Make Farming with Arthritis Easier - UNL CropWatch, September 13, 2013

Make Farming with Arthritis Easier - UNL CropWatch, September 13, 2013

September 13, 2013

Arthritis, one of the most common chronic disease conditions in the United States, has a profound impact on farmers by reducing mobility, physical strength, and the ability to complete routine tasks. Farming with arthritis means daily changes in joint pain and mobility which can affect completion of even the most basic farm chores.

Simplifying chores and using assistive solutions can help reduce joint stress, said Kerri Ebert, coordinator of the Kansas AgrAbility Project, in a recent Kansas State University news release. Like Kansas AgrAbility, the Nebraska AgrAbiliity project helps farmers identify and prioritize chore and equipment modifications to safely accommodate arthritis.

KSU's Ebert said that while modifying tasks and equipment won’t reverse joint damage, it can help prevent further damage. To accommodate arthritis-related limitations on the farm, consider assistive technology solutions:

  • Use wheels to move feed, tools or other equipment to eliminate heavy lifting and carrying. Wheeled assistive devices range from a simple wheel barrow to a motorized utility vehicle or golf cart, depending on needs and budget.
  • Use extended handles on tools to help conserve energy. Less force will be needed to manipulate objects.
  • Choose ergonomically designed, lightweight tools to reduce joint stress, pain and fatigue.
  • Use spring-loaded, self-adjusting, or ratcheting tools to reduce pressure on joints while increasing leverage and force with minimal pressure.
  • Add mirrors to the inside and outside of tractor cabs to reduce the need to twist to see out the back window.
  • Install spinner knobs and handles to help with limited grasp and range of motion on the steering wheel. Thicker grips on hand tools also help with grip.
  • Place cushioned mats on the floor in workshop areas to help reduce joint and back pain.

Many farm-related tasks can be modified slightly so a farmer with arthritis can perform them more easily, Ebert said. It is important to develop an effective treatment plan with a medical professional, follow the plan, and respect your body’s limits.

Arthritis diagnosis, treatment and care should always be directed by health care professionals. For more information about farming with arthritis, visit the Arthritis & Agriculture website at or call 800-783-2342.

Nebraska Programs & Resources

Many farmers may think pain is just part of the job, but there are steps they can take to prevent or reduce the pain, said Sharry Nielsen, UNL Extension Educator with Nebraska AgrAbility. Making stretches a part of your morning routine and always practicing safe lifting are two ways to prevent or reduce pain. For how-to information, see these Nebraska AgrAbility publications.

For more information about farming with any disability visit the Nebraska AgrAbility website at, a joint effort of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and Easter Seals Nebraska. The national AgrAbility Project and its state programs are supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through a competitive grant process.

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