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Fibromyalgia: Work and Disability

Many people with fibromyalgia continue to work full or part time. But the chronic pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia often make working very difficult. If you are employed, it's important to learn about managing fibromyalgia symptoms and coping with pain and fatigue. In addition, if you have tried different jobs and are unable to work, you might consider applying for disability. Disability may be difficult to get because of rules about work capacity.

 

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Can People With Fibromyalgia Work?

By self-managing fibromyalgia pain and controlling daily stress, most people with fibromyalgia can do almost anything they choose. Unless you have physical pain that's directly work related, you should be able to make simple modifications to your workplace that allow you to continue working.

What Type of Workplace Changes Can Help Someone With Fibromyalgia?

First, openly discuss your fibromyalgia with your boss and coworkers. Talk about the symptoms of pain, fatigue, and stiffness. Explain how you may have good days and bad days.

Explaining fibromyalgia will give people at work a better idea of what you are feeling each day. Ask your boss if you can take rest periods on bad days. Or ask if you can take work home if you are feeling fatigued. Ask if you can come in on Saturday if you miss a day of work to make up the lost time and income. In addition, ask if you can put a cot in your office for a brief nap at lunchtime. Taking a midday nap helps many people with fibromyalgia and other chronic health conditions function on the job.

Are There Workplace Modification Guidelines for People With Fibromyalgia?

People with fibromyalgia can use the following lists when talking with their employer about making modifications. The lists come from the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network. They contain recommendations for accommodations employers should be willing to consider for employees with fibromyalgia.

To address concentration issues, employers should consider:

  • Providing written job instructions when possible
  • Prioritizing job assignments and providing more structure
  • Allowing flexible work hours and allowing a self-paced workload
  • Allowing periodic rest periods to reorient
  • Providing memory aids, such as schedulers or organizers
  • Minimizing distractions
  • Reducing job stress

To address depression and anxiety, employers should consider:

  • Reducing distractions in the work environment
  • Providing to-do lists and written instructions
  • Reminding the employee of important deadlines and meetings
  • Allowing time off for counseling
  • Providing clear expectations of responsibilities and consequences
  • Providing sensitivity training to coworkers
  • Allowing breaks to use stress management techniques
  • Developing strategies to deal with work problems before they arise
  • Allowing telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for support
  • Providing information on counseling and employee assistance programs

To address fatigue and weakness, employers should consider:

  • Reducing or eliminating physical exertion and workplace stress
  • Scheduling periodic rest breaks away from the workstation
  • Allowing a flexible work schedule and flexible use of leave time
  • Allowing the employee to work from home
  • Implementing ergonomic workstation design

To address migraine headaches, employers should consider:

  • Providing task lighting
  • Eliminating fluorescent lighting
  • Providing air purification devices
  • Allowing flexible work hours and work from home
  • Allowing periodic rest breaks

To address issues associated with sleep problems, employers should consider:

  • Allowing flexible work hours and frequent breaks
  • Allowing the employee to work from home

 

WebMD Medical Reference

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