Leg pain, also referred to as pada shula in Ayurveda, is a symptom caused due to overuse, injury or sprain in leg muscles or bones. However, health conditions such as sciatica, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, claudication, varicose veins, osteoporosis and fractures may also lead to leg pain. The exact treatment for leg pain includes identification and alleviation of the underlying cause.

Ayurvedic treatments for leg pain comprises therapies such as nidana parivarjana (avoiding the causes), snehana (oleation), swedana (sudation or sweat therapy), virechana (purgation), basti (enema), raktamokshana (bloodletting), agni karma (thermal cauterisation) and lepa (coating the affected body part with medications). Herbs and medicines that relieve leg pain by reducing pain, inflammation, and swelling include ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), asthisanharaka (veldt grape), guggulu (Indian bdellium-tree), laksha guggulu, arogyavardhini vati, and kaishora guggulu.

  1. Ayurvedic view of leg pain
  2. Ayurvedic treatment for leg pain
  3. Ayurvedic herbs and medicines for leg pain
  4. Dietary and lifestyle changes for leg pain patient as per ayurveda
  5. How effective are ayurvedic medicines and treatments for leg pain
  6. Side effects and risks of ayurvedic medicine and treatments for leg pain
  7. Takeaway
Doctors for Ayurvedic medicine, treatment and remedies for Leg Pain

Pain in legs may arise from any part of the lower limbs, e.g., knee, thigh or foot and it may occur due to conditions related to veins, muscles or bones. As per Ayurveda, some of the causes of leg pain are:

  • Sciatica: Sciatica pain radiates from the lower back to the hip, buttock, back of the thigh and inside of the leg, on one side or both sides. It occurs due to the aggravation of vata leading to pain in the tendon and the muscles of lower limbs. Sciatica may also be caused due to vitiation of both vata and kapha. The typical symptoms of sciatica are pricking pain, stiffness and tingling sensations in knee joint, calf muscles, thigh and lower back region.
  • Arthritis: Depending on the underlying cause, arthritis can be classified into three different types, i.e., amavata (rheumatoid arthritis), sandhivata (osteoarthritis) and vata rakta (gouty arthritis). Amavata affects joints due to the accumulation of ama (toxins), which causes vitiation of vata. Sandhivata occurs due to accumulation of vitiated vata in joints. Vitiation of vata and rakta is responsible for vata rakta type of arthritis. Pain and inflammation are the characteristic symptoms of all types of arthritis.
  • Claudication: Claudication pain occurs due to an inadequate supply of blood to the lower back and leg muscles. It occurs due to blocked blood vessels typically caused by atherosclerosis. Although Ayurveda does not describe diseases like claudication separately, the symptoms of this condition are mentioned in diseases like anaemia. Therefore, claudication in legs can be considered as anukta vyadhi (not separately defined). It may lead to thigh pain, foot pain and muscle cramps.
  • Sirakautilya (varicose veins): Ayurvedic literature does not describe varicose veins as a separate condition but considers it a venous disorder, which can be correlated to siragranthi. Acharya Sushruta describes siragranthi as a vata disorder that occurs due to over-exercise. Varicose veins are swollen, bulging and bluish-coloured veins that may be located superficially or deep. This condition mainly affects lower limbs as blood pools in the blood vessels of legs due to gravity and damages them.
  • Osteoporosis: It is characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, which makes the bone fragile. Individuals with osteoporosis are highly susceptible to bone fractures. It is caused due to the vitiation of vata dosha and asthi dhatu. Asthi dhatu is responsible for maintaining the overall framework of the body. Any imbalance in it will directly reflect on your bones.
  • Fracture: Fractures refer to complete or partial separation in the continuity of the bone. Acharya Sushruta described traction and immobilisation using a splint and special variety of clay to treat fractures.

Individuals with conditions such as diabetes, hyperacidity and piles also experience leg pain and muscle cramps in legs.

  • Nidana parivarjana
    • Nidana parivarjana refers to avoidance of the causative factors of a condition; e.g., in conditions caused by the accumulation of ama, methods to avoid the nidana (cause) include alpashana (eating a limited quantity of food), langhana (fasting) and ruksha annapana sevana (consuming foods with drying properties).
    • Nidana parivarjana improves overall health and helps manage disease symptoms. It stops the progression of diseases and also prevents relapse after treatment.
    • This therapy can be used in the management of leg pain due to sciatica and arthritis. Since aggravation of vata is the most common cause of leg pain in both these conditions, consumption of vata-aggravating foods should be avoided to achieve quick and effective relief.
  • Snehana
    • In snehana, herbal and medicated oils are administered for lubricating the body internally or externally.
    • Internal oleation involves drinking the medicated oil and is called snehapana.
    • Snehapana is useful in the treatment of varicose veins.
    • Snehana is a preparatory procedure for panchakarma (five therapies) methods that aid in clearing toxins from the body.
    • It liquefies and mobilises toxins to the digestive tract from where it is eliminated using various panchakarma procedures based on the condition of the individual.
    • Different techniques like abhyanga are used to perform snehana. Abhyanga is effective in treating many conditions including varicose veins.
    • As snehana helps in the elimination of ama, it can be used to treat conditions that occur due to the accumulation of ama, e.g., amavata.
    • Snehana is also useful for treating sciatica. 
  • Swedana
    • Swedana is a type of sudation therapy where sweating is induced by employing various therapeutic methods involving heat.
    • It is primarily used to treat vata disorders such as sciatica and varicose veins. 
    • It helps in relieving  stiffness and heaviness in the body, commonly experienced by those with arthritis.
  • Virechana
    • Virechana involves the administration of medicinal herbs to induce purgation and evacuate the bowel. It helps in clearing ama and increased doshas from the body.
    • It is primarily used to remove the excess pitta in gallbladder, small intestine and liver.
    • Virechana can also be helpful in eliminating aggravated vata. Therefore, it can treat leg pain caused by disorders of the joints and bones such as sciatica and arthritis.
  • Basti
    • Basti involves the introduction of medicated oils, decoctions or pastes in the large intestine through the rectal route.
    • It clears ama from the large intestine and rectum and also removes the aggravated doshas from the body.
    • Basti is primarily used to treat disorders caused by excess vata or diseases where vata is the predominant dosha along with vitiation of other doshas.
    • It can also treat disorders of the gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal systems and paralytic disorders either alone or in combination with other treatments. 
  • Raktamokshana
    • Raktamokshana involves the removal of impure blood from different sites in the body. It can be done by using either a metallic instrument or by employing leeches, cow’s horn or dried bitter gourd.
    • This procedure can relieve pitta disorders like skin diseases and blood-borne diseases.
    • It can also balance vitiated vata and treat conditions like gout, osteoarthritis and varicose veins.
  • Agni karma
    • Agni karma involves the placement of a burn at the point of severe pain.
    • It is used in the management of diseases due to excess vata such as sciatica and arthritis and thus help in relieving leg pain due to these conditions.
    • The probability of relapse of a condition is rare after agni karma.
    • It can also prevent wound infection if performed properly.
  • Lepa
    • Lepa refers to the application of herbs in the form of a paste to the affected area of the body.
    • It helps in relieving pain, inflammation and swelling, which makes it an effective therapy in the treatment of leg pain.
    • Dashanga lepa and jatamayadi lepa are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Ayurvedic herbs for leg pain

  • Ashwagandha
    • Ashwagandha acts on the nervous, reproductive, and respiratory systems and has anti-inflammatory, rejuvenating, tonic, pain-relieving, and sedative properties.
    • It is one of the most effective immune-boosting herbs, which promotes tissue healing. It is useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, anaemia and fatigue.
    •  Ashwagandha has phytoestrogens as one of its constituents, which is known to improve bone strength. Thus this herb can be useful in the treatment of osteoporosis and leg pain associated with it. 
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  • Asthisanharaka
    • Asthisanharaka contains various constituents like flavonoids, β-sitosterol, β-stigmasterol and triterpenoids. β-sitosterol has wound-healing properties and, thus, can be used to repair damaged tissues.
    • The whole plant is known to have medicinal properties, but its roots and stems are chiefly used in the treatment of bone fractures.
    •  A decoction prepared from this herb can be used both internally and externally. It has a high content of vitamin C, which stimulates immunity and improves healing.
    • It is also used in the management of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis and is thus helpful in relieving leg pain caused due to these conditions.
  • Guggulu
    • Guggulu acts on the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems and has pain-relieving, antispasmodic, rejuvenating, stimulant, and expectorant properties.
    • It is one of the best herbs for the treatment of arthritis.
    • Guggulu also lowers cholesterol and is thus useful in the management of claudication.
    • It also promotes tissue regeneration, heals bone fractures and detoxifies the body.
    • Guggulu reduces leg pain by lowering the effects of increased blood pressure.
    • It helps in maintaining the normal tone of the venous walls and can be used in the management of varicose veins.

Ayurvedic medicines for leg pain

  • Laksha guggulu
    • This medicine is prepared from laksha (lac), asthisanharaka, arjuna, ashwagandha, nagabala (snake mallow) and guggulu.
    • It helps in treating joint pain, stiffness, tenderness, local crepitations and oedema. It also improves the range of motion of a joint in individuals with restricted joint movement.
    • The ingredients of this medicine have pain-relieving and regenerative properties. They promote bone-healing and tissue repair. Thus being effective in the management of leg pain.
  • Arogyavardhini vati
    • Arogyavardhini vati is a polyherbal formulation prepared from many herbs including triphala (a combination of amalaki [Indian gooseberry], vibhitaki [belleric myrobalan], and haritaki [chebulic myrobalan]), shilajatu (asphaltum), guggulu, chitrakamoola (leadwort root), and bhasmas (calcined preparations) of lauha (iron), tamra (copper), abhraka (mica) and gandhak (brimstone).

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    • It is effective in balancing all the three doshas and improves the functioning of the liver.
    • Arogyavardhini vati promotes digestive fire and strengthens the body by improving the absorption of nutrients.
    • It removes the accumulated ama, which is one of the major causes of leg pain.  
    • This medicine is also useful in the treatment of leg pain due to arthritis and varicose veins.
  • Kaishora guggulu
    • Guggulu, guduchi (heart-leaved moonseed) and triphala are the main ingredients of this medicine.
    • Guggulu pacifies vata dosha and guduchi is useful in the treatment of gout.
    • Together, these properties help in relieving pain and improving joint mobility.

As treatments vary according to numerous factors and an individual’s prakriti (constitution), consult a qualified Ayurvedic doctor for the appropriate medications and treatments for your specific complaints.

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  • Do not suppress natural urges like hunger, thirst, and evacuation of bowel and bladder.
  • Do not eat incompatible foods like milk and fish.
  • Do not eat excessively heavy meals.
  • Avoid excessive physical exercise and walking.
  • Avoid stress and feelings like sadness.

A clinical study including 30 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee joint indicated the effectiveness of various Ayurvedic therapies in the management of this condition. These participants were divided into three groups of 10 each. The first group was treated with laksha guggulu, the second group was treated with traction, snehana, and swedana, and the third group was treated with all of these methods. Various symptoms like joint pain, oedema, tenderness, stiffness, local crepitations and restriction in joint movements were observed before and after treatment. It was found that the third group experienced significant relief in the condition as compared to the other two groups. So, a combination of these therapies can be used in the management of osteoarthritis.

Although Ayurveda is a natural and holistic system of medicine, it may lead to side effects and contraindications if proper care and precautions are not taken, e.g.,

  • Snehana is contraindicated in individuals with a very strong or weak digestive system, throat disorders and aggravated kapha
  • Virechana is contraindicated in pregnant women, children, and elderly and weak individuals
  • Basti is not recommended in young children and individuals with diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, and polyps
  • Raktamokshana should be avoided in individuals with bleeding disorders, anaemia and piles.

Leg pain can be due to several reasons and may arise from knee, thigh, foot and calf. Many over-the-counter medicines are commonly used for pain management. Although these medicines ease the pain for a certain time, the pain relapses after the medicines are eliminated from the body.

Ayurvedic treatment of leg pain aims at uprooting the cause of pain and preventing relapse. However, always consult an Ayurvedic physician before beginning any therapy to prevent side effects and get the right treatment for your condition.

Dr Prashant Kumar

Dr Prashant Kumar

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Dr Rudra Gosai

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