CAN AYURVEDA HELP DISC CONDITIONS?
Q I have pain in my lower back and leg. After examining an MRI report, the doctor said that I am having disc issues. Does Ayurveda have a treatment for this condition?
AThe main reason we suffer from back problems is that we are increasingly becoming sedentary creatures. Our spinal disc is like a jam doughnut, with a softer centre encased within a tough coating. A slipped, ruptured or herniated disc occurs when the softer filling pushes out through a crack in the tough case. It can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in arms or legs.
As we age, our spinal discs lose some of their water content. That makes them less flexible and more prone to rupturing with even a minor twist. Sometimes, a traumatic event or lifting heavy objects can lead to a herniated disc. Herniated discs are most common in middle age. Excess body weight causes extra stress on the discs in your lower back. Repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, bending sideways and twisting may also increase your risk of a herniated disc.
But even so, many people who have bulging or herniated discs experience no pain. If a bulging or herniated disc presses on the sciatic nerve that travels down your leg, it can cause sciatica – sharp, shooting pain through the buttocks, thighs, knees, and calves and to the ankles and toes.
Many people get better in a month or two with conservative treatment. Imaging studies show that the protruding portion of the disc shrinks over time, corresponding to the improvement in symptoms.
Muscle strengthening through exercise helps stabilise and support the spine. Ayurveda considers this as a vata disease and treatment objectives are to balance vata and thereby alleviate pain symptoms and prevent further degenerative changes of discs and vertebrae.
The right therapy and oil coupled with medications shall be chosen by the doctor after a detailed consultation and examination of the patient. Ayurveda offers an extensive list of therapies:
Lepanam: Application of herbal pastes over the affected area relieves pain and swelling.
Bandages: Bandages with herbal oils like Murivenna, Karpooradi thailam.
Kadivasthy: Retention of warm oil in the low back with a dam made with dough.
Elakkizhi and Podikkizhi: Warm herbal bags relieve pain and strengthen spinal muscles.
In severe and chronic cases panchakarma therapies – Vasthy (enema with medicated liquids), Virechanam (purgation therapy) and Nasyam (medicated oils as nasal drops) are also suggested.
Self-care measures can help. Once the acute pain subsides, muscle strengthening will help to prevent recurrences. Don’t bend, twist or lift. Keep your knees a little higher than your hips and keep your feet flat on the floor while sitting in a chair. Do not sit in the same position for long periods of time.
Practise yoga postures like Bhujangasana, Salabhasana and Pavana muktasana, subject to your health condition.
DR VL SHYAM is a Dubai-based Ayurveda practitioner