Osteoarthritis (OA) causes joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness. In some cases, these symptoms may make it difficult to work. A person with OA may be able to claim disability benefits or receive help from their employer.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
The severity of osteoarthritis symptoms varies widely. How the disease affects a person’s ability to work will depend on the person and the nature of their job.
This article looks at how osteoarthritis can affect a person’s ability to work and provides guidance for people with an osteoarthritis diagnosis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) can prevent a person from working if symptoms are severe enough to
The extent to which osteoarthritis can prevent a person from working depends on:
- symptom severity
- the person’s job
- whether workplace accommodations are available
If a person with osteoarthritis experiences significant pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility, it may be difficult to perform physical tasks that require bending, lifting, or standing for extended periods.
It may be particularly challenging to work if a person has a job that requires manual labor, such as construction or factory work.
People with osteoarthritis may also experience symptoms such as fatigue that make it difficult to work effectively. This can affect their productivity and ability to meet their job demands.
- Heavy machinery operation: If a person has osteoarthritis in their hands or arms, it may be difficult to operate heavy machinery or tools that require grip strength and dexterity.
- Construction work: Construction work often involves heavy lifting, bending, and other physically demanding tasks. If a person has osteoarthritis in their back, hips, or knees, performing these tasks safely and effectively may be difficult.
- Office work: Even office work can be challenging for someone with osteoarthritis. Sitting for extended periods can worsen symptoms in the hips, knees, or spine, making it difficult to focus or be productive.
- Retail work: Retail work often requires prolonged standing or walking, which can be difficult for someone with osteoarthritis in their feet or legs.
- Food service work: Food service involves carrying heavy trays, standing for long periods, and performing repetitive motions with the hands and arms. If a person has osteoarthritis in their back, shoulders, or hands, performing these tasks without experiencing pain or discomfort may be difficult.
If an employee receives an osteoarthritis diagnosis, they may need to speak with their human resources (HR) department or supervisor to discuss potential accommodations to help them perform their duties safely and effectively.
Here are some steps that an employee may want to consider taking:
- Review company policies: Before speaking with HR or a supervisor, employees may want to review their company’s policies regarding accommodations for disabilities or chronic conditions. This can help them understand what types of accommodations may be available.
- Schedule a meeting: The employee should meet with their HR department or supervisor to discuss their diagnosis and how it may impact their ability to perform their job duties. It may be helpful to bring a doctor’s note or other documentation to the meeting.
- Discuss potential accommodations: The employee and HR department or supervisor should work together to identify possible accommodations or modifications. This may include ergonomic equipment, modified work schedules, or reduced physical demands.
Some companies may also offer family medical leave of absence based on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is designed to allow employees to take some unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons. An individual should discuss this option with the HR department of their employer.
Osteoarthritis may be considered a disability if it significantly impacts a person’s ability to perform major life activities, including work.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a disability is a physical or mental impairment substantially limiting one or more major life activities. Major life activities include walking, standing, sitting, lifting, bending, and working.
If a person’s symptoms are severe enough to prevent them from working, they may need to take time off work to manage their symptoms or undergo treatment. In some cases, they may be eligible for disability benefits if their symptoms prevent them from working for an extended period.
People with osteoarthritis can work with a healthcare professional to manage their symptoms and discuss potential workplace accommodations or modifications that may help them continue to work.
The following are the steps a person needs to take to claim disability:
1. Determine eligibility
People should check if they meet the eligibility requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.
For SSDI, people must have a medical condition expected to last at least 1 year or result in death and have worked long enough to earn work credits.
For SSI, people must have a medical condition that significantly impairs their ability to work and meet certain income and asset requirements. Learn more about eligibility requirements on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website.
2. Gather the required documents
Collect all necessary documents, such as medical records, treatment history, employment history, and financial information, to support the disability claim.
People can use the SSA checklist to ensure they have all the necessary documents.
3. File a claim
If a person needs assistance, they can schedule an appointment with their local SSA office or call the SSA.
It can take several months or more to receive a decision on a claim. During this time, people can check the status of their claims online or by calling the SSA.
5. Appeal a decision, if necessary
If the SSA denies a disability claim, people can appeal the decision within 60 days of receiving the notice of the decision.
There are several levels of appeals, including reconsideration, hearing, appeals council, and federal court review.
The appeals process can be complex and time-consuming, so it may be helpful to seek assistance from a disability lawyer or advocate.
Osteoarthritis can affect a person’s ability to work in several ways. The effect on a person’s ability to work will depend on the severity of their symptoms and the nature of their job.
People with osteoarthritis can work with a healthcare professional and their employer to identify potential workplace accommodations or modifications or apply for disability if they are eligible.