Half of all adults in the UK will develop Osteoarthritis, 1 in 2 will develop osteoarthritis (OA) in their knees while 1 in 4 will develop it in their hips and 1 in 12 will develop it in their hands.
Osteoarthritis affects many people, particularly those who carry out the same physical task in their jobs time and time again.
That said, the bottom line is that work is good for you, research shows that employment boosts confidence and improves mobility however people with moderate to severe osteoarthritis encounter challenges in the work place.
What are the challenges faced?
These challenges are often associated with unhealthy postures and extreme loads, many jobs require you to perform tasks in the workplace frequently and with repetitive movements i.e. squatting or kneeling, bent over again and again or exert a large force, others are constantly on their feet, have to lift heavy loads or constantly perform the same movements, for example:
- Healthcare Professionals
- Construction Workers
- Manufacturing Workers
Therefore, it is probable over time that various joints of the body will be overloaded, causing cartilage damage or other problems.
Think about low impact sports
Suffering from osteoarthritis should not stop you from being active as it is important to keep your joints functioning for as long as possible (not to mention the release of endorphins when exercising which act as natural painkillers).
You can try to incorporate moderate sports or activities and slowly build this into your routine. It can also compensate for any one-sided movements in your job and help to keep the joint cartilage lubricated and supplied with nutrients.
The sports and activities you choose however should not place unnecessary strain on the joints, such as:
- Tai Chi
- Aqua Jogging
As with every other activity you shouldn’t work through the pain but start in a pain-free / low pain period. Working through the pain can have a negative effect and exacerbate the situation.
There are a number of other options available to help you manage your knee pain, check out our treatment overview.
What if you have advanced OA?
If the osteoarthritis is already more advanced so that you can no longer able to carry on with your profession, it is important that you discuss this with somebody in your work place, this could be your line manager or someone in human resources, once you have told them about your health issues they are obliged to take them seriously, topics to discuss with your employer could include:
- Reduced Hours
- Flexi Time
- Job Share
- Occupational Health
Retraining could be a solution and something to consider, any job or career that you could retrain for or a career where you can transfer your skills but without the stress of too much physical loading and/or repetitive loading of your joints.
What should I do?
Visit the doctor early with joint problems, 8.75 million people in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis, of these 4.7 million people in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee.
Osteoarthritis is difficult to diagnose early on, because it evolves insidiously and unnoticed in the beginning one of the first signs which patients notice is the typical start-up pain including: Getting started after a period of rest which leads to a slight pain or a feeling of tightness in the knee, the hip or some other joint.
- Getting out of bed in the morning
- Getting out of the car after a long journey
- Stiffness after a repetitive task i.e. gardening, cleaning
Many people dismiss this by simply accepting that it can take a while after a period of rest, to get the joints moving again because the pain goes away, but the pain always returns and gradually over time worsens.
Don’t dismiss the stiffness
It does not make sense to dismiss the stiffness and pain in your joints and to keep suffering, you should go to the doctor at the first sign of any regular pains and stiffness.
Even though osteoarthritis cannot be cured, the disease process and the maintenance of mobility can mostly be influenced by a positive and consistent treatment plan.
The treatment is normally based on several areas, which can be split into:
- Acute pain therapy (NSAIDS, Injections)
- Intermediate and long term treatment (Physiotherapy, Knee Bracing)
- Lifestyle management (Weight Loss, Exercise, Nutrition)
The earlier you start, the greater the chance of keeping your joints functional and help slow down the progression of osteoarthritis.
Content supplied by Ossur (UK) Ltd.