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From the Extension Agent’s Desk - Arthritis and Agriculture

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By Jeramy McNeely, CSU Extension Agent

According to recent studies, arthritis affects approximately one-third of all adult farm and ranch operations and is considered one of the leading causes of disability by customers of the USDA AgrAbility Project.  It tends to affect most ag industry workers in their hands, knees, and hips mainly because these are the joints that take the most pressure. 

Trauma to these joints in relation to farming and ranching occurs when jumping off tractors, being kicked by large livestock, or constant bending when milking cows.  It can also occur from repetitive motions such as gripping tools, walking on cement floors, or locking knees when riding in vibrating machinery all day.

There is no known cure for arthritis but it can be managed so that its progress is slowed and its effects minimized.  That management should begin with an arthritis team that can involve your family doctor, a rheumatologist, the pharmacist, and in some cases a physical therapist and occupational therapist.  There are going to help you with the most important step which is a diagnosis and treatment program.

When it comes to farming and ranching, there are some pain management practices that you can follow to ease the burden.  Some of those practices are:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid gripping and grasping for long periods of time
  • Organize the day by ranking the day’s tasks in order of importance
  • Use built-up handles on tools.  Rubber hose or washcloths can help
  • Wearing quality, non-slip footwear
  • Use the largest joint possible to complete a task
  • Simplify your work with labor saving devices

These are just a few techniques that you can use to alleviate arthritis pain encountered during you daily work.  For more information concerning arthritis and agriculture, research the following resources:

Farmers and ranchers may extend productive life in agriculture if they are willing to commit to controlling their arthritis by diet, exercise, modifying their work, and respecting their limitations. 

For more information, contact your local Extension Office:  Baca County 719-523-6971, Bent County 719-456-0764, Cheyenne County 719-767-5716, Crowley County 719-267-5243, Kiowa County 719-438-5321, Otero County 719-254-7608, Prowers County 719-336-7734 or your local health department.  Find us on the web at: