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Farmers adapt on the job to help battle arthritis
May 26, 2007
Lafayette Journal & Courier
Lifestyle changes, new equipment and
modifying their tasks can help ease pain
Williams has spent his life working on the family farm in Daviess
County, but the job has worn on his body.
"I was always big and strong and could
carry four buckets of water at a time," the 61-year-old said.
But years of hard work have taken a toll on Williams' joints. He is now
part of the large group of farmers -- approximately one-third of the
nation's total -- who suffer from arthritis. Across the country, 46
million people have arthritis, including 1.4 million in Indiana.
has gotten help recently from Purdue University's Breaking New Ground
Resource Center on ways to cope with the condition.
of overuse of muscles and joints on the job, farmers are prone to
developing arthritis and should modify their work habits to stay
healthy, said Bill Field, a Purdue Extension safety specialist.
"Farmers tend to do things that abuse the knees. They jump on or off
the machinery, stoop or kneel down . . . like a dairy farmer who's
twice a day doing the same task hundreds of times," he said.
there's no cure for arthritis -- and the average age of farmers is
pushing 55 -- Field said his group is focused on raising awareness of
ways to avoid joint deterioration.
Extension and Breaking New Ground recently teamed up with the Arthritis
Foundation, Indiana Chapter, to produce the educational DVD "Gaining
Ground on Arthritis: Managing Arthritis in the Agricultural Workplace."
teaches farmers about new equipment and techniques they can use to
decrease body strain.
Field advises some farmers to lose weight, to reduce stress on joints.
Some he tells to use ergonomic hand tools, with larger handles so they
don't have to compress their hands so much.
others, Field suggests they use machines with bench seats and better
shocks -- to support the back -- and lower steps to ease the strain
from getting into or out of the large equipment.
"Steps on the tractors makes it a lot easier to get on because we have
mostly older equipment," Williams said. "The Mule (4x4 utility vehicle)
has been a tremendous help. It enables me to go to the barn and pick up
parts and come back out here and work on different things. These
devices make my job easier to where I can still get out there and still
said he's encouraging farmers, such as his son Kyle, to adopt practices
explained in the DVD as preventive measures while they are still young
"You manage arthritis by changing your lifestyle," Field said. "People
can reduce stress on joints by losing weight. Without that, we're going
to see a lot more arthritis."
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