What Jobs Are Toughest on the Knees?

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY July 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Joint replacements for osteoarthritis of the knee are becoming more common, and now researchers have identified jobs that could lead to one.

Based on a review of 71 studies of nearly one million workers, the most risky occupations are agriculture, construction, mining, services and housekeeping. And jobs that require kneeling, crouching, standing, excessive elevation and stairs all increase your chances.

A team of researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia and the universities of Oxford and Southampton in the United Kingdom found that:

  • Carpenters, masons and floor installers are about three times more likely to have knee OA than sedentary workers.
  • Agricultural workers are 64% more likely for the condition, slightly higher than 63% for builders and construction workers.
  • Household also carries a risk – unpaid domestic workers face a 93% increase in the odds of osteoarthritis of the knee.
  • However, some jobs were gentler on the knees. The study found that workers in commerce, forestry, fishing, machinists, plumbers, electricians, technicians, and postal workers had no statistically significant risk for knee OA.

“Osteoarthritis of the knee is a major cause of loss of work and disability worldwide and may require invasive surgery, including a total knee replacement, so preventing occupational hazards is essential,” said the Dr. David Hunter, lead author of the study, in a press release from the University of Sydney, where he heads the Bone and Joint Research Institute.

Osteoarthritis develops as the cartilage deteriorates and the bone comes into contact with the bone, causing pain and swelling and limiting function, which affects lifestyle. She can follow an injury, but most of the time the cause is unknown, according to a New York orthopedic surgeon.

“There is a genetic component, but there is also a lifestyle component,” said Dr. Jeffrey Schildhorn of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who reviewed the results. One of the main risk factors is overweight or obesity.

“I have seen arthritis in all areas of life,” he said.

Osteoarthritis is a disease of aging, so it’s not surprising that more people are suffering from it and the number of joint replacements is increasing as people live longer, said Schildhorn. But, he added, there is no miracle cure.


“What makes arthritis difficult to manage is that cartilage has no real regenerative capacity,” he said, suggesting that the best way to prevent it is to eat well and monitor your weight. Stretching and exercises like yoga will also help keep your joints flexible, added Schildhorn.

Treatment may include pain relievers and physical or behavioral therapy. But when these don’t work, a knee replacement may be necessary.

“Osteoarthritis is mechanical wear and tear,” said Schildhorn. “Some people have stronger cartilage than others.” If it is very soft and flaky, no treatment will work and it has nothing to do with a person’s lifestyle – or their job, he said.

But employers can help by providing physical therapy and teaching workers how to do their jobs with less stress on their knees, said Schildhorn.

The report was recently published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.

HealthDay WebMD News


SOURCES: Jeffrey Schildhorn, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; University of Sydney, press release, July 8, 2020;Arthritis Care and Research, July 8, 2020

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