Rheumatoid Arthritis on the Job
RA has a great impact on our lives, from our ability to perform daily activities such as caring for ourselves and our homes to getting around town and performing effectively at work. People with RA, like those with other chronic conditions often suffer from pain and fatigue that can affect their ability to be productive at their jobs.
Studies over the years have shown that people with RA tend to have a much higher incidence of functional limitation in performing work activities, use many more sick days than people without RA and have a much high rate of unemployment due to disability. In fact, according to a recent online survey reported by RAonthejob.com:
- Approximately 50 percent of respondents said they were less productive at work because of their condition.
- Nearly 60 percent reported that they are not working due to their RA.
- Of those who were working, almost 40% had missed days at work during the past year due to their RA.
The following are some tips from the Arthritis Foundation and Raonthejob.com for managing RA at the workplace:
- Creating an efficient work environment. Arrange your area to limit the amount of lifting, reaching, carrying, holding or walking necessary.
- Requesting a ergonomic evaluation of your workstation to make it comfortable, functional, and less likely to aggravate symptoms or cause pain over time. Examples of good ergonomic design include wrist or arm rests to reduce stress on the wrist when typing and positioning one chair to promote comfortable and correct posture, and lowering the computer monitor to reduce neck strain.
- Varying activities periodically to avoid sitting in one position or doing too much repetitive activity for too long.
- Being more active throughout the day. Try parking farther from the entrance or taking a walk at lunch.
- Setting priorities and pacing yourself. List the tasks you must do in order of importance, and do the most important ones while you feel strongest and most energetic. Reduce the number of unnecessary tasks.
- Reducing stress. Stress can aggravate symptoms and increase pain. Try some relaxation exercises and stretches at your workstation to help relieve tension.
You may also want to seek help from an occupational therapist . Occupational therapists are health professionals that help people function better in all areas of daily life, including in the home, at work, and in the community.
Occupational therapists can help you determine what physical skills are involved in specific jobs. They can perform an ergonomic evaluation of your workstation and suggest changes and modifications to make working easier. They can also design adaptive equipment or assistive devices to help you function better, both at work and at home.
Christine Miller wrote about rheumatoid arthritis as a Patient Expert for HealthCentral. She was diagnosed at 16 months old with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and has gone through the ebbs and flows of disease activity — many medications, much time spent in physical and occupational therapy, surgeries, and periods of relative remission.