Can you receive workers’ compensation for occupational arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, resulting in pain and stiffness. This common condition makes it hard to perform daily tasks, let alone hold down a job. Although the symptoms of arthritis develop over time, they may sometimes appear suddenly.
Can arthritis be caused by work?
Yes. In fact, it’s surprisingly common.
An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The good news is that most Arizonans have a right to file for workers’ compensation if their job causes, accelerates or reactivates arthritis.
Continue reading to learn about some of the most common causes of work-related arthritis and how to get compensated in Arizona.
Work-related arthritis conditions
Arthritis refers to any condition that directly affects the joints and surrounding tissues. There are more than 100 types of arthritis. Here are just a few of the many conditions associated with arthritis that are common in the workplace:
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This is a type of arthritis where the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs. It affects various body systems, including the joints. The affected person experiences tenderness, swelling and joint pains.
- Osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the smooth cartilages are eroded due to wear and tear. Without the cartilages, the bones in the knees, elbows and hips rub together, causing immense pain. Several factors can cause osteoarthritis, including genetics, obesity and joint overuse. Osteoarthritis is more common in older people.
- Gout. This is a type of arthritis that occurs due to excess uric acid in the bloodstream. The acid crystallizes in joints, causing tenderness, swelling and pain. The base of the big toe is usually the most affected.
- Lupus. Systemic lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues. It can affect different organs and body parts, including the joints. The affected joints become swollen and stiff.
- Fibromyalgia. This is a disorder that causes widespread muscular and skeletal pain. The condition alters how the brain processes pain signals and amplifies painful sensations. The body pains range from moderate to unbearable.
Common causes of arthritis in the workplace
Some jobs and occupations increase the likelihood of developing arthritis and flaring up a preexisting condition. Possible causes include:
- Repetitive motion. Any job that requires you to perform the same task puts you at risk of developing arthritis. Over time, the repetitive motion damages the muscles, ligaments and joints. Examples of occupations that require repetitive motion include textile making, music and dancing. If you belong to these professions, it will help to practice good posture and take frequent breaks.
- Lifting heavy objects. Although lifting heavy objects doesn’t necessarily cause arthritis, many people use the wrong lifting posture. This places undue strain and stress on your joints. Jobs such as construction and logging require carrying heavy loads, which may aggravate pre-existing arthritis.
- Sedentary work. Sitting all day may seem like an easy way to make money, but it takes its toll on the body. For instance, most office jobs involve sitting for extended periods as well as repetitive motions, like typing. Standing for extended periods on an assembly line or classroom has a similar effect. Unless you learn good posture and take regular breaks, you may be at risk of developing or reactivating arthritis.
When arthritis is considered “pre-existing”
A pre-existing condition refers to an illness or injury that existed before a work-related injury or illness occurred. Even if such a condition worsens because of a job, you may still be entitled to some compensation. Arthritis is considered a pre-existing condition if the worker was diagnosed before the injury in question.
For a worker to be compensated, they must prove the work-related injury aggravated the condition. The catch is that you are not compensated for pre-existing arthritis, but the aggravation. Unfortunately, insurance companies and employers often try to get out of paying compensation if there is a pre-existing condition, which is why you may need to seek advice from an experienced work injury attorney.
Workers’ compensation for occupational arthritis
Under Arizona law, all companies with 2 or more workers must have workers’ compensation insurance. Most workers who develop occupational diseases, such as arthritis, are entitled to financial compensation.
Here are some of the benefits affected workers can expect:
- Medical expenses. Managing arthritis requires medication for pain management and to control inflammation. In some cases, the patient may require surgery to replace the joint. They may then need physical therapy. These and other medical costs are compensable if you can prove your job caused or aggravated the condition.
- Lost wages. Arthritis is associated with swelling and joint pains. This can interfere with your work as you may need to take time off for treatment and recovery. Workers’ compensation covers any wages you have lost because you were unable to work.
- Permanent disability. In severe cases, arthritis may be so bad that the injured worker becomes disabled. For instance, if you break your legs while on the job due to osteoarthritis, you might have to retire early. Under Arizona laws, you may be entitled to disability benefits.
Occupational diseases are never easy to prove. Unfortunately, the burden of proof is on the affected worker. However, having an experienced work injury attorney by your side significantly increases your chance of getting a fair settlement. Don’t leave your fate to chance.