Obesity prevalence in the UAE is double that of the world average. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study released in 2013 over 65 percent of men and 60 percent of women in the UAE are overweight or obese. Obesity coupled with a kneeling culture – be it for prayer, in social gatherings or to eat – has led to an increase of osteoarthritis sufferers in the Middle East.
“Osteoarthritis is very common in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent because of the kneeling to pray and sitting down culture in the region. Muslims and Hindus both have kneeling actions in their prayers and it is not uncommon for families and friends to sit down to share a meal. When an obese person adopts one of these kneeling movements repeatedly it puts pressure on the knee leading to further degeneration,” explained Dr. Anurag Sapolia, Specialist Orthopedic Surgeon at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai. “Another correlation I find amongst my patients is that hip degeneration is less compared to knee degeneration amongst those from the Middle Eastern and Indian subcontinent.”
Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the joint; it begins with the loss of articular cartilage over an extended period of time before resulting in changes to the bone surface area. The main symptom of the disease is deep joint pain which is often aggravated by activities such as climbing stairs or walking a long distance. Some patients also experience stiffness of the joint in the morning. The main risk factors for the condition are obesity, previous trauma or surgery to the knee and repeated strain to the knee.
“There is no cure for the condition. If the disease worsens, a patient will have to undergo a knee replacement surgery. However, symptoms can be managed through some simple lifestyle changes. I advise my patients that if they lose 5 kilograms of weight they will reduce their knee pain by 75% as this would lessen the pressure on the knee thereby offering some relief,” Dr. Sapolia said.
With one of the holiest times in the Islamic calendar – the last 10 days of Ramadan – upon us, Muslims increase their worship with many spending the wee hours of the morning in prayer.
“Those overweight or obese should take precautions to limit further damage to their knee during this holy period. Obese or overweight worshippers should offer their prayers seated on a chair. This is permitted in religion and it will also lessen the pressure on the damaged knee,” Dr. Sapolia advised. “Efforts should also be made to lose weight and adopt a healthy, active lifestyle as this too can dramatically improve the condition.”