Overcoming Osteoarthritis Obstacles at Work


Is your osteoarthritis (OA) giving you a difficult time at work? What’s your biggest challenge? Fatigue, pain, stress, inability to meet work productivity, depression?

These are just some of the challenges you may face at work when you live with arthritis. But what if there was an online program designed to help you directly manage disease-related challenges at work?


It’s coming …

Dr. Diane Lacaille, Arthritis Research Canada’s Associate Scientific Director and a Senior Research Scientist, and her interdisciplinary team, created an online educational program called Making it WorkTM. It’s a unique program for people with inflammatory forms of arthritis and is designed to help individuals manage work issues and remain employed. Pilot testing has revealed promising results.

A similar program is now being created for people with OA.

Phase One: Dr. Lacaille’s team conducted eight focus groups with 34 people with osteoarthritis from Alberta and British Columbia. Researchers identified issues these people with arthritis experience at work and found the following:

1. General impact of osteoarthritis symptoms:

This includes pain and psychological symptoms (e.g., fear, fatigue, need for planning movements, tasks and days). Because of OA symptoms, people experience functional limitations, and concerns about interpersonal relationships – often leading to reduced self-confidence, and distancing from social activities. Participants also worried about the change (possible worsening) of their arthritis over time.

2. Difficulties and impact of OA at work:

Participants said that they worried about their safety at work due to functional limitations. Some experienced barriers at work with their job expectations (e.g., time constraints in performing a work task). Others described their job environment as an issue. They felt that using poor equipment and a lack of support made them reluctant to disclose their OA due to fear of stigmatization. Other participants mentioned difficulty commuting to and from work.

3. Barriers to living well with OA:

Participants worried about the challenges of managing their arthritis and living well because they had not found effective treatment. Financial difficulties and complications with having other health conditions were other barriers to living well.

4. Adaptations to work:

Participants were resilient and inventive in adapting their work without asking for job accommodations from their employers. For example, they automatically modified their movements, activities or physical positions, and planned ahead to work differently to avoid pain. Often, they addressed mobility and commuting issues on their own.

Phase Two: One-on-one, online interviews were conducted. Participants were presented with components of the existing Making it Work study for inflammatory arthritis and asked how relevant the content was to their situation. The information from this phase will help guide the development of a program specifically for people with OA.

This program will be used to help people with OA deal with employment issues related to their arthritis and will also be useful to people developing employment health services for arthritis.

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