High altitude terrain suffering from painful dance of Tanga-tumbu
‘Tanga-tumbu’ is the Ladakhi term for Arthritis, which is an old condition in this high altitude terrain.
It is induced by its sub-artic type of climate and its low levels of oxygen that have a detrimental effect on blood circulation.
Most women living in the region have learned to bear the stiffness that seems to settle into their bones leading to rupturing their ligaments easily and suffering joint pain.
Given the extreme temperatures, the body requires an inordinate quantity of energy-providing foods to give the required heat and strength. Most Ladakhis consume carbohydrates such as barley and animal fats, including local butter. Yet this diet is not wholesome enough to meet the vitamin and mineral requirements of the body that can be only come from fresh fruit and vegetables.
In winter particularly this becomes scare. Those who live on the upper reaches are the hardest hit.
Dr. Rinchen Dorjey, consultant Physician with Help Age India, says it is people of Changthang, a barren plateau – who face severe shortages of fresh foods. Despite the stoic resistance to a debilitating condition, most people still turn to traditional healers for deliverance from pain, and for curing them of the malady.
Tsering Stobdan 65 an Amchi, or practitioner of Tibetan system of medicine for the last 22 years in Leh town has seen much.
“When we see the starting signs –mild pain and redness of joints;we start them on traditional medicines. We restrict them from exposure to tasks that involve water such as washing clothes, dishes, and ask them to avoid sitting on the cold surfaces such as cemented floors or wet grounds. We advise them to take hot showers and wear warm clothes,” said Tsering.
Then there are local hot springs, ‘Chhu-Tsan’ that are said to have healing properties. These have abundant quantities of natural minerals that are said to cure. There are several such ‘miracle baths’ found in the Changthang and also in Manali.
“In severe cases”, says Amchi Stobdan, “the patient is treated with ‘Ser-mey’, in which aching joints are ‘ touched’ with a red- hot iron instrument” This is said to melt away the deposits of ‘Chhu-ser’, uric acid that can otherwise cause havoc to an arthritic condition.
There will always be skeptics, but for those who have benefitted from the Amchi’s advice and medicines, there is no need to look further.