- Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
- Tips for People Working with Fibromyalgia
- Fibromyalgia Worker Rights
- Careers for People with Fibromyalgia
- Complex but Manageable with the Help of Your Doctor
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately two percent of Americans suffer from fibromyalgia. That equates to more than four million people dealing with generalized pain and fatigue on a daily basis as they live their lives. Many people with fibromyalgia go to work each day in physical and mental distress and must find ways of managing fibromyalgia that enables them to remain productive. Following are tips that could make working with fibromyalgia easier.
One of the difficulties associated with fibromyalgia is that there are so many different symptoms people can experience, but all the symptoms can interfere with work in some way. Following are some examples.
- Generalized pain and stiffness throughout the body makes it difficult to move, pick up boxes or sit for extended periods at a desk
- Tiredness or deep fatigue negatively impacts productivity and mental clarity
- Anxiety makes meeting deadlines and working on teams too challenging
- Brain fog and headaches impact mental acuity
- Digestive problems keep you uncomfortable and uneasy
Some people work from home with fibromyalgia, and that makes it easier to minimize the effects of the condition on the ability to work and reduces the need to interact with other people while in pain. However, anyone with fibromyalgia must find ways to manage the symptoms to live a quality life.
Tips for People Working with Fibromyalgia
According to the CDC, women are affected by fibromyalgia at a rate twice that of men. A study of women who were recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia found that symptoms quickly impacted workability. The percentage of employment dropped from 60 percent to 41 percent within the first year of the diagnosis. The early impact of fibromyalgia on a person’s workability points to the importance of managing fibromyalgia pain as much as possible.
Following are some tips for working with fibromyalgia.
1. Manage stress
Stress and fibromyalgia pain are related in many patients. While at work, take breaks to move the body and clear the mind. Take deep breaths while stretching at your work location or walking around the building. Stretching eases muscle tension caused by fibromyalgia.
2. Monitor the triggers of symptoms
Pay attention to your tasks to determine which ones seem to trigger pain. You may need to change a task sequence or location or ask your supervisor to help you find ways to more easily manage physical tasks.
3. Take short breaks throughout the day
It is best to take regular short breaks throughout the workday, even if not experiencing severe fibromyalgia symptoms. This keeps muscles stretched.
4. Ask to work from home
As of September 2021, 45 percent of full-time employees in the U.S. worked remotely part-time or full-time. Some jobs cannot be done remotely, but the statistics indicate that many can. You can talk to your manager about working from home one or two days a week. This gives you more flexibility as to when you work during the day and how often you can move around.
5. Wear comfortable clothing that suits the temperature
Being too cold or too hot due to the weather or the temperature in the workplace can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms. Wear clothing layers. That gives you the option of wearing more or less clothing to avoid excessive sweating or shivering.
6. Create a comfortable work environment
People who work in an office have opportunities to make their space more accommodating. You can use a chair wedge to support the back and a headset on the phone to prevent neck strain. Sit in an ergonomic chair, and always maintain good posture. If your job requires a lot of standing, use an anti-fatigue mat and sit down periodically to rest your body.
There are more ways to manage fibromyalgia symptoms while at work. One is to avoid trying to do too much in your personal life and causing a fibromyalgia flare that impacts your ability to remain productive at work. It is also always important to eat a healthy diet that provides a good balance of nutrients and to establish a routine sleep pattern.
Fibromyalgia Worker Rights
One of the medical challenges that people with fibromyalgia face is that the cause of the syndrome has not been identified. This makes it difficult to prove that fibromyalgia is a disability that an employer must accommodate under the American Disabilities Act.
Your employer may need a better understanding of the fibromyalgia condition and how it can impact job performance when symptoms occur. It is always important to get an official medical diagnosis from your doctor. You can share the diagnosis and a brochure with your employer that explains fibromyalgia in more detail and explain to Human Resources your specific mix of symptoms that create limitations. In most cases, accommodations needed are not difficult to supply. Most employers willingly help their employees succeed.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) groups accommodation ideas by a limitation or by a work-related function. You can make some of the accommodations yourself, as mentioned earlier. Your employer is very likely to be willing to help you as much as possible by providing things like ergonomic office furniture, anti-fatigue matting, periodic rest breaks, telework, natural lighting products, flexible scheduling and an adjustable workstation.
Careers for People with Fibromyalgia
Self-employment as a freelancer is ideal for many workers with fibromyalgia because it means being able to choose when and where you work. Some good careers for fibromyalgia sufferers include:
- Office jobs
- Social work
- Tech worker
- Internet content writer
- Home school teacher
- Customer service representative
- Administrative assistant
- Real estate agent
- Independent contractor
The ideal jobs have minimal stress, do not require repetitive movements or extensive travel, offer scheduling flexibility and do not require long periods of standing or sitting.
Complex but Manageable with the Help of Your Doctor
The complex mix of fibromyalgia makes it challenging for sufferers to manage the condition well enough that it minimally impacts work. The doctors at the Spine & Pain Clinics of North America can offer treatment options to minimize spine and musculoskeletal pain due to fibromyalgia and can design a pain care plan that improves the quality of your life.