Saturday, October 28, 2017

Is Your Joint Pain Linked to Your Emotions?


Have you ever taken a moment to tune in to how your joints really feel? If you suffer from arthritis you may not be able to ignore the pain or stiffness in your joints. Most joint diseases develop gradually, with initial signs of discomfort, stiffness, reduced mobility that might come and go with weather changes, activity, stressful events and life changes. 

Conventional medicine generally identifies the structural and functional aspects of joint diseases such as misalignment, cartilage damage, reduced fluid in the joint cavity and inflammation. Common treatments include medications such as anti-inflammatories and pain-killers. However, if you look deeper into the subtler anatomy of joints, you can't dismiss the psychological fabric of mental and emotional factors in joint damage. For many individuals, the amount of pain experienced doesn't always correlate to the amount of deterioration in the joint. It is how you experience the pain and what you make of it - not just what injury is there. 

Joint symptoms can be looked at from another perspective. Joints are the hinges for movement and indicate how you move through space. Your ability to move through your joints can reflect your ability to move through life. Do you feel stuck? Do you move with ease? Tune into your emotions – they may be playing a bigger role in your joint pain

Psychological State is Reflected in the Body

The way you perceive and process experiences in day-to-day life can imprint itself on the body. For example, do you notice that when you are anxious or worried about the future your neck tightens up and your shoulders round forward? Even if you may not realize how worried you are, your body mimics what is going on in your life. As you age these features become more accentuated, and can be interpreted by your naturopathic doctor. 

Why do some people experience pain in their fingers and others in their knees or elsewhere? Where you experience discomfort may be connected to the way you are experiencing your life. Unless there is specific trauma due to an injury, arthritis may manifest in different areas of the body. For example if pain is predominant on the right side of your body, according to TCM, yang may be out of balance. You may be in a stage of life where you are pushing yourself to do many things and not making enough time for receiving things. Or maybe your left sided-joints tend to be weak and give way easily indicating yin deficiency. Your naturopathic doctor can help you understand why specific joints are more affected and can help you connect the dots.


The 5 Elements & Joint Health

According to Ayurveda, the 3 doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) manifest in the joints. They play a role in maintaining healthy joints, but when out of balance, can cause symptoms that can hold you back. For example, someone with a vata imbalance tends to be more fearful and may struggle with joints that are dry, crackly and painful. Someone with a pitta imbalance who tends to be angry and irritable may suffer from joints that are hot, swollen and inflammed. Someone with a kapha imbalance who tends to be sluggish and depressed may struggle with joints that are puffy and stiff. According to Ayurveda, these 3 doshas are made up of the building blocks of the 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. These 5 elements are dominant in different areas of the body and represent different qualities:

Earth element reflects in the structure, stability and support of joints. Excess earth element may manifest as stiffness or reduced ability to move. Lack of strength in the joint indicates lack of earth element. Emotions related to imbalanced earth element are resentment, lack of safety and support, poor boundaries and depression.

Water element reflects in the fluidity of movement. Excess water may manifest as swollen joints full of fluid. Lack of water element results in joints that are dry or movement that isn't smooth. Emotions related to imbalanced water are attachment, fear of letting go, being guarded, feeling lack of nurturing, and relationships that are not flowing.

Fire element reflects in the strength of the joint and surrounding muscles. It is the impulse behind movement. Excess fire may manifest as redness and heat in the joint, indicative of inflammation, and deficient fire results in cold, weak joints with poor muscle tone. Emotions related to imbalanced fire are anger, irritability, frustration, lack of motivation and drive.

Air element reflects in the movement of the joint and muscles and is related to the nervous system. Excess air may manifest as twitching and crackling joints or pins and needles. Deficient air may cause slow moving joints. Emotions related to imbalanced air element are anxiety, worry, feeling erratic and unsettled with constant flow of thoughts.

Ether reflects as the overall space in the joint cavities and the overall ease of body movement. Emotions related to imbalanced ether are feeling "spaced out" and disconnected where the body does not flow as one unit.

Health is a complex fabric of structural, functional and psychological factors that weave together. How your joints move and feel can be a reflection of how you are experiencing your life. The naturopathic approach combined with Ayurvedic wisdom identifies factors that may be reducing your joint health and aims at identifying what is causing your stiffness, pain or reduced motion. If you have worked on joint health or chronic pain but haven’t found significant improvement, it is time to look at the underlying emotional fabric of your life. When this comes into your awareness and released through therapies, you can find relief from suffering. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to learn more how emotional factors of joint health and chronic disease can be released through naturopathic treatments and lead to a healthy, pain-free life.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor & Ayurvedic practitioner at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus in joint health and chronic disease. If you are experiencing joint pain, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment with Dr. Athparia.  If you are interested in learning more in a free seminar she will be giving on Joint Health on Nov. 14, RSVP at 905-940-2727.