Shleshaka Kapha – Location, Functions, Imbalance, Disorders, Treatment

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Shleshaka means connecting or attaching. Shleshaka translates to ‘that which binds or holds two or more structures together’. In this context, subtype of kapha which glues two ends of bones together in a bony joint is called shleshaka kapha.

Introduction

Other meanings of shleshaka are –

Kapha subtype which resides in bony joints is called shleshaka kapha. Shleshma itself is a synonym of kapha. Shleshma is defined as ‘shlish alingana’ i.e. to embrace or hold tightly.

Kapha is the water body in our physical body (rich in water and earth element). It is rich in water element and earth element. Due to admixture of earth and water (just like mud and water) kapha becomes a cementing substance.
Read – Panchamahabhuta: Application, Areas of Utility in Ayurveda treatment

Kapha is a binding substance among three doshas and helps in construction of body components during developmental phase of human body in and out of womb. It not only holds two bones together to form an anatomical joints, it also holds two cells or tissues together by cementing them. It also helps in adherence. All types of kapha serve the same purpose but binding function is more in shleshaka kapha. Therefore it is named as shleshaka kaph
Read – Understand Kapha Dosha By Its Functions

Shleshaka Kapha is one of the five subtypes of kapha.

Location

Seat of Shleshaka Kapha
Shleshaga Kapham is located in bony joints of body and holds ends of bones together encapsulated within joint. It also helps in lubricating joints and facilitates its easy movements.
Read – Understanding the relationship between Dosha’s and Arthritis

Sanskrit sloka

Read – Sandhi Shareera: Study of Bone Joints As Per Ayurveda

Functions

Functions of Shleshak Kapha
Lubrication and Integrity of Joints 

Shleshaka Kapha, being located in bony joints of body helps keeping up lubrication and integrity of joints.

Free movements at joints
Helps in easy movement of joints. Thus it helps us to conduct our activities of daily living effortlessly. We walk, hold, bend, push, run, climb, write, eat and do all our activities with help of our easily moving joints. And these joints move easily only when they are lubricated and held in smooth movement by shleshaka kapha located in them.
Read – Classification Of Pain And Arthritis As Per Ayurveda

Protects bone erosion and damage of joints
Owing to its unctuous and fluid nature constantly lubricates joints and prevents wear and tear of bony ends participating in joint, while at movements.

Acts as shock absorber –
All our activities of daily living depend on movements at various bony joints, mainly those in limbs and spine. During the day long movements at bony joints, the bones and joints will suffer from regular shock. Shleshaka kapha and the shleshmadhara kala (membranes and layers of joints producing shleshaka kapha) absorb these shocks occurring at joints and enable them to carry on their functions effortlessly.
Read – OsteoArthritis Symptoms, Prevention, Lifestyle tips, Ayurvedic treatment

Types

Types of Shleshaka Kapha
Classically we do not find reference of types of shleshaka kapha. But seeing explanation of kapha given by many ancient authors, modern day wise men of Ayurveda have mentioned two types of shleshaka kapha for an elaborate and comprehensive understanding of binding kapha.

For convenience of understanding broad spectrum action and location of shleshaka kapha it need to be studied under below mentioned headings –

  1. Asthigata Shleshaka Kapha (Shleshaka Kapha located in bony joints of body)

As explained in Ayurvedic treatises, this shleshaka kapha is located in bony joints. It helps in easy movements of joints. It protects articulating surfaces of bones from friction and lubricates joints.

All movable skeletal joints of human body are covered with a delicate membrane. This membrane is called synovial membrane. This may be compared to shleshmadhara kala (membranes carrying and producing kapha) explained in Ayurveda.
Read – Kala Shareera: Concept, Definition, Types, Clinical Relevance

This shleshmadhara kala produces shleshaka kapha. This shleshaka kapha, as said already, lubricates and protects joints and enables their smooth movements. This shleshaka kapha can be compared to synovial fluid present in joints. This fluid serves same purpose as that of shleshaka kapha.

This kapha subtype is present in all movable joints i.e. cheshtavaha sandhis.

Simili (Su.Sha.) –

‘Just as an axis of wheel, when properly lubricated with oil, enables wheel to move freely around, joints of body too, being bound and lubricated by shleshaka kapha, move smoothly and effortlessly.’

  1. Dhatugata Shleshaka Kapha (shleshaka kapha located in tissues)

This can be considered as shleshaka kapha located in tissue, which binds and holds cells together in a tissue. Since binding activity of kapha is generalized to entire body, its authority will be in  whole body apart from being in joints, as explained in classical references. Explanation of shleshaka kapha thus extends to include all cells in body.
Read – Dhatu – 7 Body Tissues As Explained In Ayurveda

Shleshaka Kapha, inter-cellular cementing substance
Shleshaka kapha can be considered as cementing substance which holds cells together, i.e. inter-cellular cement substance.

‘Shleshaka Kapha is cohesive factor of body. Yet another aspect of  functions of shleshaka kapha is its capacity to hold together and unite structural units of  body.

According to Charaka,  organs and parts of body are made up of paramanus (cells or biological atoms). Substance which unites a paramanu with another  to form various structures and organs of body, it is obvious, is derived from  shleshma or their units (shleshaka kapha) themselves. In other words, shleshaka kapha keeping with its root meaning ‘shlish’ to embrace, to cohere, to hold together etc, holds all these units together, ensuring thus, stability, durability and integrity of body as a whole.’ (Introduction to Kayachikitsa by Dr C. Dwarakanath, page 308-309)
Read – Asthi Shareera – Definition, Anatomy, Types Of Bones

Thus,  shleshaka shleshma is present in body in 2 forms –

  • In joints as synovial fluid and
  • Intercellular cement substance in between cells

Pathology

Pathology related to Shleshaka Kapha imbalance
Imbalance of shleshaka kapha causes many types of joint related and systemic disorders.

Disorders caused due to imbalance of shleshaka kapha in  bony joints – Decrease in binding kapha leads to dryness of  joint causing excessive wear and tear leading to vata vitiation. This leads to manifestation of joint pain,  joint cracks, sounds from joints, free bodies in joints, loss of movements and disability. This consequentially leads degeneration of joints and bones causing diseases like osteoarthritis etc.
Read – Low Bone Density Causes, Ayurvedic Treatment, Diet

Due to decrease of kapha, pitta component too can get increased; there may be excessive blood flow towards joints leading congestion. This further causes inflammation and related inflammatory diseases. Consequentially inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, synovitis, soft tissue inflammation around joints etc are manifested.
Read – Classification Of Pain And Arthritis As Per Ayurveda

Excessive accumulation of shleshaka kapha may lead to joint effusion, heaviness of joints and stiffness in joints.

Other disorders and disabilities include

  • Loss of integrity of joints
  • Laxity or stiffness of joints
  • Damage to cartilages and membranes around joint
  • Susceptibility of joints to catch up infections and other disorders
  • Loss of immunity of joints and skeletal system
  • Diminution of movements in  joints leading disturbance in activities of daily living
    Read – 5 Easy Home Remedies For Morning Stiffness In Joints

Disorders caused due to imbalance of shleshaka kapha in tissues – When there is imbalance of shleshaka kapha in tissues, there is loss of integrity and binding between cells. Similarly integrity between various organs is lost.

Overall defensive mechanism of  tissues comes down. With lowering of immunity many diseases and autoimmune disorders are manifested. Body tissues become prone to wide array of diseases and infections. Person’s health is compromised and he becomes disease prone. Loss of cementing substance leads to destruction of  entire body system and poses a threat to life.

Modern correlation

Probable Modern correlation
Synovial fluid in bony joints
Inter-cellular cementing substance or inter-cellular matrix in tissues

Treatment

Treatment for disorders pertaining to Shleshak Kapha:
Oil massage, sweating treatment
Oral intake of herbal oils such as Ksheerabala taila, Dhanwantaram thailam, Gandha taila
Oral intake of herbal ghee such as Guggulutiktaka ghrita
Oil enema treatment
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