Arthritis in Agriculture

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the inflammation of the joint. As many know, arthritis is a serious condition that can lead to pain and swelling. It can become such a problem that it inhibits work or daily activities.

What is the common type of arthritis for farmers/ranchers?

The most common type of arthritis that affects farmers and ranchers is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is when the cartilage is broken down in the joints. Without cartilage the bones would rub together, which could make the bones thicken and create growths called “spurs.” This type of arthritis is most common in the joints that hold majority of the body weight, including hips, knees, and the spine.

This can become excruciatingly painful and limit mobility of joints. Added weight can make the arthritis more severe, so keeping a healthy weight can be an important part of arthritis management. Stress on joints can develop from repeated actions, such as lifting heavy objects, bending, or using vibrating machines on a daily basis. This includes baling or moving hay, lifting heavy water pales or feed systems, or daily milking.

How can you manage arthritis?

First of all, anyone who thinks they have arthritis should get a consultation with their personal doctor. Once a diagnosis is given, there are many ways that doctors and physical therapists suggest managing arthritis to slow down its progression. It’s important to remember that each person is different and their managing techniques should reflect that. Suggestions include exercises to improve strength and flexibility, positions for joint pain relief, and added support from splits or braces.

Managing Tips:

  • Heat/ Cold Treatments: Taking a warm shower can reduce stiffness and make exercising easier while an ice pack can reduce the pain in swollen joints.
  • Exercising: Doing specific exercises suggested by a physical therapist can aid in range of motion, strength and endurance.
  • Stress Relief: Coping with stress is difficult, but essential. Try simplifying your life by prioritizing, delegating work, or simplifying the work you are doing with machines.


Interested in learning more, check out the National AgrAbility’s publication Arthritis and Agriculture (PDF).