Arthritis often is associated with aging, and – although it’s true that the incidence of arthritis increases as people get older – individuals across the age spectrum contend with this condition. In fact, nearly 53-million adults – as well as 300,000 children – have some type of arthritis. Given its prevalence, it’s not surprising to learn that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America.
In addition to many other health-related observances, May is Arthritis Awareness Month, and there’s much to learn about this disease that impacts so many.
As a starting point, arthritis actually isn’t a single disease; rather, it’s an overarching terms referring to joint pain or joint disease. In reality, there are more than 100 difference types of arthritis and related conditions. While arthritis symptoms vary from person to person, the most common symptoms present in the form of joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Symptoms also can range from mild to moderate to severely debilitating. Additionally, in some individuals the presence of arthritis is physically visible, such as in the form of knobby finger joints; in others, however, the existence of arthritis can only be viewed via X-Ray.
Arthritis and the Workplace
Many people who have arthritis also have full-times jobs. This combination clearly presents challenges, but there are many steps that arthritis sufferers can take to help minimize this condition’s negative impact while at work. These actions include:
- Organize your workspace so that items used most frequently are within reach.
- Reduce strain from overreaching by using a step stool to access items on high shelves.
- Minimize fatigue – if your job involves being upright for extended periods – by standing on an anti-fatigue, gel mat.
- Make sure that your work area is a comfortable temperature – adequately warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Lessen joint pain by requesting that some workplace door knobs be replaced with levers.
- Conserve energy by pacing yourself throughout the day and by tackling the most demanding items on your to-do list at that point in the day when you’re most energetic.
- Alternate between standing, sitting, and walking.
- Ask for an adjustable desk that enables you to work in either a standing or sitting position. When standing, use a footrest to decrease pressure on your lower back. When sitting – use an ergonomic chair – and make sure that your hips, knees, ankles, and elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
- Use a briefcase on wheels when taking work home or to a meeting.
- Insert insoles into your shoes to decrease strain on your feet, legs, and lower back.
- Maintain a healthy body weight, as doing so reduces pressure on your joints. In fact, losing 10 pounds of excess weight equates to decreasing 40 pounds of pressure on your knees.
- Opt for a split computer keyboard so that your hands, wrists, and forearms are in a more natural position.
- Use a trackball mouse, as this device reduces hand and arm movement.
- Consider installing voice-activated software as a means of lessening the need to type.
- Reduce side bending of your neck by wearing a telephone headset.
- Make writing easier and less painful by using a cushioned pen.
To reduce soreness, it’s recommended that arthritis sufferers stretch periodically throughout their workday. Sample exercises include:
- Neck turn – Slowly turn your head so that you’re looking over your left shoulder; then slowly turn to look over your right shoulder – repeat both sides a few times.
- Ankle circles – Sit upright in a chair with your feet stretched out. Circle both feet simultaneously in a clockwise direction, then in a counterclockwise direction – repeat several times.
- Heel/toe lift – Sit forward on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your heels, keeping your toes on the floor; then life your toes. Hold for three seconds and then return to the flat position – repeat several times.
By doing these things, your workday should be less uncomfortable and allow you to enjoy your time outside of work more!