Managing fibromyalgia in the workplace

February 17, 2021

fibromyalgia in the workplaceHaving fibromyalgia can make it difficult to carry out daily activities, including working at many types of jobs. Symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, and widespread pain may make it difficult to get through the day due to lack of concentration, preoccupation with pain, and other challenges associated with assigned duties.

However, with the right adjustments and strategies, many people with fibromyalgia are able to continue working full or part-time by managing symptoms and coping with the pain and fatigue.

In the workplace with fibromyalgia

By self-managing fibromyalgia pain and controlling daily stress, most people with fibromyalgia can work at almost any kind of job. But being proactive is crucial to reduce potential flare-ups that could occur throughout the day. Here are some ideas to help cope with fibromyalgia in the workplace:

Be open and honest with employers. 

You should tell your boss and coworkers that you have a condition called fibromyalgia. Explain to them what this is if they don’t know and direct them to helpful resources, if necessary. Explain that you may have good days and bad days, and discuss strategies for dealing with the bad days. You may need extra breaks, and if everyone knows why initially, it will hopefully prevent any issues down the road.

Modify your diet and eating habits at work.

What you eat matters, but this may be even more important if you have fibromyalgia. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, and incorporate as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible. At lunchtime, don’t rush through your meal, and try to avoid fast food or microwavable meals that are often high in sodium. Many people report feeling better after a lunch that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean meats. You may also see improvement if you cut out sugary, processed foods. While another cup of coffee can be tempting during a long workday, caffeine may make fibromyalgia pain worse, especially symptoms of fatigue.  

Take regular breaks, or at least get up to stretch. 

Regular breaks to get away from your work and rest are ideal, but this may not always be possible. If you sit a lot at your job, get up to walk around and lightly stretch 3 to 4 times a day, minimally. Moving your body increases blood flow and may also help clear your mind.

Dress appropriately for your office and your symptoms.

Many offices are often cold, and cold temperatures can trigger inflammation. This may lead to pain and stiffness. The same may be true for those who work outdoors in the winter. The act of shivering can cause pain for some people who have fibromyalgia. To keep this from happening, make sure you keep appropriate clothing for layering when outside, or a sweater or blanket at your desk. Proper footwear is also crucial for the type of job you have. If you must wear uncomfortable shoes, consider taking another pair to change into while you sit at your desk or when you have to walk around. Wearing sneakers or similar shoes will help keep your feet warm and properly supported. 

A list of workplace modifications for fibromyalgia

While the above tips will help you manage fibromyalgia in many workplace settings, additional modifications may be needed to help you perform your best. Here are several ideas from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network. You may be able to handle some of these on your own, and with many, you will need to communicate with your employer or boss. 

  • Ask for written job instructions, to-do lists, clear expectations, and consequences
  • Consider flexible work hours and a self-paced workload
  • Prioritize periodic rest periods and breaks for stress management
  • Minimize distractions
  • Ask for reminders about important deadlines and meetings
  • Allow for time to make phone calls during work hours to doctors and others for support
  • Consider ways to reduce or eliminate physical exertion
  • Have a plan for working from home when necessary
  • Implement an ergonomic workstation design
  • Provide task lighting
  • Eliminate fluorescent lighting
  • Provide air purification devices

The key to workplace success with fibromyalgia

One of the ultimate goals of workplace modifications and strategies for a pain-free day is to manage and reduce stress and anxiety. Both of these can be major triggers of fibromyalgia symptoms. It’s easy to get into a cycle of stressing out about your condition, including how fibromyalgia is impacting your job and those you work with, and feeling guilty about those effects. 

Many people may also feel stress because they are experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia without an official diagnosis. Finding out that your symptoms are real and that there’s a reason for them is often very helpful. This is where Southside Pain Specialists can help you start your journey of living a normal life with fibromyalgia.

Learn more about fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions by scheduling an appointment at Southside Pain Specialists

With highly specialized training and a multitude of pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.