Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Font Size

Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Working Women’s Guide

The truth is, having RA affects every part of your life. And that's especially true when it comes to the place you may spend the majority of your waking hours: at work. There's a lot you can do to get your workspace setup to minimize the impact RA has on your job. Developing new habits and arranging your workspace to fit your needs -- by applying the principles of ergonomics -- can have a big effect on your productivity and how you feel.

It may surprise you how much some changes can help. A 2004 study of 600 workers with rheumatoid arthritis found that those whose workspaces had been modified to make them more comfortable were 60% less likely to miss work and report a work-related disability. 

Recommended Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Family Planning and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Although anyone can get rheumatoid arthritis, women with RA outnumber men by about three to one. Many women with rheumatoid arthritis are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, just when marriage and family start to take life's center stage. With pain, fatigue, and medication side effects to consider, there's no question rheumatoid arthritis makes family planning more complicated. But RA doesn't have to put your dreams of having a family out of reach. If you're thinking about starting a family while...

Read the Family Planning and Rheumatoid Arthritis article > >

Not sure how to start? An ergonomic evaluation can help improve the layout of your work area. You can do it yourself by using checklists available online through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Or, depending on your employer, you may be able to ask for a professional evaluation. Your occupational or physical therapist can also help you learn how to do tasks on the job with less stress to your joints.

Here are some other tips for RA-friendly working.

RA and Work: Pay Attention to Posture

"Stand up straight," Mom used to say -- and she was right. Whether you sit or stand on the job, good posture is especially important with rheumatoid arthritis. Poor posture not only puts stress on joints; it can actually waste body energy and increase fatigue, even when you're just sitting.

For good posture, try this: Imagine a string from the ceiling to the top of your head, and then lift your head, neck, and shoulders upward, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Avoid locking your knees and tuck in your pelvis. If you've ever tried walking with a book balanced on your head, you get the idea.

Positions and Tasks: Mix Them Up

Sitting at your desk and doing the same task over and over are especially hard on your body when you have RA. Sitting at a computer monitor for long periods, for example, can make anyone's joints stiff and sore. Give yourself little breaks throughout the day. Stretch at your desk, go for a brisk walk at lunchtime, and take the long way to the fax machine or restroom.

Try to do different tasks during the day to give your joints a rest. If your job involves repetitive movement, such as turning bolts on machinery or typing, try to break it up with other tasks. Switch back and forth between light and heavy tasks.

Change positions when sitting, and alternate standing and sitting when possible.

On Your Feet: Create a Good Standing Workspace

If you stand most of the day, try alternating putting one foot on a step, low stool, or book so that it is a little higher than the other. This helps keep your pelvis well aligned. Ditch your high heels and go for shoes with good cushioning and support -- and keep heels to an inch high or less. Special inserts in your shoes (orthotics) may also help.

Organize your work area to make it easier on your joints, so that you don't have to lift, reach, or carry too much. If you work in different areas throughout the day, consider using an apron or tool belt to carry the items you need.

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

fish oil capsule
Article
senior woman holding green apple
Article
 
young women in yoga class
Video
Man with knee brace
Article
 
Lucille Ball
Slideshow
Hand bones X-ray
Article
 
prescription pills
Article
Woman massaging her neck
Quiz
 
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Slideshow
Woman rubbing shoulder
Slideshow
 
Working out with light weights
Video
arthritis
Article