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Ayurvedic Concept Of Rheumatology

Date of Publishing: 20-10-2011

Relief from pain or agony may be considered as the true object of any medical science. According to Ayurvedic texts, the entire cosmos is constituted of 'Panchmahabhootas' (Five Basic Elements - Sky or Ether, Air, Water, Fire & Earth) and when they combine together, three imperceptible functional forces, 'Vata' (constituted of Air & Ether), 'Pitta' (constituted of Fire) & 'Kapha' (constituted of Water & Earth) are created. They form the tripod of the body and are called 'Tridoshas' (three 'doshas' or blemishes or humors or morbids); the word 'dosha' is derived from the root 'dush' which means to pollute, vitiate or become impure.

'Vata' (Air), the mobile factor of the body, situated below the umbilicus, is said to be responsible for the functions of the nervous system, carrying of blood in circulation, locomotion, respiration, excretion and vitality of human being. 'Pitta' (Digestive Fire), the thermogenetic factor of the body, situated between the umbilicus & heart, is contributing to the glandular functions and is responsible for vision, controlling body temperatures, digestion, hunger, thirst & mental faculty. 'Kapha' (Mucosa), the stationary factor of the body, situated above the region of heart, is responsible for the formation of structure in the body & its biological strength and described as the principle of the maintenance of the smooth working of human physique.

Rheumatological disorder, described in Ayurvedic texts, as 'Ama-vata', is a popular Ayurvedic term for any inflammatory disorder that causes pain and stiffness, in joints, muscles and connective tissues, including minor aches and twinges as well as disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis etc.. In many texts, 'Ama-vata' has been referred as an "auto-immune disorder" and "exogenous non-compatibility" & "endogenous intoxication" as its main aetiological factors.

Due to complete abstinence from food, indigestion, over eating, irregular dietary habits, indulgence in incompatible articles of food, excessive consumption of cold substances, ill-effects of 'Virechana' (purgation), 'Vamana' (disgorgation), 'Snehan' (oleation), the wasting of tissues, states induced by faults or changes in place, climate & season, suppression of natural urges, impaired 'Pachak-pitta' (digestive heat), excessive use of dehydrated, over-hydrated or 'Guru-Madhur-Amal' (heavy, sweet & alkaline) food; physical stresses like excessive exercises, over indulgence in sexual pleasures, swimming etc.; mental stresses like rage, grief & hunger; and due to accumulation of 'Mala' (body's waste products), 'Ama' (unassimilated or undigested food juice) is produced & collected in the gastrointestinal tract. A part of it may be absorbed in the system causing systemic manifestations of certain 'Ama' related diseases.

The already vitiated 'Vata' transports this 'Ama' to all parts of the body and carries it to the sites of 'Shleshak-kapha' which has a common resemblance with 'Ama'. With the effect of place, climate & season, the 'Ama' is motivated by vitiated 'Vata' and established at the already vitiated site of 'Shleshak-kapha'. This 'Ama' associated with vitiated 'doshas', gets localised in a particular 'Dhatu' (tissue) to produce several types of endog¬enous diseases like 'Ama-vata'. In this disease, 'Ama' observed from the gastrointestinal tract reaches to 'Kapha-sthana' (site of 'Kapha') through the respective channels and gets modified and recirculated in the system causing capillaritis and synovitis. Probably some immunological mechanisms are involved in this process.

General langour or debility of the body, disgust for food, thirst, lethargy, heaviness of the limbs, fever, indigestion and swellings are the common symptoms of 'Ama-vata' or rheumatism. The acute phase of 'Ama-vata' is generally very painful with appearance of swellings in the hands, feet, head, ankles, waist, knees, thighs, and generally , in all the joints. These places, in which the vitiated 'Ama' accumulates, become subject to piercing pains. Loss of appetite, watery secretions from the mouth & nose, loss of energy, loss of taste in the mouth, burning of the skin, copious or scanty urine, deep-seated pain and hardness of the abdomen, sleep at day-time but want of it at night, thirst, vomiting, vertigo, swoons, pain in the chest, constipation, dullness of the body, rumbling noise in the stomach, obstruction of the intestines or a sluggish condition of bowels; are the associated symptoms.

The excited 'doshas' according to their characteristics cause particular symptoms like excited 'Vata' causes excessive pains; excited 'Pitta' causes burning of the skin and redness of the complexion; excited 'Kapha' causes wet sensation, heaviness of the limbs and continuous itching manifestations; besides the other symptoms. If the disease be due to the vitiation of two of the 'doshas', or all the three of them, the specific symptoms of each of the 'dosha' appear collectively.