What is the difference between playing through the pain or just sitting there? There might be very little difference if you are talking about osteoarthritis, said former Wimbledon tennis champ Vic Sexias.

Sexias and Dr. Terri L. Aagaard were in Salt Lake City Monday as part of an arthritis awareness program sponsored by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. Pfizer manufactures a non-steroid anti-inflammatory arthritis medication.Seixas, who won the Wimbledon men's singles championship in 1953, said he began suffering from osteoarthritis about eight years ago but didn't know what was causing the aches, pains and stiffness that was affecting his tennis game.

"At first I didn't know what the problem was, I just knew it wouldn't go away," said Seixas who is now approaching 65. "I was trying various home cures but nothing seemed to work."

The pain first affected Seixas in the knees which made it difficult for him to play his beloved game. "I'd built my life around athletics, and it was difficult to accept that I couldn't do things."

Seixas spent almost two years trying to work through the pain and find a remedy. He was experimenting with adjustments in his activity levels and other elements of his exercise routine in an effort to reduce the pain and keep himself on the court. Seixas said he later found out that the exercise portion of his plan was good and is a key element in dealing with osteoarthritis. But, there were two key elements missing in the formula - a good doctor and the proper medication.

"It's really important that those who have osteoarthritis get in contact with a good physician," said Seixas. "I think that's the most important step."

Aagaard agreed. She said too many people simply do not seek medical assistance because they believe the aches and pains are part of getting old and that there is nothing that can be done. She said quite the opposite is true.

While there is no cure for the disease, which attacks the stress and weight bearing joints of the body, there are medications that can reduce the pain and which can provide sufficient relief that sufferers can enjoy a wide range of activities in relative comfort. She said exercise is also important because it helps limit the effects of the disease and keeps joints functional.

Seixas said his efforts to cope with the disease improved significantly once he went to a doctor and found out what was causing the pain. With the development of the non-steroid medications, that lot has been improved even further. Seixas said combining the proper level of exercise, the right medication and following his doctor's advice has put him back on the courts. This past weekend he teamed with Bobby Riggs in a seniors tennis tournament in San Francisco to capture the tourney championship.