Although the pain of osteoarthritis (OA) had not yet shown up in her knees, Dr. Lawson was quick to see the benefits her patients were having through treatments at Reflex. She learned about the studies behind Hyaluronic Acid injections and supplements like Fish Oil and their benefits in treating inflammation, the driving force behind OA, “just because we’re physicians doesn’t mean we know about everything in medicine… I started taking Fish Oil for my arthritis and I felt a difference,” she said.
However, between working at Reflex, working in the ER and her volunteer time as a SWAT doc, she started to notice a change in her knees. Dr. Lawson says “physicians spend a lot of time sitting and charting, getting up after sitting still for so long was painful”. What was once a gradual stiffness in her knees that only came from sitting for too long soon progressed to an ache while being active, and then serious pain. After a day of SWAT training with the Clackamas County team, she would ice her knees and rest as much as she could, but the pain was always there.
When she finally had imaging done on her knees and saw the OA that was present, she had the good fortune of already knowing what her next steps would be. “I graded myself a 2 [out of 4] for OA and started HA injections with Dr. Riggs right away the injection was so smooth I felt no pain, “ she said.
Unlike the NSAIDs she had been taking for pain the HA injections didn’t work the same day, but it wasn’t long before the benefits became evident. After several weeks, she was able to garden without pain and continued her work with the SWAT team. “It alleviated most of the pain,” she said, “I have good days and bad days, but for 6-7 months I’d have near complete relief- I was sold.” Having completed seven series of HA injections Dr. Lawson has experienced a large range of what OA symptoms and HA injections feel like. That helps when talking through the treatment with patients, “I can explain the differences in sensations they could experience, it helps to be at both ends of the needle”.
With no proven cure for OA yet available, maintenance of inflammation and symptoms is the name of the game, slowing the progression of the disease and putting off knee replacement surgery. For years, HA injections were the only available therapy directly injected into the joint, but that is no longer the case.
In the last several years, biologic treatments like Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Stem Cell Therapy (SCT) have progressed leaps and bounds in proving their effectiveness at battling knee OA. Dr. Lawson said “I always wanted to try PRP because it’s your own body working for you, but HA was working for me. So I decided to wait for Stem Cell Therapy.” It is now eight weeks out from Dr. Lawson taking that next step and getting Stem Cell Therapy on both of her knees. Like any other patient, Dr. Lawson is excited to see what’s in store for the next few months as the treatment takes full effect and what the future of her life with OA will look like. “My knees are starting to feel terrific- it’s pretty awesome.”