Arthritis affects approximately one-third of all adult farm and ranch operators and is considered one of the leading causes of disability by customers of the USDA AgrAbility Project. Arthritis can cause significant impairments to one’s mobility, dexterity, capacity to lift heavy loads and emotional well-being due to unmanaged pain and other factors.
Arthritis is especially detrimental to farmers, ranchers, farm workers and their families and caretakers because of the nature of their work. Climbing grain bins, mounting and dismounting tractors or horses, baling hay, feeding livestock, harvesting vegetables, milking cows, and using heavy tools and machinery all require strength and mobility, which are lessened by the affects of arthritis.
Trauma to joints often occurs in agricultural settings, such as the impact on joints when jumping off of tractors or combines, being kicked by large livestock, locking knees when riding in vibrating machinery, or the stress from constant bending when milking cows. This trauma increases the joint stress and pain felt by many agricultural workers.
Since there is no known cure for arthritis, education and awareness of pain management techniques are considered the best practices for treating the disease. This includes, but isn’t limited to joint protection, work simplification and stress reduction. Encouraging individual weight loss, promoting behaviors that reduce shock to joints, and modifying worksites to eliminate high-risk tasks are significant to preventing joint damage. Thus, it’s extremely important that agricultural professionals be kept abreast of the latest education and research based information on arthritis management to ensure their health and well-being.
With the average age of the American farmer climbing above 57, increasingly more farmers will find tasks difficult to complete. Many agricultural workers do not know they may be at risk of developing arthritis.
Tasks such as lifting heavy objects, operating machinery, and working with livestock will become harder to complete as arthritis affects agricultural workers. However, removing these tasks from every-day life may not be an option for a farmer or rancher.
A few solutions can be implemented to help control joint stress and pain in farming situations.
- Wearing quality, non-slip footwear
- Using appropriate assistive aids
- Proper posture when sitting for long periods of time in tractors
- Using the largest joint possible to complete a task
- Avoid gripping and grasping for long periods of time
- Simplify jobs and tasks, and pace yourself throughout the work load
A farmer, rancher, or farm worker may continue to live a productive life in agriculture if they are willing to commit to controlling their arthritis by diet, exercise, modifying their work, and respecting the physical limitations of their bodies. For more complete information about farming and ranching with arthritis, please contact the Arthritis Foundation-Indiana Chapter 1-800-783-2342.
CLICK HERE TO SEE 13 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ARTHRITIS.
[AgrAbility Project, NIFA, USDA Special Project 2008-41590-04796]