It is used in cases of anxiety, fatigue, circulatory disorders, rheumatism, arthritis, backache and injuries. It also prevents wrinkles and scales, helps in treatment of spondylosis, sleep disorders, paralysis, improves physical consistency, induces sound sleep, increase a general sense of well being and life span. It also helps improve the complexion and texture of the skin, prevents obesity and diabetic gangrene

b. Pizhichil:
Pizhichil, which literally means squeezing, a cloth dipped in warm medicated oil is squeezed over the patient’s body. The patient should be made to adopt the seven standard positions so that no area of the body is left uncovered.
Benefits: relieves body pain and muscle spasms, helps preserve and promote optimum health, helps heal fractured bones, increases immunity and prolongs life span, promotes development of muscles, improves complexion, anti aging and rejuvenation, ensures better blood circulation, alleviates burning sensation in the body.
Indications: A soothing and relaxing procedure, this is prescribed in conditions like paraplegia, hemiplegia and other degenerative conditions. This treatment is very useful for rheumatic diseases, arthritis, paralysis, sexual weakness, neurological disorders, blood pressure, nervous weakness, diabetes, blood pressure, fits, convulsions, paralysis.

c. Navara Kizhi:
It involves fomentation of the body with a bolus of cooked rice. The rice is first cooked with milk and herbal decoction. Four boluses are made of the cooked rice and are tied up in linen bags. This therapy is done in the seven standard positions. This is a strengthening fomentation employed in all kinds of neurological disorders, rheumatism, arthritis congenital deformity of the limbs, dislocation of bones and joints etc.
Benefits: It strengthens the body, rejuvenates the tissues, improves muscle tone, improves blood supply by cleansing the channels of circulation, cures diseases of the nervous system and other disorders such as chronic rheumatism, osteoarthritis, gout, emaciation of muscles, numbness and diseases caused by vitiation of blood,

d. Ela Kizhi/Podi Kizhi:
Leaves and powders of medicinal herbs are fried in medicated oil and applied over the body in a rhythmic massage. It is good for arthritic conditions, lumbago, cervical spondylosis, frozen shoulder, sciatica, pain and stiffness of joints, post paralytic spasm, other spastic and inflammatory conditions etc.
Benefits: Relieves pain, numbness and edema, controls vitiated vata, improves peripheral blood supply, cures diseases like arthritis, paralysis and convulsions, stimulates nerve endings and treats spondylitis and sports injuries

e. Kati Vasti:
Lukewarm Ayurvedic/herbal oils are poured into an artificial bridge created around the affected area (knee, lower back, neck, etc). The healing properties of herbal oils used for this massage enriches the blood and builds and maintains strong muscle and connective tissues.
Benefits: It loosens stiff joints, helps to cure cervical spondylitis, neck pain, paralysis and numbness of hands, Stimulates and nourishes nerves relieving pain and numbness, This treatment is very effective in treating different conditions of the knee joints like arthritis, degenerative conditions etc.

f. Pichu:
A thick layer of cotton soaked with warm medicated oil is applied over the affected area. The oil is recycled periodically to make it warm.
Benefits: Very effective for degenerative and painful problems like back pain, osteoarthritis, spondylitis, injuries, etc. It is recommended for neurological disorders like paralysis, facial palsy etc.

g. Ksheera Dhoomam:
A fomentation process in which medicated milk is heated and the steam is passed over the entire body.
Benefits: It is effective in treating numbness, headache, nervous disorders and paralysis. Helps eliminate facial paralysis disorders and other nervous disorders of the face and speech disorders, cervical spondylosis, spastic disorders and neurological problems

h. Vasti:
This is a treatment in which prescribed medicated oils, decoctions, herbal preparations, extracts are applied through the rectum.
Benefits: It is good for arthritis, paralysis, hemiplegia, numbness, degenerative and neurological problems, chronic back pain, sciatica.

Ayurveda herbs that help reduce pain

1. Guggulu (Commiphora mukul – gum): It is the most effect herb used in the Ayurvedic treatment of arthritis. Guggulu has strong rejuvenating, purifying, medicinal and healing qualities. Guggulu is perhaps used more than any other herb in Ayurveda. It increases the white blood cell count and disinfects secretions in the body. Guggulu has also been used for treating disorders like rheumatism, gout and lumbago.
2. Rasna (Vanda roxburghii): The root of the plant is found effective in treating inflammations, rheumatic disorders, osteoarthritis and allied disorders.
3. Garlic (Allium sativum): Garlic has been proven effective against rheumatoid arthritis. It may be used alone or in combination with the usual medications.
4. Indian gooseberry (Emblica Officinalis): To treat rheumatism, eat a teaspoon of the powder of the dry fruit mixed with 2 teaspoons of jaggery twice daily for a month.
5. Indian Aloe (Aloe vera): Indian aloe is useful in lumbago, sciatica, gout and rheumatism. The pulp of one leaf is taken daily for relief.

Diet: Avoid curd and all sour items, pulses (except moong dal), rice, meat, fish, white bread, sugar, refined cereals, fried foods, tea or coffee, potato and lemon juice. Celery seeds and bitter gourd are highly beneficial.

Yoga: The following asanas are good for prevention and management of pain:
a. Padma Asana
b. Bujanga Asana
c. Chalapa Asana
d. Nauka Asana
e. Dhanur Asana
f. Parvata Asana
g. Koorma Asana

A holistic approach with Ayurveda therapies and medicines, life style changes, diet, exercises and yoga can help both prevent and manage muscular pain.

Dr K Gowthaman, Medical Director, rVita (rVita Ayurveda Centers)
Image: Kerala Tourism