Area of Focus

General Information

Arthritis

Arthritis is a general term covering numerous conditions where the joint surface cartilage wears out. It is also called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. This disease affects cartilage, the tissue that cushions and protects the ends of bones in a joint and allows smooth, pain free movement in the joint. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage starts to wear away over time. This causes joint pain and limits a person’s normal range of motion. As the disease progresses, the cartilage can completely wear away causing bone-on-bone contact.

Symptoms

Arthritic symptoms generally include swelling, pain, tenderness, aching, limitation of joint motion and/or early morning stiffness. Arthritis is diagnosed by a combination of physical examination, medical history and x-ray or other clinical study. Treatment options include rest, avoidance of vigorous weight bearing activities, and the use of anti inflammatory medications. With worsening symptoms injection therapy can also be helpful. When conservative measures have been exhausted, joint replacement surgery may be recommended.

 

Knee and Hip Arthritis is the

SILENT OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE

that No One Tells You About.

The knee joint, which appears like a simple hinge-joint, is one of the most complex joints in the body and is more likely to be injured than any other joint. The knee is where the femur (thigh bone) meets the tibia (shin bone). Two round knobs called condyles are found on the end of the thigh bone. The kneecap (patella) glides through a special groove formed by the two condyles. As in the hip, articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones. It is about one quarter of an inch thick in most large joints. It is white and shiny with a rubbery consistency and allows the surfaces to slide against one another. It also absorbs shock and is the major component to smooth motion of the joint.

     

The knee joint, which appears like a simple hinge-joint, is one of the most complex joints in the body and is more likely to be injured than any other joint. The knee is where the femur (thigh bone) meets the tibia (shin bone). Two round knobs called condyles are found on the end of the thigh bone. The kneecap (patella) glides through a special groove formed by the two condyles. As in the hip, articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones. It is about one quarter of an inch thick in most large joints. It is white and shiny with a rubbery consistency and allows the surfaces to slide against one another. It also absorbs shock and is the major component to smooth motion of the joint.

     

There can be many causes to arthritis. When and how it starts is subject to much discussion. However, once present, there is no question that performing the arduous, physical tasks of a labor occupation accelerates the progression of the disease and increases the symptoms. Load bearing activities such as stair climbing, bending, stooping, lifting, kneeling, squatting, twisting and carrying over a prolonged period and an injury to the joint are thought to be the most common factors leading to arthritis. A combination of these two factors will almost certainly result in a case of arthritis.

For instance, doing the labor intensive job of a firefighter, letter carrier, law enforcement officer, mechanic, etc. on a knee that has suffered a torn meniscus will inevitably lead to an arthritic knee. As load bearing joints, the knees and hips are particularly susceptible to arthritis. A generation ago it was thought that arthritis was just a normal part of the aging process. However that school of thought is now long outdated and no longer accepted in the medical community. There has been a significant amount of medical study and research over the past 15 years that conclusively shows that regularly engaging in what are referred to as “high impact loading activities” will contribute to the development, progression and acceleration of existing arthritic disease of the hips and knees. This is of special interest to those in labor occupations as their jobs require engaging in lthese activities constantly throughout their work day. This results in a significant extra strain on the hip and knee joints.

An interesting fact in support of this proposition is that ascending stairs loads on the lower extremity weight-bearing joints of the hips and knees approximately 3 times body weight and descending stairs loads on the lower extremity weight-bearing joints of the hips and knees approximately 6 times body weight. So, if you are a letter carrier with a 35 pound mail satchel going up and down hundreds of stairs a day or if you are a firefighter with 70 pounds of equipment climbing up and down ladders as a regular part of your job, it is highly likely that before the end of your career you will be experiencing the debilitating pain, stiffness and aching of arthritis.