Osteoarthritis is a condition that results from weakening joint cartilage, as a result of wear and tear over a person’s lifetime. Although this can happen naturally as part of the ageing process, it has long since been believed that undertaking manual jobs that put repeated strain on joints and muscles can lead to long term health problems such as osteoarthritis in joints such as hips, knees and elbows. Now a new study has found a proven link which adds more fuel to this fire.
The research has been undertaken by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), and has assessed patients across 5 cohort studies and 18 case-control studies. The report authors conclude that “people who, in the course of their work, put long-term physical strain on their bodies have an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis of the hip. This is especially the case for those lifting and carrying heavy loads over long periods of time.”
The implications of this are serious for individuals working in environments where repetitive motions and heavy lifting are putting strain on their joints. Osteoarthritis in hip joints can be very painful and debilitating, causing a serious impact on a person’s quality of life.
Occupations that carry higher risk of musculoskeletal damage
According to specialist arthritis website, Arthrolink.com, there are a number of professions where people are at higher risk of developing musculoskeletal problems due to the work they carry out.
- Individuals who regularly use pneumatic drills – these people tend to have a higher likelihood of developing osteoarthritis in joints such as the wrists, elbows and shoulders
- Those working in construction – due to the heavy lifting element of many construction jobs, workers are more likely to report osteoarthritis in the hips, knees, fingers and elbows
- Miners are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis of the knees and elbows, due to the combination of ground work and lifting.
Prevention is easier than cure
If you’re working in an environment where heavy lifting or carrying are expected as part of the role, it is important to take preventative steps to try and mitigate the risks. Report authors from the BAuA research suggest that individuals should not be attempting to lift loads greater than 20kg without mechanical assistance, and they also recommend that occupations screening of hip joints should be undertaken after 15-20 years (at the very minimum) working within a manual job requiring such tasks.
In fact, new research suggests that it is not just manual workers who undertake heavy lifting/carrying who are at risk of developing musculoskeletal problems – not even orthopaedic surgeons are exempt from issues relating to workplace posture. This warning comes from an analysis of 21 articles involving 5,828 doctors in 23 countries between 1974 and 2016 looking at the disease prevalence for the neck, shoulder, back and upper extremity injuries and any resulting disability.
It suggests that the hunched shoulders that surgeons have while undertaking operations contributes to “four in five surgeons experience significant pain when performing procedures”. Surgeons in some instances are reported to be suffering with greater occurrences of back pain than those working in occupations such as mining or construction, where the assumption would naturally be that they would fall into a higher risk category.