Orthopedic surgeon says work activities do not aggravate arthritis
"These people have to keep working because of the economy, but they have a painful knee," said Dr. David Cooper, director of orthopedic surgery at The Knee Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "The easiest thing to do is go on workers' comp."
Increasingly, Cooper is seeing patients with arthritic knees who are suffering cumulative trauma to the knee -- similar to carpal tunnel in the upper extremities. Workers who are on their feet all day are claiming arthritis aggravation caused by work-related activities. But he says that's bunk.
"There is no scientific evidence suggesting repetitive standing causes [arthritis] to accelerate," Cooper said. "You may become more symptomatic, but the arthritis has not been shown to be altered by weight bearing."
Nevertheless, some knee pain sufferers are heading to orthopedic surgeons seeking knee replacements to mitigate the pain and are looking for workers' comp to cover the expense. "I point blank turn that down," Cooper said. "I cite scientific evidence."
Cooper is concerned that more older workers with arthritic knees will claim work-related pain and look to the workers' comp system for relief. He points out that arthritis is a disease, not a function of aging. It is genetic and therefore cannot be caused or aggravated by work tasks.
"I point out it's a subjective complaint with no science to back it up," he said. "If that's the criteria, saying 'my knee hurts,' then everybody would go on workers' comp."
With knee replacements costing upwards of $30,000 and restricting walking and standing, Cooper warns employers to be wary of workers with preexisting osteoarthritis who blame work-related activities for causing them more pain. "Turn down all forms of aggravation of arthritis," he advised, "whether it be a single trauma or to repetitive activity type of claim."
Help reduce arthritis pain. Cooper offers this advice to help mitigate discomfort:
- Lose and/or maintain weight. "For every pound you lose, you take three pounds off your knees. It's a 3-1 multiplier," he said.
- Minimize the use of stairs and ladders. Use elevators whenever possible.
- Use foam mats to provide a cushion on hard floors.
- Wear comfortable shoes to absorb the pressure.
- Walk around occasionally instead of constantly standing in one spot.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 11, 2010
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