Dealing with arthritis


Business Operations Operations Production Manufacturing manufacturing Safety

How to reduce its impact in the workplace.



Arthritis affects workers in all walks of life. Common symptoms such as pain, fatigue, joint swelling, stiffness and limited movement, make it difficult to perform any job.

The Arthritis Society of Canada cites it as one of the leading causes of disability in Canada and it typically occurs during the prime working years, between ages 35 to 50. More than half of the 4.6 million affected by the disease are younger than 65 and more than 7 million adults will be diagnosed over the next 20 years.

Modifying the way sufferers do their work helps to reduce the adverse effects of the disease. Pass along these tips to workers:

Modify the work environment. Organize the workspace so frequently used items are within easy reach. Workers should stand square to the workstation to avoid bending or twisting. A footrest decreases pressure on the lower back and an anti-fatigue mat relieves strain while standing for long periods on hard floors. A chair mat makes sliding or turning a chair easier.


Maintain a good posture. Sit in a proper upright, relaxed position to avoid strain on the back, neck or limbs. Hips, knees, ankles and elbows should be at a 90-degree angle. Place arm rests at the right height, with shoulders and elbows in a relaxed position. A properly adjusted chair provides good support to the back and legs.

For those using a computer. A split keyboard puts hands, wrists and forearms in a more natural position, and a trackball mouse reduces hand and arm movement. Place the chair within a comfortable distance from the computer with elbows in a relaxed 90-degree angle to the keyboard. Eyes should be about 40 to 70 centimetres from the monitor, which is at eye level.

Be careful when moving or lifting. Use a dolly or cart to help reduce back, arm and leg strain. Try to roll or slide heavy objects. Push, don’t pull. Don’t rush. Ask a co-worker for assistance. Use a step stool to reach items that are on high shelves, and use a briefcase on wheels when taking work home or to a meeting.

Wear appropriate shoes or boots. Footwear should support feet and promote good posture. Avoid high heels. Insoles help decrease strain on feet, legs and lower back.

Take care of yourself. Getting enough sleep, a healthy diet and exercising regularly mitigates the effects of arthritis. Work at a moderate, reasonable pace and get extra rest before important events. Alternate between sitting, standing and walking as much as possible and take stretch breaks. Keep moving.

This article was provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).


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