It’s no surprise many farming activities can be more dangerous than office-oriented occupations, but growers who prevent and treat injuries are more likely to maintain their health.
Growers are more likely than others to suffer from lower back pain, and shoulder and knee problems, says Catherine Trask, Canada research chair in ergonomics and musculoskeletal health with the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (CCHSA) in Saskatoon.
Common symptoms of problems in these joints may include dull aches, swelling, stiff joints, and recurring pain.
Risk factors for growers
CCHSA research shows several factors make growers more likely to suffer from long-term joint problems:
- Growers tend to work more years at physically stressful occupations than others.
- Seasonality of growing tasks means growers work longer hours during each day for part of the year.
- Some growers live far away from convenient treatment options.
- Some growers lack extensively funded health benefits.
Treat injuries and strain proactively
While a stoic, committed work ethic can be a real asset to a grower overall, when injured, that attitude can hamper long-term recovery, says Brenna Bath, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Physical Therapy and a CCHSA researcher.
“Even when farmers experience an episode of increased pain, it’s ‘job first,'”
- Brenna Bath
“Even when farmers experience an episode of increased pain, it’s ‘job first,'” says Bath. “There is a sense taking time off is not a realistic option. And faced with the prospect of a long drive followed by a brief appointment with a health care provider, some farmers opt against seeing a health care professional,” she explains. “They may not think the time trade-off is worth it.”
Brenna Bath, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Physical Therapy and a CCHSA researcher
What to do when you are injured
Pay close attention to your body when you have an episode of pain to determine the smart course of action. Many injuries do resolve on their own, with no treatment necessary, says Marvin Fritzler, a rheumatologist and member of the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health in Calgary. “If that doesn’t happen in a normal healing window, which would be a month or less, then attention is required,” he says.
“If that doesn’t happen in a normal healing window, which would be a month or less, then attention is required.”
- Marvin Fritzler
Trask also recommends watching closely to determine how to care for injuries or pain.
“Pain tolerance or acceptance can be healthy when it keeps people active and engaged with life. Movement can also help with healing.” She and Bath recommend seeking advice from a health care professional when pain is constant and doesn’t change with activity or rest.
Most importantly, taking the time to address pain today can reduce or prevent long-term disorders like arthritis.
Prevention and pain management strategies for growers
- Mix up activities to prevent repetitive strain injuries.
- Ensure you and your team use appropriate safety devices.
- Use appropriate lifting techniques to protect your back and other joints.
- Seek treatment for constant pain.
- Seek treatment for pain that doesn’t improve with rest or change in activity.
- Seek treatment for pain that doesn’t resolve on its own in a month or less.
Marvin Fritzler, rheumatologist
The Battle Against Pain—Includes exercises to strengthen your back and prevent pain