The Dos and Don’ts of Joint Replacement and Dairy Farming

Farmers don’t get days off. Dairy farmers work long hours every day of the year to care for their animals and produce high-quality products for consumers. Reaching or kneeling to milk cows, climbing in and out of tractors, and lifting and twisting to feed animals day in and day out can become very stressful on the farmer’s body. The repetitive activities on a daily basis can lead to chronic pain, arthritis, or even total joint replacement.

A painful knee or hip joint can impair a farmer’s ability to be productive on the farm, making simple tasks like daily chores or walking from one location to another difficult.  Because of the farmer’s busy schedule, often times resolving their joint pain is put off until they physically cannot keep working. Joint replacements are usually the result of arthritis that has worn away too much of the bone. Putting off the surgery can cause secondary injury due to overcompensation on the other side of the body, causing further damage on the opposite hip or knee. When all attempts to alleviate the pain have been exhausted, a total joint replacement may be recommended.

There is never a good time for a farmer to be away from the farm. Unfortunately, joint replacements require an extended period of recovery time and rehabilitation, and it can take up to six months for patients to return to normal activities. It is important to have a plan in place and prepare a timeline to return to essential farming activities along with a healthcare provider. This plan should include ideas for providing assistance and alternative methods to complete daily farm tasks.

Farm work is different than most occupations. Farmers do large amounts of manual labor, daily repetitive tasks, and tasks that require squatting, standing for long periods of time or climbing steep stairs, which may cause damage to the artificial joint over time due to wear and tear. The more vigorous the task, the higher the risk of damaging the implant. It is crucial to discuss plans with a doctor. The doctor will typically begin a physical therapy routine in the first few days after surgery. It can be challenging or seem unnecessary, but it is very important to take therapy seriously. The more diligent the patient is about doing exercises, the sooner they will regain mobility and return to normal activities.

Progression is key to a successful recovery. Walking after surgery begins with using a walker or other assistive devices, and the patient will eventually graduate to walking on their own. Each day of recovery, a physical therapist will gradually increase rehabilitative exercises and activities. The use of pain medication is reduced a few weeks into recovery and completely eliminated after just over a month. It is important for the patient to slowly work their way back into their farm work, starting with light duty tasks, such as mowing the lawn or driving a gator to feed calves, working up to normal work activities like milking cows.

Dairy farming is a strenuous occupation. Taking the necessary steps to prevent or treat joint injuries is crucial to the success of the operation.

Additional Resources:

Ohio State University Extension: http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/AEX-981.15

Real Life Tested: http://reallifetested.co.uk/hip-pain/after-treatment/hip-replacement-surgery-dos-and-donts

Irish Country Living: http://www.farmersjournal.ie/what-to-expect-from-a-knee-replacement-179997