What are the benefits of working with arthritis?

What are the most common symptoms experienced by people working with MSDs?

Should I tell my employer about my arthritis?

What can I do to manage my arthritis in the workplace?

What kind of changes might be made at work - outside and inside the home

Download Working with Arthritis, Back Pain & Related Conditions - A Guide for Employees

What are the benefits of working with arthritis?

OsteoarthritisRheumatoid arthritis, back pain and back problems, work-related neck and upper limb disorders (WRULDs such as epicondylitis 'tennis' or 'golfer’s elbow', carpal tunnel syndrome; repetitive strain injury (RSI), neck pain) and Osteoporosis are all examples of Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

This is an umbrella term covering over 200 conditions that affect the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, peripheral nerves and supporting blood vessels, and are among the most prevalent conditions in the world.

Work is good for your health. As well as improving your financial security, employment can boost your health and happiness. It is a vital part of modern life; it provides you with income and can be a valuable source of purpose and meaning. Work can be therapeutic and can reverse the adverse health effects of unemployment.

People with arthritis should therefore be encouraged and supported to remain in or to re-enter work if possible as it:

  • is therapeutic
  • helps to promote recovery and rehabilitation
  • leads to better health outcomes
  • minimises the harmful physical, mental, and social effects of long-term sickness absence
  • reduces the risk of long-term incapacity
  • promotes full participation in society
  • reduces poverty
  • leads to better self-esteem
  • improves quality of life and well-being

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What are the most common symptoms experienced by people working with arthritis?

  • problems with mobility or functioning
  • early morning stiffness
  • pain
  • fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • reduced stamina
  • decreased agility

These symptoms can all be worsened by having to work from home. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people are working from home in spaces that are not designed for work. This can lead to a worsening of pain, stiffness and fatigue.

Some manual jobs may be more difficult to manage, particularly if they require heavy physical work, standing or lifting. It may be necessary to explore with your employer, whether it is feasible to consider other options such as changing your duties, having additional training, or seeking an alternative type of work.

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Should I tell my employer about my arthritis?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer: you will need to make a judgement about if and when to tell your employer. Your decision will, of course, be influenced by the type of work you do and whether, or how much, your condition affects your ability to do the job.

It may not affect your work at all – other than time off for hospital appointments – but hiding it and struggling on if you have difficulties, could make your arthritis worse. Employers are generally supportive once they know you want to remain a productive worker and remain an employee with them.

However, you do have a duty to tell an employer about a health condition if it might present a health and safety risk to yourself or other work colleagues or may affect your ability to carry out the work.

Further information on disclosure while working or applying for a job is available in the booklet

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What can I do to manage my arthritis in the workplace?

Everyone copes with the effects of their arthritis in different ways. There are some practical things you can do yourself:

Practical tips

  • be proactive. Find out as much as you can about your arthritis. The more you understand your condition, the more you will feel in control about the decisions you take.
  • Give information leaflets about your condition to your employer and ask them to read them.
  • Remember that your healthcare team is there to provide support. If your condition changes or you feel it is not well controlled, ask for help quickly. Do not just put up with it!
  • Ask your nurse or physiotherapist about different methods of pain control.
  • A physiotherapist can help with pain management and simple exercises, such as stretching and keeping mobile at work.
  • A podiatrist can help with problems with your feet or ankles. They can give advice and treatment to help reduce your pain. It can make all the difference at work to have comfortable feet.
  • Seek advice and support from an occupational therapist at an early stage. They can advise on a wide range of work issues. For example, they can assess if the work role is appropriate for you and can liaise with your employer to negotiate adjustments/changes if needed.
  • If your company has its own occupational health adviser, you may prefer to approach them first. Their role is to support the health of employees at work.

Further information on Healthy Practices to follow in the Workplace (outside and inside the home) can be found at the attached link.

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What kind of changes might be made at work - outside and inside the home

Detailed information on;

      i. relieving pain

     ii. making changes to equipment

    iii. making changes to the physical environment

    iv. training in new skills

and

    v. potential alterations in working hours is available here

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Further information about Legislation, legal rights, Health and Safety, ‘reasonable’ accommodation, sick leave, and social welfare supports can all be found in the Working with Arthritis, Back Pain & Related Conditions downloadable booklet.

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