Nearly half of elderly S'poreans suffer from knee pain

PHOTO: Nearly half of elderly S'poreans suffer from knee pain

SINGAPORE - A local survey on osteoarthritis has found that 42 per cent of elderly Singaporeans suffer from knee pain, yet nearly half of them choose to suffer in silence or self-medicate.

The independent survey, sponsored by Wellchem Pharmaceutical to mark World Arthritis Day, found that about 40 per cent of elderly Singaporeans have experienced pain in their knees for five years or more, but just five in 10 respondents have consulted a doctor to get it fixed.

According to a study, knee osteoarthritis is the underlying diagnosis for more than 90 per cent of the total hip or knee joint replacement operations being undertaken worldwide.

It generally describes the widespread wear and tear of cartilage, often seen in older patients due to the degenerative ageing process, or younger patients due to sports or knee injuries.

"Once osteoarthritis sets in, the symptoms are likely to get worse over time. Patients choosing to limp around and delay treatment can worsen their condition as their cartilage may further degenerate," said Dr Kevin Lee, Medical Director of the Centre For Joint & Cartilage Surgery and Singapore Sports Orthopaedic Surgery Centre.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis vary from patient to patient, but common signs include swelling, warmth, creaking joints as well as pain and stiffness of the joints which worsen over time.

The study surveyed more than 200 respondents aged 50 to 69 years on their personal experience of osteoarthritis and the types of treatments they chose to relieve their pain and trauma.

Nearly half said they would not undergo surgery, with only one out of 10 respondents open to considering surgical options.

Most of the elderly surveyed said that they would seek the advice of a general practitioner, polyclinic doctor or Chinese physician regarding pain in their knees. The treatments most often prescribed were painkillers, nutritional supplements and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedies.

Hyaluronic acid (HA) injection is another effective treatment option for patients seeking to avoid knee replacement surgery and who fail to get long-lasting pain relief from standard medication or physical therapy, said Dr R. Timothy Deakon, director of Oakville Sports Injury Clinic in Canada.

He was in Singapore today to speak on the less-invasive and proven results of HA injections to treat sports injured knees or worn-out elderly knees.

Dr Deakon said that HA injections such as Monovisc - a single injection administered to the knee joints - has been shown to provide pain relief for up to six months or more after each injection.

Though a proven and viable treatment option, uptake numbers of HA injections here remain low - possibly due to fear and resistance from patients to undergo injections.