Agriland Mind Yourself Series: Dealing with recurring joint pain.

UPMC is excited to announce a new partnership with Agriland that focuses on farmers’ orthopaedic health.

The Mind Yourself Series provides insight into the physical challenges farmers face and offers advice on how best to manage and improve orthopaedic health — all so that farmers can improve their mobility, function, and overall well-being.

Across the series, we will introduce you to hardworking farmers from a range of farm enterprises who’ll share their orthopaedic concerns, and UPMC orthopaedic experts will offer guidance and advice on how best to minimise pain, maximise movement, and ensure that farmers are ready for the next farming challenge of the season.

The series will feature five videos and articles and will kick off on in August.

Mind Yourself Series in association with UPMC.

As a farmer, orthopaedic health is essential for your well-being and your ability to stay working on your farm.

At busy times or when help is in short supply, it may seem easier to ignore your aches and pains or push through the agony of an old injury. But early intervention and timely treatment can have significant benefits in terms of pain relief, improved function, and prevention of further damage.

Progressive and persistent pain in your joints doesn’t mean that surgery is your only option. In fact, surgery is often a last resort and there are many other effective alternatives available.

Support network

A farm is a business, and as a farmer, you need to build a team and support network around you. That network may include a vet, a mechanic, contractors, or an accountant. But your own health is also critical to the success of the farm, never more so given the challenges of securing skilled labour.

Therefore, incorporating healthcare professionals into your network, or knowing where to go for help, will help sustain you and your farm.

“Farming is a physically demanding occupation,” Kalen O’Donahue, senior physiotherapist at UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic said.

“It involves a range of tasks, from heavy lifting and repetitive motions to prolonged periods of bending and standing.

“Over time, these activities can lead to orthopaedic issues that affect joints, muscles, bones, and overall mobility.


“The farmers that I see in clinic are dealing with things like lower back pain, shoulder problems, knee injuries, joint inflammation, and repetitive strain. Often, they are putting up with these problems for far longer than they should.”

So, what is the advice for farmers dealing with recurring pain in their joints?

Dealing with recurring joint pain

Firstly, seek professional help. Persistent pain, limited mobility, swelling, joint instability, or joint stiffness is not normal. It shouldn’t be accepted as something to put up with.

Secondly, the advice is to stop putting off seeking help. Early intervention will save time in the long run.

A chartered physiotherapist can often be your first stop to help evaluate your orthopaedic symptoms. At a first appointment, a physical examination, and a functional assessment, which assesses how the condition impacts daily work-related activities, will be conducted.

If necessary, diagnostic imaging in the form of MRI or X-ray may be needed to provide a better understanding of the situation. A treatment plan is then developed by the physiotherapist.

But what if farmers don’t have time to follow a treatment plan?

Practical, tailored treatment

Treatment plans that are focused on exercises, manual therapy, or some moderate lifestyles changes shouldn’t be disregarded or dismissed as impractical.

“We work to build a treatment plan that works for them,” O’Donahue, who routinely works with farmers attending UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic in Dublin, said.

“We know what is manageable and we understand the time that can and cannot be given to regular exercise.

“We might, for example, advise on simple exercises that can be done at home for 15 minutes, two to three times a week. Maybe that happens during the morning tea break, maybe it works better in the evening after dinner. It’s whatever works.


“Often these are simple exercises to improve movement in a joint or rebuild strength so that pain is reduced. We put the control back in the hands of the farmer and we work with them to ensure we get results, so they don’t have to grin and bear it for another season.”

O’Donahue added that sometimes allowing time for your body to rest and recover and getting enough sleep after physically demanding tasks such as dosing or following particularly busy times on the farm such as calving or lambing, is essential for tissue repair and overall well-being.

As a farmer, you will always prioritise your farm, the animals you care for, the crops you grow, and the machinery you use.

Prioritising your health

Prioritising your own health must also come into the mix. Neglecting personal health will ultimately impact the running of the farm.

Neglecting the aches and pains, or other issues, can cause minor issues to escalate into more severe conditions and perhaps have a more detrimental effect on the farm enterprise.

Early intervention and minding yourself today – taking care of your body now – will help ensure you continue with the work that you love on the land you love for years to come.

Read more about UPMC’s Orthopaedic Care for Farmers here.

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