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, however, because of rules about work capacity.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms, or tightness
Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy
Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep
Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long
Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks ("fibro fog")
Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome)
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