Joint pain can hinder our ability to get daily tasks done, and that’s especially true in farming. Taking care of livestock, getting in and out of machinery, standing on concrete, or even sitting in equipment can do some knee damage.
“Knee pain is really common in agriculture because of the frequencies that the knee is used,” said Ned Stoller of Michigan AgrAbility. “Sometimes it’s the static position of the knee—operating a piece of equipment for hours and hours at a time without moving the knee, [or] there can be trauma. My motto is that we want to help farmers work longer and feel better.
Michigan AgrAbility is a company that provides services to farmers with disabilities, illnesses, or aging conditions so they can continue the faming lifestyle. Stoller says knee pain in ag is high, so AgrAbility tries to accommodate that. For example, the bottom step of many tractors is 22 inches tall. Depending on the time of year, that puts a lot of strain on the knees ascending and descending the steps.
“We can have better steps, folding steps that bring it lower to the ground but can fold up when the tractor is driving so it doesn’t hit the steps on the ground—we do a lot of that,” said Stoller. “Sometimes we’ll put a man life like an elevator for somebody with really severe knee pain that can’t climb at all so they can be lifted up.”
Stoller says the other situation he sees that can cause knee pain is working in the shop—getting up and down to do repairs.
“We’ve modified some mechanics—creepers and shop tools—to be power lift to raise and lower the farmer from the ground level to a sitting position to make it easier for him to get up and down from the ground,” said Stoller.
Although Stoller doesn’t have a medical background, he also says losing weight is also a way to reduce knee pain.
“When your body hurts, you become less active and it’s easier to put on more weight which makes your body hurt worse,” he said. “Over the 20 years of working with AgrAbility, having a higher body mass index is a pretty good indicator that there’s going to be knee pain, hip pain and issues with your legs and back.”
Stoller urges farmers and those with knee or joint pain that if they are hurting, not to wait too long to get help. He says occupational or physical therapists can teach you to have healthier joints. For more information on Michigan AgrAbility, visit their website MichiganAgrAbility.org.