Heavy Physical Workload Linked to Development of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Some types of physical activity may increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

A recent study found a link between physical workload and the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Although researchers have known that prolonged physical activity can lead to osteoarthritis (OA), this is the first time it has been linked to RA. These findings were presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2016).

Researchers analyzed data on different types of self-reported exposure from 3680 patients with RA and 5935 matched controls included in the Swedish Epidemiological Investigation of Rheumatoid Arthritis (EIRA).

In order to determine if some people were more susceptible to RA than others, researchers compared the risk in patients with genotype HLA-DRB1. Additionally, an analysis was conducted on the absence or presence of anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) in RA patients.

“We found that some types of physical workload increased the odds of developing RA more than others,” said researcher Pingling Zeng. “There also appeared to be a significant interaction between genetic makeup, in terms of HLA-DRB1 genes, and the risk of ACPA-positive RA from specific types of physical workload.”

The results of the study showed that in exposed versus unexposed participates, the estimated odds ratio for developing RA was greater than or equal to 1.5. Some repetitive forms of manual labor included working with hands above shoulder level (1.8) or below knee level (1.7), bending and turning (1.6), lifting or carrying weight that is heavier than 10kg (1.5), and exposure to repeated vibration (1.5).

“These new insights into the cause of RA may hopefully lead to effective strategies to prevent the development of RA, particularly in those RA patients with a susceptible genotype,” Zeng said.