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Five tips for accommodating employees with osteoarthritis

Nearly 1 in 7 Americans has an orthopedic impairment.

Modern American employees work longer hours and stick around the office past the traditional retirement age. And, the more time employees spend at work means the more time they spend on their feet, or glued to their chairs, which can cause long-term wear and tear on the body. This wear and tear can lead to chronic conditions—conditions like osteoarthritis.

What is osteoarthritis?

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Osteoarthritis is a painful, degenerative joint disease External Site that often involves the hips, knees, neck or lower back. This condition can stem from a prior injury, wrong movement or carrying excess body weight. There are a number of treatments for osteoarthritis External Site, however if not treated right away, it can lead to the full replacement of a knee or hip down the road.

The workplace impact on employee osteoarthritis

Did you know? Workplaces that have employees standing, sitting or kneeling for several hours without breaks or ergonomically friendly furniture can contribute to osteoarthritis. Of course, other factors like chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, or high blood pressure) or previous injuries can also increase the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis.

Our standard 40-plus hour work week wasn’t designed with human anatomy in mind. From being slouched over a desk and typing away to engaging in physical labor, it's not something the body can sustain over time without experiencing some ailment.

The cost of osteoarthritis to your employees — and your business

Since planned knee and hip replacements continue to rise among Americans between the ages of 35 and 64, so will the cost. And it's not only a concern to your employees, but to your business as well.

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1 in 7 Americans has an orthopedic impairment.

The risk of an employee developing knee osteoarthritis is 45 percent. The risk of an employee developing hip osteoarthritis is 25 percent.

7 million Americans are hospitalized each year for orthopedic conditions.

Severe joint pain is more common in adults who also have chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Physical activity alone can reduce pain and improve physical function by 40 percent.

$164 billion lost in wages each year due to absence. That's $4,040 less pay than an adult without arthritis pain.


Making accommodations for osteoarthritis in the workplace

Since your employees spend more of their time at work than anywhere else, it’s important that your workplace keeps their overall health top of mind. Consider these five tips for your workplace to accommodate employees with osteoarthritis (knee, hip or joint) pain.

  • Encourage frequent breaks.

    It’s important to refrain from creating a workplace where employees feel glued to their desk chair each day. Find ways to incorporating standing, Opens in a new window walking Opens in a new window or stretch breaks Opens in a new window throughout the day.
  • Provide exercise solutions.

    Offering on-site facilities or gym reimbursements to foster a workplace of movement and overall health and wellness. Even employees who lose a few pounds (as requested by their doctor) can reap the benefits of less chronic orthopedic pain.
  • Take accessibility measures.

    If you have an employee struggling with chronic orthopedic pain, offer “reserved” parking spaces, in addition to your handicap spots, that are close to the building.
  • Invest in ergonomic-friendly furniture.

    It’s simple — when your employees are free of pain and discomfort, they have a better life at work and home. And, investing in ergonomic furniture External Site for your workplace doesn’t need to be expensive — most places offer rebates!
  • Preventive measures make a difference.

    Many chronic conditions and pains can be pinpointed during an annual physical. Preventive care can help your employees receive the care or direction they need to manage conditions and avoid costly surgeries and time away from the office.

Healthy business, healthy employees.

As your company’s HR or benefits administrator, you have a knack for wanting to help educate your employees on how they can become savvy health care consumers. Plus, companies that offer Wellmark coverage can also offer their employees tools and resources to help manage their conditions, monitor claims and costs, compare quality and find top centers for specialty care.

With myWellmark®, your confidence can be restored in your employees’ knowledge of their health insurance coverage, leaving you to answer fewer questions, calls and emails about health insurance information.

If they haven’t done so already, encourage your employees to register for myWellmark Opens in a new window.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative or email us at Send Email.