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Farming with arthritis

David Ekstrom Updated: 09/11/2013 @ 5:38pm

Farmers are always on the go. Working all day and climbing in and out of machinery can take a toll on joints. Arthritis is the most common chronic disease in the U.S., and it’s important to be aware of it before it’s too late.

Arthritis reduces mobility, physical strength, and the ability to complete routine tasks. This can mean daily changes in joint pain and mobility, which can affect completion of even the most basic farm chores. Kerri Ebert, coordinator for the Kansas AgrAbility Project says treatment and care should be directed by health care professionals, but simplifying chores and using assistive solutions can help reduce joint stress. 

Joint damage cannot be reversed, but modifying tasks and equipment can help prevent further damage. To accommodate arthritis-related limitation on the farm, Kansas AgrAbility encourages farmers to consider assistive technology solutions:

•    Use wheels to move feed, tools, or other equipment to eliminate heavy lifting and carrying. Wheeled assistive devices range from a simple wheelbarrow to a motorized utility vehicle or golf cart, depending on needs and budget.
•    Use extended handles on tools to help conserve energy. Less force will be needed to manipulate objects.
•    Choose ergonomically designed, lightweight tools to reduce joint stress, pain, and fatigue.
•    Use spring-loaded, self-adjusting, or ratcheting tools to reduce pressure on joints while increasing leverage and force with minimal pressure.
•    Add mirrors to the inside and outside of tractor cabs to reduce the need to twist to see out the back window.
•    Install spinner knobs and handles to help with limited grasp and range of motion on the steering wheel. Thicker grips on hand tools also help with grip.
•    Place cushioned mats on the floor in workshop areas to help reduce joint and back pain.

Many farm-related tasks can be modified slightly so a farmer with arthritis can perform them more easily, Ebert said. It is important to develop an effective treatment plan with a medical professional, follow the plan, and respect your body’s limits.

You can learn more about farming with arthritis by visiting the Kansas AgrAbility website at http://agrability.bae.ksu.edu.

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