You are probably familiar with the joint disease arthritis. When spoken, heard, or read about, it may trigger a visual or personal reference to this fairly common condition and side effects—but do you really know what arthritis is and how it affects the body?
Arthritis is a Greek, Latin, and English term to describe inflammation of one or more of your joints, signaled through joint pain and stiffness.
In the workplace, this condition can debilitate, and put strain on muscle groups, spark unexpected pain points, prevent even small physical tasks from completion, and provide unanticipated periods of fatigue.
Below, we break down the various types of arthritis, along with arthritic causes, preventative measures, and management to keep you, a loved one, or colleague pain-free.
The Most Popular Types of Joint Pain
According to WebMD, there are more than 100 types of arthritis, each with their own set of symptoms, and varying in severity from person to person. The Arthritis Foundation notes a few of the more common types:
- Osteoarthritis: Also known as degenerative joint disease, this form is most commonly found in people older than 65. For those still in the workforce, this cartilage breakdown at the end of the bone where joints are formed can hinder on-site performance.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: Considered arthritis because it impacts the joints, this form primarily attacks the immune system. Gone awry, the thin membrane that lines joints is compromised, causing fluid build up that leads to pain and inflammation. Pain associations could make physical tasks difficult for workers in a variety of fields.
- Fibromyalgia: A condition associated with widespread chronic pain, fatigue, memory problems and changes in mood that impacts approximately 5 million Americans over the age of 18. This form is commonly found in people aged 30-50 and occurs in more women than men. Those with this form may struggle in workplace settings that require extreme memory capacity, physical force, or consistent mood to complete tasks efficiently.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: This form of inflammatory arthritis causes pain, swelling, and damage to joints and is typically onset by a pre-existing condition of psoriasis (a skin rash characterized by its scaly and red nature).
- Gout: Another form of inflammatory arthritis, this one is characterized by high levels of uric acid in the blood, which can form needle-like crystals in joints that cause sudden and severe pain points.
Common Symptom Triggers
While the causes of arthritis are relatively unknown to scientists, studies are currently underway to note correlations between the ailment and the following factors:
- Autoimmune disorders
Each common type has its own unique set of risk factors, currently under evaluation:
- Osteoarthritis: Researchers link this form primarily to genetics and or in the form of a post-traumatic reaction to a previous major injury.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: While the exact cause remains unknown, many doctors feel genetics and environmental factors are primary risk factors.
- Fibromyalgia: Theories link severe injury or a traumatic life event with strong physical or emotional repercussions to this form of arthritis.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: Those with a pre-existing condition of psoriasis are at risk for this condition where early detection is critical.
- Gout: The form with the most distinct risk factors of the bunch: genetics, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, diuretic medication intake, women over the age of 60, consumption of red meat or shellfish, heavy alcohol or soda consumption, obesity, or those that have undergone bypass surgery.
Preventative Measures to Lower Risk
While many arthritic conditions are brought on by genetics, or elements out of your control, there are a few ways to help lower your overall risk.
- Watch your diet. Look for foods, such as those that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation.
- Keep an eye on the scale and your exercise plan. Obesity can put unnecessary pressure on joints, putting you at a greater risk for diseases linked to joint pain.
- Avoid dangerous situations that could result in severe injury—protect your joints! These slips can come back to haunt you in the form of joint pain decades later.
Manage Your Condition: Tips for Those in Pain
Should you find yourself diagnosed with an arthritic condition, or have an employee that has expressed their condition to you, there are a few ways to help mitigate pain levels and manage the condition both inside and outside of the office:
- Remain educated. Know all that you can about particular types of arthritis to help your employees (or yourself) cope with the condition—signs, symptoms, and items that help counteract impacts. Have materials on hand to assist.
- Keep cool. For times when pain and swelling are high, apply a cold compress. (In contrast, apply a heating pad when muscles or joints need a moment of relaxation). Employers—have a dedicated location on-site where these items can be readily found.
- Stay strong. Walk and be active! Build stronger bones and muscle through physical activity. Employers—consider implementation of walking clubs and fitness groups to promote healthy lifestyles in the workplace.
- Watch your diet. Avoid inflammatory foods that can trigger symptoms and make them worse. For quick reference, Healthline has a full list of foods to avoid when you have arthritis.
- Keep important items within reach. Assess items at your desk or workstation and move those you use most close to you. This can help prevent additional strain and pain as you grab for needed items to complete tasks. Employers—be open to the purchase of alternative or additional supplies that may help individuals with any form of arthritis complete tasks without struggle, such as step stools and alternative door knobs.
Curious for a few more office arthritis management tips? The Arthritis Society provides a resource full of ideas for a variety of situations.
How do you prevent or manage arthritis pain? Share your own tips in the comment section below.
Image Source: Michael Dorausch under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic