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Tessa Therkleson

Tessa Therkleson

PhD student

Faculty of Regional Professional Studies

Treating osteoarthritis through non-conventional management

Research is a journey into the inner self to meet the demons of fear, aversion and doubt and the angels of courage, enthusiasm and insightful action. Since 2000, I have been based at ECU with a phenomenology group, first achieving a Masters by research and now preparing to submit a PhD. I chose to research because of the need in my area of interest: complementary healthcare.

I selected a topic that had not been researched and that had the potential to advance the treatment of a common illness. My research is of people prescribed a series of ginger compresses for the diagnosed health condition of osteoarthritis. The ginger compress has its origins in ancient folk lore, having been used for thousands of years in China. Today it is a routine treatment for osteoarthritis in Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics in the Guangzhou province of China and anthroposophic hospitals in Germany. Researching this topic required visits to China and Germany where communication in a foreign language and culture was necessary. Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of muscular skeletal pain and disability in Australia and New Zealand. Conventional management is often more focused on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain and disability. These drugs are regularly rejected by people either because of side effects from long term use or personal preference to avoid pharmaceutical medications or invasive procedures. I considered there was a potential opportunity for the use of the ginger compress in the management of osteoarthritis.

To research my topic I used a Husselian phenomenological methodology with a quantitative component in the purposive selection of participants. Documented evidence from ten participants, living in New Zealand and Australia, was accumulated over a period of months. This task required considerable organisational, managerial and social skill. Data was obtained through the use of the Short Arthritis Assessment Scale, diaries, pictures, interviews and telephone conversations. Throughout my research experience, Ive learned the importance of finding a supervisor committed to my project, planning and preparation, understanding and valuing the software tools of NVivo and SPSS, maintaining focus throughout Perth's summer, and spending time with friends.

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