Workplace Culture

Arthritis

By Sarah Sipek

Feb. 22, 2016

Symptoms: Intermittent or sharp pain in the ankles, back, fingers, hands, heels, joints, muscles, neck or wrists

Diagnosis:There are two major types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis involves wear-and-tear damage to your joint’s cartilage — the hard, slick coating on the ends of bones. Enough damage can result in bone grinding directly on bone, which causes pain and restricted movement. This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can occur faster after a joint injury or infection.

With rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the lining of the joint capsule, a tough membrane that encloses all the joint parts. This lining, known as the synovial membrane, becomes inflamed and swollen. The disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint.

Doctor’s Orders: Aside from prescription or over-the-counter medications, walk around every 20 to 30 minutes to alleviate the joint stress of sitting. In addition, employees should focus on keeping their feet flat on the floor to keep pressure evenly distributed, said Dr. David Zich, an internist and emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

Employer Action: For employees who spend the day sitting at desks, the right chair and the right positioning can make a world of difference.

“Also, find a chair that fits,” Zich said. “If you can get one with lumbar support, that’s best. If not, provide a small pillow or a tightly rolled up towel to place between the small of an employee’s back and the back of the chair.”

Not sure if your chair fits? Zich recommends using the “1-inch rule.” When sitting back, there should be at least a 1-inch gap between the edge of the seat and the backs of your knees, and the seat of the chair should be at least 1-inch wider than your hips and thighs. The chair’s back should be wide enough for your back, but not too wide to restrict arm movements, such as reaching 90 degrees to your sides.

Sarah Sipek is a Workforce associate editor.

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