CO-Horts Blog

Monday, January 15, 2018

Arthritis and Farming

Arthritis and Farming
By Linda Langelo, CSU Horticulture Program Associate
Arthritis is a debilitating disease that afflicts some 54 million citizens in the United States.  This disease does not discriminate across age, gender or race.  Farmers are among the afflicted.  Being a farmer is a massive job where you need your body to be flexible and in minimal pain to farm effectively. This is not to exclude ranchers and gardeners.  Unfortunately, farmers are at a higher risk for arthritis according to the Arthritis Foundation.  Yes, all types of farming operations and farmers can be in this group.  Beyond the main types of farming operations of corn, wheat, millet and potato farms, the photos below demonstrate the varied types of farms which include tree nurseries, watermelon/cantaloupe farms and organic farming just to name a few. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit:
Osteoarthritis is the arthritis that most commonly affects farmers and ranchers.  This is when the cartilage –the gliding surface of a joint- is destroyed.  Then, the joint rubs bone on bone creating bony overgrowths called “spurs”.  Osteoarthritis is a heredity disease.  Being overweight can cause this as well.  How?  According to the Arthritis Foundation for every pound you gain adds four pounds of additional stress to your knees.  Worst of all, this translates to six times the pressure on your hips. 
As with gardeners, farmers do frequent heavy lifting and repetitive motions, such as constantly bending and kneeling.  The average age of our farmers in the United States is 58 years.  If those farmers have been bending and kneeling for 30 or 40 of those years, it sets the stage for arthritis.
The best thing to do is go to a doctor or visit a rheumatologist for a correct diagnosis.  Then, there are many options such as exercises which help with strength training, range-of-motion, fitness and endurance.
The Arthritis Foundation states that resting during the day is beneficial.  They also state that a good night’s sleep goes a long way to resting the joints.  Pacing yourself through the day by scheduling and taking breaks.  Changing the type of repetitive motion that you do over a twenty minute period.  This sounds like a lot of work even for a gardener.  It is more about rethinking what you do because you are learning a new habit.  It is not always possible to hire someone or pass tasks along to other members of the family.  Taking the time to rethink and invest in yourself helps you preserve the business you have worked your entire life.  You are worth investing in your health.
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