WV Healthwatch: Is your job worsening your arthritis?

Workers in their late fifties, early sixties, and even older are opting to retire later and continue working due to economic stresses affecting their families. However, many of them find out that their aging bodies can no longer bear the strain of hard work.

In 2003, 37% of West Virginia adults – many of them still part of the labor force, reported that they had been diagnosed with arthritis. This rate was the highest in the United States. Many of these workers who are on their feet all day are claiming that their knees are giving them trouble, mostly by arthritis aggravation caused by work-related activities.

However, recent studies show that although arthritis is a degenerative disease and may become more symptomatic with age, it has not been shown to be altered by weight bearing, repetitive flexing, and other work-related activities.

Arthritis is a genetic disorder and therefore cannot be caused or aggravated by work tasks. The best way to reduce the pain is not by getting surgery (which is very expensive even with worker’s compensation), but by altering your work habits, and food and lifestyle choices:

– Lose and/or maintain a healthy weight. For every pound you lose you take three pounds off your knees, as gravity multiplies the strain on your hurting knees.
– Minimize the use of stairs and ladders. Use elevators whenever possible.
– Use foam mats to provide a cushion on hard floors.
– Wear comfortable shoes with good rubber soles to absorb the pressure.
– Walk around occasionally instead of constantly standing in one spot.