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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis affects more than 1 in 4 adults in the United States. [source] That’s about 54 million people! For many individuals who have some form of arthritis, one of the biggest worries is how to get or keep a job while trying to navigate complex health issues and symptoms. Fortunately, there are ways to get around this problem, which you’ll soon discover. But first, let’s start with some basics about arthritis…
WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?
Although arthritis is very common, it’s still not well understood. Arthritis isn’t just one single disease but rather encompasses more than 100 different types of related conditions that can affect people of all races, ages, and sexes.
When arthritis becomes severe, it can affect your ability to perform simple daily activities such as walking or climbing stairs. Some different types of arthritis include:
Inflammatory Arthritis – Some researchers think that inflammatory arthritis can be triggered by genetic or environmental factors in the autoimmune system. For example, environmental risk factors such as smoking cigarettes could trigger inflammatory arthritis in people who have certain genes in their DNA.
Infectious Arthritis – This kind of arthritis occurs when a virus, fungus, or bacterium gets into a joint and triggers inflammation. Food poisoning organisms such as salmonella, sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, or a blood-to-blood infection such as hepatitis C are all examples that could cause infectious arthritis.
Metabolic Arthritis – When the uric acid in your body builds up to extreme levels, it forms needle-like crystals in your joints. This uric acid overflow can cause extreme joint pain and is known as a gout attack. This kind of arthritis requires medication to reduce the level of uric acid.
Degenerative Arthritis – Over time, your joints can lose their strength. Your cartilage may begin to erode and lose the cushioning surface that helps protect your bones from rubbing against each other. This degenerative arthritis is called osteoarthritis and can cause swelling, stiffness, and pain.
WORST WORK CONDITIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH ARTHRITIS
Any career that requires you to make repetitive movements or motions on a daily basis can put you at a higher risk for arthritis. This means there are certain work conditions that can put unhealthy strains and stresses on your joints over time. Some of the worst work conditions may include:
- Bending, kneeling and stooping
- Lifting and hauling
- Repetitive motions
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time
- High amounts of stress
WORST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH ARTHRITIS
Musician or Dancer – The strain of repetitive motion when playing a musical instrument or dancing professionally can put your joints at risk for developing arthritis over time.
Construction Worker – Working in construction has the potential for many risks of arthritis. Lifting heavy weights and the repetitive motions of air hammers may create problems in the hands, shoulders, and wrists.
Factory Worker – The repeated motions of work in mass production such as clothing or textile manufacturing can put stress on joints.
Truck Driver – It may be romantic to think of riding across the country with the wind in your hair, but a truck driving job may require heavy lifting and poor posture from sitting all day long. This could lead to a risk of back arthritis.
Paramedic – Paramedics and other emergency personnel often have to carry patients in dangerous situations. This not only causes back pain but can lead to arthritis in the knees.
HOW TO COPE WITH ARTHRITIS IN THE WORKPLACE
Working with arthritis is difficult but not impossible. Here are some strategies to help you better navigate the workplace:
- Take Breaks – Repetitive motions can exacerbate the pain of arthritis. Whenever possible, try to take a break and stretch.
- Use Good Posture – No matter if you’re sitting in one position all day or moving a lot at work, your joints are likely to act up if you don’t keep them in a neutral position. Consider trying to keep your knees slightly bent if you have to stand. If sitting in a chair, keep your feet extended forward a bit.
- Keep Moving – Be sure to change positions frequently as you go about working through the day.
- Bend Your Knees – If you have to lift heavy objects for your job, be sure to bend your knees while you lift in order to avoid putting stress on your back.
- Assistive Devices – Consider using tools like ergonomic computer keyboards so that your hands and wrists are aligned.
BEST WORK CONDITIONS FOR PEOPLE WITH ARTHRITIS
As an arthritis sufferer, you should aim for a job that meets as many of the following work conditions as possible:
- Adaptive Equipment – According to the Arthritis Foundation, adaptive equipment such as ergonomic desk chairs, keyboards, and voice recognition software can be an effective and low-cost method to help employees with arthritis in the workplace. [source] Consider asking your employer for accommodations that will help with symptoms.
- Flexible Schedule – Many employers today are considering alternative ways to help their employees with a flexible schedule. Shorter work days and working from home may help to keep good employees with arthritis more productive and in the workforce.
- Work from Home – Being able to work from home when you have a flare-up of arthritis offers a flexible and convenient solution for managing your symptoms.
- Lower Physical Demands – Setting up your workplace with equipment like a low swivel chair with wheels may help you to lower the physical demands of your job. Consider other options such as using a trackball instead of a mouse or setting up keyboard shortcuts on your computer keyboard.
BEST JOBS FOR PEOPLE WITH ARTHRITIS
Given the optimal work conditions outlined above, here are a few jobs that are best suited to those with arthritis:
Virtual Assistant – Working as a virtual assistant allows you to work at your own schedule and choose clients that will suit your strengths and skills.
Part-Time Accountant – Professional careers such as accounting or other highly-trained occupations may offer a way to continue practicing despite the physical limitations of dealing with arthritis. Working part-time or hiring an assistant to help with physical tasks, or using accommodative aids like dictation software may help keep you in the workforce with a career you love.
Nonprofit Organization – Working in an environment with people who may have similar challenges such as arthritis can be very rewarding. Employers in nonprofit organizations may be more likely to understand your condition and open to hiring people with physical limitations. They also may be more willing to find accommodations to help make you more productive in your career.
Software Engineer – Although this career can require sitting for long periods of time, many employers in this field tend to be more progressive and open to giving a flexible schedule to someone with physical challenges such as arthritis. Accommodations such as getting a standing desk or an ergonomic keyboard, along with the possibility of a flexible schedule make this an enticing job prospect.
Photo Editor – Being a photo editor can be a creative and fulfilling career. This job also gives you the flexibility to set your own schedule and doesn’t require the extreme physical demands of other careers.
Survey Taker – While not exactly lucrative, doing surveys online can be a nice way to bring in some extra income every month while pursuing other interests. But you have to be able to tell apart good companies from bad (i.e., scams).
Start Your Own Business – Starting your own business such as an eCommerce shop or consulting may be a great match if you have arthritis. Having your own business gives you the flexibility to manage your own hours when your symptoms get out of control. Consider doing a careful analysis of your strengths and weaknesses in order to maximize your opportunities with the skills you have.
Affiliate Marketing – The idea behind affiliate marketing is to promote or market other people’s products and services you have interest in and earn commission for each sale you make. This business model is based on revenue sharing. While it can take a while to get going, the potential to make money can also be highly lucrative.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!
What jobs for people with arthritis would you recommend? How have you dealt with arthritis in the workplace in the past? Leave your comments below!