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Wellness tips for office workers suffering from arthritis

Arthritis is a disease characterised by joint pain and inflammation that commonly affects the joints in your hands, knees, elbows, and feet. Among the many types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common. It is degenerative in nature and caused by gradual wear and tear injuries from repetitive joint movements.

Although certain risk factors for the disease such as family history, sex, and age are non-modifiable, there are some predisposing factors that you can work on. Daily habits and lifestyle choices likewise contribute to the development of arthritis and are largely preventable with some modifications.

Arthritis vs. Employees

2018 data released by the Arthritis New Zealand Organization has shown that 670,000 New Zealanders aged 15 years and older suffer from the disease. Knowing that arthritis is a debilitating disease, it can negatively affect the productivity and quality of life of the patients. In fact, the condition has been dubbed by the Ministry of Health as the single greatest cause of disability in the country.

Arthritis likewise affects the employability of a person according to a 2010 report published by the Arthritis New Zealand Organization, which shows that people with arthritis are (about 5%) less likely to be employed compared to people without the disease. In 2018, the disease cost the country 12.2 billion NZD.

What can you do?

Despite medical advancements, there is still no known cure for arthritis. Several treatment options are only geared towards symptomatic management to help the patient function and live their lives as normally and as pain-free as possible.

So far, lifestyle modifications are being advocated to manage and prevent the disease. Maintaining a normal body weight, being physically active, and doing exercises, specifically endurance and resistance workouts, can provide substantial disease-specific benefits for sufferers of osteoarthritis (OA).

Given that, you can just imagine how hard it is for people with arthritis to go on with their regular activities at work and at home. Fortunately, there are home remedies available to help you deal with the symptoms of the disease. As an office worker, there is no denying that working long hours seated behind a desk can wreak havoc on your painful joints.

What can you do to manage your arthritis?

Using proper ergonomics can come a long way in managing the disease. Ergonomics is defined as the process of arranging a workplace to ensure a worker’s efficiency.

Good ergonomics establishes a suitable working environment where people can have a safe, comfortable, and efficient performance of their job. It eliminates the presence of ergonomic hazards that pose the risk of physical pain or injury to the worker because of forceful movements, unnatural postures, improperly designed work areas, and incorrect use of tools and equipment.

Here are some strategies to help you reduce the stress applied to your painful joints while you’re in the office:

  • Keep moving. As much as possible, you should get up from your table and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes. It is also a good idea to take frequent breaks of at least two minutes to rest the joints that you frequently use to do your deskwork.

  • Wear a finger splint for arthritis to stabilize your finger, alleviate pain, and reduce inflammation.

  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. If the height of your chair cannot be adjusted and doesn’t allow you to keep your feet on the floor, you can use a footrest.

  • Ensure that your computer monitor is positioned in such a way that your eyes are level with the topmost part of the screen. It should also be an arm’s length away from you and your line of sight should be centred at 15 degrees from the top.

  • Use an ergonomic chair, preferably a swivel chair, with a five-point base that provides sufficient lumbar support.

  • Ensure that the armrests of your chair can be adjusted to straighten your wrists and support your forearms when you bend your elbows at 90 degrees.

  • Have a cold pack and a hot bag ready. Use hot therapy to relieve joint stiffness in the morning. In the afternoon, you can apply a cold pack to your joints to numb pain and lessen the swelling.

  • Take pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs as prescribed by your doctor.

Finally, while at your workplace, make sure to keep yourself hydrated at all times. Moreover, since arthritis demands that you create a balance between movement and rest, make sure you stretch and walk when you need to. By following these simple tips, you’ll have a better chance managing your arthritic self at work.

You can read Arthritis New Zealand’s 2018 report here.