The Arthritis Research Institute of America Post

Dr. Lissa Fahlman

I remember forty years ago when my grandmother would get gold shots in her knees to help with her rheumatism. Not only did she periodically get the gold shots, she was on such a high dosage of aspirin that she often had ringing in her ears. She also had large nodes on her fingers and trouble with her hands. Like many people of her age, she wasn’t a complainer, but she was not able to do many of the things she wanted to do because of her arthritis and at times she was in terrible pain. More recently, I’ve watched as my mother has developed arthritis in her hands and knees. Fortunately, it hasn’t been as severe as my grandmother’s – even so, she is not as able to do some of the activities she enjoys. I wonder what will be in store for me? What about the next generation of my family? Since before the time my grandmother, little progress has been made in preventing osteoarthritis. Limited advancements in pain medications and surgical techniques have improved treatment somewhat. However, the CDC still ranks arthritis as the leading cause of
disability in the United States. I am fortunate to be working with ARIA and it’s worldwide unique Clearwater Osteoarthritis Study (COS) database to learn more about arthritis and provide the basis for future prevention and improved treatments.

Memories of my grandmother as I was growing up in northern Minnesota, vivid as they are, did not directly propel me into arthritis research. I spent my latter teens, 20’s, and early 30’s in exploring parts of Alaska via commercial fishing and working for the US Forest Service. I managed to earn a BS in Math during this time, as well. Next I followed my interest in health and complementary medicine, attending Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. I began practicing in the Portland area; then bought a small practice on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This
was a very interesting place to live and practice. In this medically under-served area, settled by whites and black slaves in the 1600’s (Martha Washington’s family had a plantation here), it was not uncommon to treat patients who were related and had problems. In treating multiple generations in some families, I was able to see what similar problems looked like in different life stages, but in real time. As would be expected, many of the older people I saw had complications due to arthritis. Many of the younger people I saw had injuries that would likely lead to arthritis. The middle-aged folks were in transition, beginning to experience some of the earlier symptoms of arthritis. This progression that I observed in my patients mirrored what I was seeing in my own family.

Although I loved my practice, in 2005 I sold it following a car accident that left me  physically unable to continue to treat patients. Combining both my educational backgrounds (math & health), health research seemed a logical next step. In 2009, I graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa with a Master’s of Public Health in Epidemiology. I began working with the ARIA research team in 2010. I am very excited to be able to apply my professional, educational, and personal experiences and observations in osteoarthritis research. As we are able to access
more of the COS data, I anticipate new findings which may, some day, lead to preventing and more effectively treating osteoarthritis. It is my hope that the next generations of my family and your, won’t experience what my grandmother did.

6 Comments

  • Paulette

    Sep 27, 2011

    Reply

    Dear Dr. Fahlman, I was diagnosed with eczema over 10 years ago. I also am pretty sure I have osteoarthritis. Would fish oil capsules help? I heard that I could break them and rub them into the skin around my sore knee to help with the pain but I am afraid I it would flare up my eczema. Thank you- Paulette

    • Dr. Fahlman

      Sep 28, 2011

      Reply

      You ask a good but tricky question, Paulette. I would certainly consider using omega 3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA), which are typically contained in fish oil supplements, to help decrease the inflammation that can be associated with osteoarthritis. However, I would take them orally, not rub them into the skin (it is less stinky, too). They may also decrease the severity of the eczema. HOWEVER, if you have eczema because of food allergies (they are often associated), and you are allergic to seafood, I would NOT use fish oil capsules either to swallow or rub into your skin as there is a risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction.

  • Martin

    Sep 27, 2011

    Reply

    Dear Dr. Lissa Fahlman, I would like to ask you about my osteoarthritis. The doc says I need a knee replacement. It hurts sure but who wants a surgery? Can I do some exercises to help with the pain. I do not like pills. Thank you, MArtin

    • Dr. Fahlman

      Sep 28, 2011

      Reply

      Dear Martin- Surgery is always a difficult decision. Certainly most of us do not want to go through it if we don't need to. Generally, a person would try the more conservative approaches before opting for surgery. If you haven't already done so, you might consider asking your physician to prescribe physical therapy with a person who is experienced at working knee pain and limited function (if this is also an issue). After working with a physical therapist to figure out the best set of exercises for you personally, becoming proficient at doing them, and doing them daily for a few weeks, you should be able to tell if they are going to be helpful or not. Often exercise in a pool is helpful, if that is an option. As a non-pill liker, you might also consider other physical forms of treatment such as massage and/or chiropractic treatment. Some people have surprisingly good results. You probably already know this, but if you are overweight, losing some weight can dramatically decrease the pressure on your knees and make a huge difference. If at some point you decide to proceed with surgery, the better shape you are in physically will increase your chances of having a successful surgery and good results afterward. So even if your efforts to exercise and lose weight don't prevent the surgery, they will help you have a better outcome. Of course, if you do have knee surgery, your doctor should prescribe post-surgery physical therapy to help ensure you recover as well as possible. Be sure to ask if s/he doesn't mention it. Good luck!

  • Floaters

    Oct 08, 2011

    Reply

    Our mind is very amazing. What do you think?

  • Ariel

    Oct 08, 2011

    Reply

    Great Word press Design i like it.

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