Pain, Arthritis Don't Have To Go Hand-In-Hand

Reporter: Shannon Sampson

Web Producer: Jason Bailey

The largest team at Saturday's Arthritis Walk was from St. Mary's Rehabilitation Institute. They raised $2,000 for research, local programs, and services. Those therapists and other employees dedicated their efforts to one of their star patients, 77-year-old Virginia Fosnaugh who's lived with arthritis for more than four decades and lived very well.

Fosnaugh is undergoing therapy after double knee replacement surgery. It was the 41st and 42nd time she's had surgery in her life, mostly to implant prosthetic joints.

"I just think about how much metal is in my body. When I go through the airport, I really buzz," says Fosanaugh.

She has rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease characterized by the inflammation of the lining of the joints. Back when she was diagnosed at age 35, there wasn't much hope.

"They'd just say, 'keep active' or 'take aspirin.' that was it. They didn't have the medicines that they have now," says Fosnaugh.

Those medications along with weekly exercise have made her disease pretty manageable. That's also the advice doctors give for the more common osteoarthritis.

Doctor Harry Stoller at St. Mary's Senior Health Center says it feels like nearly all of his patients have osteoarthritis from normal wear and tear on the joint cartilage that comes with aging.

"I guess if we live long enough, most of us are going to have it," says Stoller.

"Staying active is certainly important because if you don't you're going to get contractures and lose flexibility," says Stoller. Stoller adds, "It's incredibly important to stretch and maintain joint flexibility with this, but at the same time, not to push it to the point where you traumatize the joint."

Fosnaugh has become such an expert on living with arthritis, she's written a manual for other patients to follow. She doesn't live totally pain-free, but that hasn't stopped her from doing almost anything she wants.

Stoller says many of his senior patients are fearful of taking any prescription painkillers and have switched to acetaminophen.

That's not always the best solution. For sound advice, patients should check out the the arthritis foundation's website.