Arthritis technically means progressive worsening of the functioning of a joint. Commonly seen in people above the age of 50, many people encounter manifestations of arthritis in some form or the other (due degeneration or age related wear and tear). As a person ages, the cartilage present in between bones start to thin, and its load bearing capacity decreases. This causes the entire load of the body to get transferred onto the bone surface, just below the cartilage, leading to the formation of osteophytes (also known as bone spurs).
The most common symptoms of this condition is pain and swelling or stiffness of the knee. Joint inflammations may occur because of poor shock absorption capacity and routine activities that cause minor injuries to the knee joint. The pain could be dull, severe, only in front, all around the knees, at the back of the knee, at the side of the knee or along the thigh or calf. The pain could also be varying in intensity with different activities – climbing up and down the stairs, sitting, getting up, sitting cross legged, walking etc.
What makes a person more susceptible to this condition?
Excess weight: This leads to an earlier wear and tear and degeneration of the joint, due to the excessive load the knees often have to bear.
Heredity: People with a strong family history of osteo-arthritis face a greater chance of developing it earlier in life. Also, this factor is seen to be a very common cause for the onset of arthritis on women.
Injury: Previous or intervening injury to the bones, cartilages, or the ligaments of the knee predisposes a person to an earlier or graver forms of osteo-arthritis.
Poor muscle tone: Existing osteo-arthritis can get worse when the muscles around the knee are not strong enough.
How you can tackle the disease: There are few factors that can make the symptoms of the condition worse and therefore, getting these things under control can go a long way in minimising the progression of the disease. Here are a few things you can do.
· Lose weight: While this is far simpler said than done, you must understand that excessive weight puts a great load on the joints leading to it’s further degradation.
· Exercise regularly: The surrounding muscles should be strengthened by means of adequate exercises. This way there will be better shock absorption, which means lesser chance of joint injury, inflammation and minimal or no symptoms.
People with arthritic knee pain often suffer from severe bouts of pain, here are few handy tips on tiding through these phases:
· The knee should be rested. An elastic knee cap should be used whenever there is swelling in the joint.
· Medication should be strictly followed to relieve pain, swelling or spasms.
· Short wave diathermy (heat therapy), ultrasonics, local heat, local ice application etc. should be used whenever needed.
· Once the pain settles, gentle movements and exercises should be done.
· Strictly avoid massaging the joint.
Asanas that help during these stages
Yogendra Nishpanda Bhav: Also known as the no-movement pose is a great way to relax, and beat stress. It also helps beat pain and keep your joints away from any kind of strain.
Steps to do this pose:
· Lean against a wall, touching your head to the wall and sit in a relaxed manner with your legs stretched in front of you
· Keep a distance of 2-3 feet between your legs
· Place your hands gently on your upper thighs with palms facing upwards
· Listen to the sound of any vehicle passing by at a distance
· Sit in this posture for 5 mins and focus on any distant sound
Savasana: Another relaxing pose, this asana helps to clam the body. It also helps in the recuperation of the muscles and joints after a lot of swelling and pain. Here is how you can dosavasana or yog nidra the right way.
Sukhasana: Also known as the easy pose, sukhasana is meant to help your knee regain flexibility and to beat pain. If you cannot bend your knee, you can try doing this asana while sitting on a chair. Read more about the steps to performsukhasana.
Hastapadangushtasana: Also known as the extended hand to big toe pose, this asana helps strengthen the muscles around the knees, therefore beating knee pain. It also helps increase flexibility thereby reducing the chances of injury. For people with arthritic knee pain, this asana should be performed as they lie down. Here is how to do the hastapadangushtasana. in supine pose
Yastikasana: Yastikasana or the stick pose is a great asana that facilitates maximum stretching of the body. It helps negate the ill effects of sitting in a bad posture for long periods of time, relaxes tense abdominal and pelvic muscles, and offers rest and relaxation, helping you beat fatigue and stress. For people with arthritis this pose should be done with their ankle stretched upwards. Here is how you can do this asana.
Asanas to be done during phases when the pain and swelling is minimal
At such times you can try to do simple asanas like padmasana,paryankasana, bhadrasana, ardhamatsyasana and konasana.
Tips to manage arthritis during the sub-acute and chronic phases
Strengthen the muscles
While the need for medication becomes less, the need for exercises becomes paramount. Stretching the muscles like the hamstrings and calf muscles, may be needed to mobilize the joint and increase its flexibility. Exercises that can strengthen quadriceps are also essential.
Treat the symptoms
It is important that the person suffering from osteo-arthritis know that it is self-defeating to expect improvements their medical reports like an X-ray. The truth is that as years progress the joints will degenerate. However, the silver lining here is that this progression does not always correlate clinically. A patient can lead an asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic active life despite the osteo-arthritis. It needs to be well understood and accepted that there is no cure for this condition.