Have FMS but want to work?
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. It is important to also work out a daily regime that suits both you and your symptoms.
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.
Talk to your boss
If you have been diagnosed as a Fibromyalgia sufferer it is a worth while endeavour speaking to your boss. They should be aware of your condition and the effects it can have, especially if they are likely to cause you to have time off work. It is important not to worry about speaking to someone in the workplace about your condition; most employers will be happy to help and it also allows them to compensate for drops in the work load if you have to take time off work unexpectedly.
Improving your working life
There are a number of things that people with FMS can do to increase their ability to continue to work. Here are a few ideas.
You should explain your Fibromyalgia to your boss, co-workers and anyone else you feel needs to know. If they know about your condition they should be willing to give you a hand when you need it.
2. Physical Activity
Your work can be adapted in order to have minimal physical activities. This does not mean no physical activity as this would be harmful. Get colleagues to help rather than do things for you. Participate in activities but pace yourself.
If you know that an activity will lead to pain, get a timer and time yourself doing the activity. When the pain hits, that’s your limit. Take 20 % off your time limit, stop and take a rest before restarting – you do not actually want to reach your pain threshold. By pacing yourself you may be a slower than your colleagues but you will manage to carry out an activity. By adapting, your colleagues will be happy to work with you and you with them.
There are a few adaptations and things to bear in mind when working with FMS.
- Request a desk away from high-traffic or noisy areas. Having a quiet place to do your work can help you to accomplish more.
- When attending meetings, sit close to a door. If needed, you can make a quick exit without causing confusion or bringing attention to leaving the room.
- Find a quiet place to take a few minutes for relaxation exercises and deep breathing techniques.
- If possible, listen to relaxing music, such as classical or New Age music to increase relaxation. Use breaks and lunch hours to exercise, even if it is taking a walk.
- Find someone you can talk with to relieve stress and cope with events that may be triggering anxiety.
- Write down your goals so that you can focus on what you need to achieve rather than on things that may be going wrong.
This is part of pacing. You know your limit so give yourself short rest periods frequently like changing position, closing your eyes and relaxing.
An Employers Role
To address concentration issues, employers may wish to consider:
- Allowing periodic rest periods
- Prioritising job assignments and providing more structure
- Providing written job instructions when possible
- Allowing flexible work hours and allowing a self-paced workload
- Reducing job stress
- Providing memory aids, such as schedulers or organisers
- Minimising distractions
To address depression and anxiety, employers may wish to consider:
- Reducing distractions in the work environment
- Reminding the employee of important deadlines and meetings
- Allowing time off for counselling
- Providing clear expectations of responsibilities and consequences
- 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 counselling and employee assistance programs
To address fatigue and weakness, employers may wish to 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 issues associated with sleep disorder, employers may wish to consider:
- Allowing flexible work hours and frequent breaks
- Allowing the employee to work from home