Nobody knows how it feels to receive the diagnosis of Rheumatoid arthritis, especially in young patients with a working career and a future ahead of them. After receiving such news and starting their treatment, most people try to continue with their lives regardless of their chronic disease, but it’s not always easy.
According to a study performed in Norfolk in the year 2000, almost one-third of patients with rheumatoid arthritis usually stop working within 2 years after receiving a diagnosis.
However, a more recent study performed in France in 2012 and 2013 shows that almost 75% of patients stay employed, and most of them are women over 45 years old. But how is it possible to stay at work if you have rheumatoid arthritis? Is there a way to cope?
Working with Arthritis IS worth the effort!
As a starting point though, is there any benefit at all if patients with rheumatoid arthritis fight for their employment? Yes, there is! According to a study on the subject, being employed confers certain health benefits, even if you suffer from this condition. Women who are employed regardless of their arthritis tend to experience better treatment outcomes in their clinical status, their everyday roles, and disability measures.
Maintaining their employment may turn out to be important for patients with arthritis, especially those who have always kept their jobs and fulfill a provider role in their family. They tend to feel more motivated, undergo their treatment with more enthusiasm, and feel more stable emotionally, which has been found to correlate with an improvement in arthritic symptoms as well.
Help yourself to keep working
There are plenty of things you can do if you want to stay at work, and if your workplace has an occupational therapist, it would be a great aid to ask for extra help. It is imperative to assess your work, the workload, and the type of physical effort you need to do. In some cases, certain jobs might be too demanding on your bones and articulations, but you might have the choice to stay at work and keep supporting your organization in a closely related task.
However, even if your current position is not especially hard on your articulations, you might have problems to stay active and keep up the good work. That’s when you need to adopt certain joint protection techniques and keep in mind the importance of managing your energy appropriately.
According to studies, if you incorporate joint protection principles into your daily life –not only during working hours-, it will bring out significant improvements in your mobility and physical energy. The BBC also mentioned how to help get you through your working day with Arthritis.
Step 1: Manage your energy
It is normal to feel less energy than average co-workers if you have rheumatoid arthritis, especially if you are experiencing flare-ups. Therefore, the organization and management of your activities are especially important for you. More than that, it is absolutely necessary.
To manage your time, always be realistic when deciding what you want to achieve. Try to balance physical activities with restful ones in one day, and spread the physical work throughout your week or month. Whenever you can do it, consider the time to sit down and have some spare time for yourself. And when you do it, enjoy it while clearing away your mind from work.
Remember your energy starts draining as the day goes by. Try not to start your day with the most physical tasks, but don’t leave it for the end either. Prioritize and schedule your work, and remember your health is always more important.
Step 2: Avoid static positions and repetitive actions
Stepping out of your bed might sometimes be challenging, especially during cold mornings. One of the reasons is adopting static positions in your sleep. While there’s nothing you can do at night, there’s definitely something you can change during the daytime, and especially at work: Try not to adopt static positions for a long time.
If you need to write on the computer, stand up and do some stretches every 20 minutes. Stretch not only your legs but also your shoulders and forehands. These movements loosen your stiffness and help you remain at your workplace for a long time without pain or discomfort.
If you need to keep a static position holding something on your hand or using a set of muscles, try to alternate hands or the muscle groups you are using. Change positions continually, and always think about the articulations you have not moved for a long time now.
On the other hand, watch out for repetitive actions as well, especially if they are heavy on your articulations. Writing, typing, knitting, mixing a cake, and many other repetitive movements put a strain on a single joint and may increase your arthritis symptoms or cause problems in the long term. You’re not doomed if you need to perform this type of movements as long as you keep in mind the importance of resting, stretching the rest of your body, and always listening to your body talks.
Step 3: Protect your articulations from deformities
Keep in mind that deformities in your fingers, wrists, and toes usually come after the years, but there’s something you can do to slow down the process. First off, try to avoid all types of pressure on your articulations, especially those in your hands. Avoid movements such as squeezing, screwing, or turning taps.
Try to hold objects with your hands instead of your fingers, and whenever you’re able to rest objects on a table, do so instead of holding them in front of you. Instead of a tight grip with your fingers, try to use your palm to grip or hold objects. If you follow this advice, you will not solve your underlying problem, but the deformity process will slow down exponentially.
Whatever you do, don’t feel discouraged if you find yourself with aggravating symptoms, if one day you wake up with persistent pain, or whenever a flare-up hits you. Keep your calm, focus on what you need to do, and always remember the importance of keeping your health first.
Step 4: Amazon Anti-Arthritis gloves?
A great way to solve this problem is to wear a pair of Arthritis gloves. This is a new idea and we admit will take a while to get used to for yourself and others but if the pain is too much then this will be the ultimate answer.
Others will understand and you may find them asking you where you bought your pair!
Barrett, E. M., Scott, D. G. I., Wiles, N. J., & Symmons, D. P. M. (2000). The impact of rheumatoid arthritis on employment status in the early years of disease: a UK community‐based study. Rheumatology, 39(12), 1403-1409.
Bertin, P., Fagnani, F., Duburcq, A., Woronoff, A. S., Chauvin, P., Cukierman, G., … & Kobelt, G. (2016). Impact of rheumatoid arthritis on career progression, productivity, and employability: The PRET Study. Joint Bone Spine, 83(1), 47-52.
Helewa, A., Goldsmith, C. H., Tugwell, P., Hanes, B., Bombardier, C., Smythe, H. A., & Lee, P. (1991). Effects of occupational therapy home service on patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The Lancet, 337(8755), 1453-1456.
Jenkins, J. (2011). Rheumatoid Arthritis: A self-help guide to getting on with your life. Hachette UK.
Steultjens, E. M., Dekker, J., Bouter, L. M., Van Schaardenburg, D., van Kuyk, M. A. H., & Van Den Ende, C. H. (2002). Occupational therapy for rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, 47(6), 672-685.