Working with Arthritis: How to Deal With Arthritis in a Workplace

Your job matters to you because that’s how you make a living. But health conditions like arthritis can threaten to limit your potential at work.

Working with arthritis can be difficult; pain in the joints can be disturbing, especially if your job involves a lot of movement. Again, a career involving prolonged hours of sitting can further worsen your arthritis situation.

At home, you have the freedom to do pretty much what you like. But this may not be the case in the office. And while worker rights protect victims from such instances, most of us don’t know what the law says, let alone how to address such situations.

Most employees suffer silently, and the consequence is a further deterioration in health. So how can people living with arthritis manage their condition at work?

What is Arthritis & What are the Symptoms

Working with arthritis is a controversial topic. Arthritis is a term used to describe joint inflammation, but it also refers to almost 200 other joint-compromising conditions. It affects joints, the tissues that surround them, as well as other connective tissues. Osteoarthritis is the most popular form of arthritis.

Arthritis is rheumatic. Rheumatic ailments lead to rigidness, pain, inflammation, and aching around one or multiple joints. These signs can show up slowly or erupt all of a sudden.

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According to the CDC, 54 million grownups in the US have been found with some kind of arthritis. Of the large count, nearly half (23.7 million) individuals are less active in one way or another due to the condition.

While the disease is prevalent in grownups 65 years and above, it can affect anybody, even kids.

What are Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis manifests mainly in the joints. Based on the form of arthritis ailing you, signs & symptoms may include;

  • Aching joints
  • Stiff or rigid joints
  • Swelling around joints
  • Redness in the affected area
  • Reduced motion range

Watch out for any of the above arthritis symptoms as they may worsen if you do not change your lifestyle.

Employers must conduct a risk assessment on the disabled worker to learn the severity of arthritis.

Look for the following symptoms when dealing with people working with arthritis;

  • Which tasks can put a strain on their joints?
  • Do they have a firm grip of workplace equipment?
  • Can the employee walk?
  • Can the worker control their finger and wrist joints to take on workplace tasks?
  • How long can the worker operate comfortably while on their feet?
  • Can they turn the buttons on a control panel without a hassle?

While this is a general guide to arthritis risk assessment, the priority factors to consider may differ from one workplace to another, depending on what a company does.

How to Manage Arthritis in The office

You may want to stay glued to your chair because of arthritis but moving from time to time is an excellent way to keep your joints healthier and mobile. Prolonged sitting does little to help with arthritis treatments.

Below are some tips to reduce arthritis joint pains while in the office;

  • Sit upright. Arching your back curves the spine causing lower back pain. Sit upright to avoid those and neck strains.
  • Stand up and move around. Prolonged sitting hours may seem comfortable, but this is considered unhealthy for people with arthritis.
  • Place your keyboard well. Sit near your keyboard so that you don’t have to lean forward to type words or strain your arms, shoulders or neck, shoulders.
  • Use ergonomic furniture and gadgets: There are numerous ergonomic tools to leverage e.g. A sit-stand office desk, keyboard rest, an orthopedic chair, a keyboard rest. Etc.
  • Stretch hands and feet while on your seat. Stretching your legs from time to time will help control your arthritis. While seated, stretch both hands and feet from time to time. This can help prevent stiff knees.

Remember to follow these simple tips. Stick a reminder somewhere so that you do not forget to manage your arthritis even while at work.

How to Manage Arthritis While Standing for Long

Any activity that keeps you standing for long, such as cooking or queuing, and demands repetitive walking can be as harmful to your arthritis-like sitting all day.

While activity matters for a person working with arthritis, it can be challenging to recover from the pain caused by prolonged standing.

Below are ways to reduce movement if you have to stand for long:

  • Be organized. Organize everything strategically to reduce movement. Whether you are cooking or working on documents, you want to organize stuff so that everything is accessible. Keep the most commonly-used items closest to you. Remember, though it’s critical to move, excessive moving around can wear you down more quickly.
  • Take a break. It’s also vital to take a rest. Do not strain your knees and hands all day. Plan your work with short breaks to avoid overworking your knees.
  • Practice careful lifting. Bad lifting can easily cause injury among people with arthritis. It would help if you were extra-keen, particularly when lifting, which could worsen the joints and inflammation due to arthritis. Seek help or bring a back brace to reduce injury to joints and muscles.
  • Move around. Maintaining a single position for long can make your knees stiffer. Fold your leg from time to time and stoop down for some time to release the pressure that has accumulated.

What do During Break time

Worker burnout is a concern for most employees, and arthritis can worsen the situation.

No matter how long your shift lasts, it’s vital to take short breaks. These breaks are known to ease the body and mind and rejuvenate you for the next load of tasks.

Employees working with arthritis may need more frequent break times than their normal counterparts because it worsens the joints and can cause further inflammation.

Whether you spend your entire day seated or standing, it helps to plan frequent breaks to recoup;

  • Walk around. Take a quick walk; go for a coffee, or just stretch in the park near your office. This will also help you relieve stress and re-energize.
  • Stretch your body. Exercise your knees during the break. If you feel some pain, this is the time to stretch and stoop low. You can also roll your head to ease neck muscles. You can also stretch fingers to keep blood moving through your hands.
  • Drink plenty of water. It’s also essential to take plenty of water to remain hydrated.

Arthritis demands a great balance of motion and rest. You want to strike a balance between walking and relaxing to give your joints a rest. In case of inflammation, don’t wait until you’ve rested too long.

Discuss Arthritis with Your Employer

Because this condition limits your potential as an employee and requires special attention, it’s essential to discuss about working with arthritis.

This will ensure they consider your arthritis when designating tasks and relieve you of all strenuous duties like heavy-lifting or prolonged hours of standing.

Before you begin this conversation, it’s best to prove your claims and confirm to your employer that you indeed have arthritis.

Ask your doctor to write an official letter explaining your condition, its severity, and why strenuous tasks or prolonged inactivity could worsen the situation.

This letter should go to your boss or an executive in the HR department and is the best way to share your story with employers.

Discussing with your bosses ensures they consider your particular case when designating tasks. They’ll also consider creating the most comfortable working environment by offering ergonomic and assistive equipment.

And lastly, having this conversation will protect your company against unlawful dismissal from your job.

Understand Your Arthritis Worker Rights

Arthritis disables you, reducing your productivity as an employer. Still, the law is clear concerning employees with disabilities and working with arthritis.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) carries the most comprehensive legal framework to safeguard workers with disabilities. This law applies to any business with over 15 workers.

It discusses unfairness in the hiring & employment of Americans with disabilities. To qualify as disabled, the arthritis disease must “substantially limit” primary life tasks like working or walking.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to give workers “reasonable accommodations,” such as:

  • part-time or flexible task designation
  • A change in the job structure, like doing away with nonessential duties
  • Offer ergonomic devices and other assistive gadgets for employees working with arthritis.
  • Increase workplace convenience, e.g., by changing desk height or using sit-stand solutions

Still, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not include any changes that can bring “high costs or significant difficulty” to your boss. You can either meet the need yourself or split the costs with your employer.

Learn more facts about the ADA and other worker regulations from the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) online to make the most of these employee-protection laws.

The Takeaway

Working with arthritis is not as difficult as it sounds. Victims must understand the severity of their condition and discuss this matter with their employees.