Dr Chee Eng Keong

Golf may do wonders for your well-being but if you suffer from chronic knee pain, you may feel like never lifting a club again. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of knee pain in the elderly and it affects 46 million Americans, or more than 21 percent of the adult American population. It is estimated that yearly, more than 30,000 Malaysians of all races also suffer from this painful joint problem.

Osteoarthirtis, also known as degenerative arthritis, is a condition that results in the degeneration of premature ageing of the joints. This results in a loss of cartilage which causes joint space narrowing, reactive bone changes and the formation of bone spurs (or osteophyte), all of which are an inflammatory response.

This begs the question; who is most at risk? Studies have shown that women are two times more likely than men to develop bilateral knee OA. A genetic defect has also been identified in some families, with the premature onset of severe OA as a debilitating side effect. All races can be affected by OA but Asians in general have a much lowered risk of suffering from OA of the hip and hand. However, this is counter-balanced by a higher risk of OA of the knee. Tears in the knee meniscus and cruciate ligament will increase the risk of subsequently developing OA by five to ten times.

People with a high Body Mass Index (BMI) (>30kg/m3) have twenty times the risk of developing bilateral OA of the knee than a person with a normal BMI. In all this doom and gloom, there is a silver lining. Studies have not shown any link between OA of the knee and recreational activities such as running, cycling, golfing, walking, gardening or dancing.

Many people will just give in, abandon the golf that they love and shut out a huge portion of their lives, all due to the pain. Many golfers with knee OA have bought into the myth that physical activity will make their knees hurt even more. This cannot be further from the truth and with the right treatment plan, you may be able to enjoy a round of gold with your friends and family again.

Regular physical activity has been shown to improve some symptoms of OA and promote general health. If you are a golfer, all is not lost, especially if you do not succumb to the pain. You can beat it! How can golf help you? Firstly, keep in mind the fact that researchers have discovered that one of the best treatment for OA is regular physical exercise. Although golf may not be the ideal exercise for this, it can certainly boost your mood and outlook on life, increase blood flow, improve your metabolism, increase your flexibility and help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Remember that walking 18 holes is the equivalent of walking 10,000 steps (which is the number of steps recommended by the Ministry of Health). Clearly, golf is one sport that may prove beneficial for people with knee OA as walking strengthens your quadriceps (thigh muscles) and improves your knee’s range of movement. This will greatly assist in reducing stiffness and pain.

In short, golf is one of the perfect exercises for someone with osteoarthritis! Don’t give up! Persevere and before you know it, you’ll be out on those lovely greens again!

Dr. Chee Eng Keong is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon with Assunta Hospital. This articles was published in the June 2013 issue of Golf Digest Malaysia.

Interested to get a consultation with Dr Chee? Make an appointment today.

Request an appointment

Comments are closed.