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Fibromyalgia in the Workplace

Updated on August 19, 2012

Managing fibromyalgia in the workplace requires understanding and knowledge. A person living with fibromyalgia may not want others to know they have this painful condition. Fear can compromise the chance of success.

Coworkers who do not understand this condition may feel unsympathetic if one person is treated differently than others.

Fibromyalgia is a disability which can limit a person's ability to function normal day to day activities.

Fibromyalgia in the workplace is becoming more common. As the awareness for this disease increases, employers are accommodating those who suffer with Fibromyalgia.

Considerations on the job

Working long hours can be taxing for anyone with this painful condition. The physical nature of the job needs to be assessed. Ergonomic solutions such as a proper chair, footrest and flexible keyboard is essential for office tasks.

For the Fibromyalgia sufferer, the following criteria in working a full time job needs to be considered.

  1. Does the job entail long periods of sitting or standing?
  2. Does the job allow for frequent breaks during these long stretches of sitting or standing?
  3. Will lifting heavy items be necessary?
  4. How can the employer accommodate the worker?
  5. If the employee is required to sit for long periods working on a computer, will the employer provide adequate measures to adjust the workstation?

There are many ways to adhere to the worker's needs. The American Disabilities Act made it possible for workers to be treated fairly. ADA required employers to make necessary accommodations.

With that in mind, understanding is the key. For the employee and the employer to recognize what works for each individual situation.

Some days may be more difficult for the Fibromyalgia employee. A flare up in his/her condition can change a positive looking day into a day of dread.

A condition known as 'fibro fog' can set in and the employee becomes frustrated. Fibro fog is considered an inability to think clearly, forgetfulness occurs, and judgment may be clouded. This is a momentary condition and can quickly pass.

Most employers will make reasonable accommodations for these situations as long as the work performance doesn't suffer.


Raising awareness

Education is key. Raising awareness in Fibromyalgia, what it is and what it isn't, will directly benefit employees and employers alike.

The question every Fibro sufferer asks themselves is whether they will tell others about their condition. Full disclosure is not required and it is a personal decision.

It's a balancing act and one that should be taken with deep reflection. When deciding about sharing this knowledge, careful thought should be considered. Weighing all the pros and cons in this decision, for once the news is released, there will be transformations. The fibro employee will be looked at differently. For coworkers who don't understand the disease, the fibro patient may need to explain to others in ways they can relate. Depending on the employer or the boss in charge, a fibro employee must use guided discretion. While most bosses are sympathetic not everyone will be understanding when work is not getting done. This is why careful consideration must be given before communicating this to potential employers as well as existing managers.

Fibromyalgia is considered a disability and in some cases, the employee is no longer able to work. Extreme chronic pain can be debilitating. When this happens, applying for disability can be heart-wrenching and time consuming.

Suffering in silence

Keeping a daily log of progress, the ups and downs, and pain levels is essential. Assisting in the knowledge gained by the use of these logs, the fibro sufferer learns more about their condition. By tracking what works and what doesn't, they can help themselves to live a productive life.

Working with fibromyalgia requires taking breaks. Don't skip lunches and be sure to stretch throughout the day. 

Essentially, fibro patients have to be proactive. Learn everything they can about the disease and follow up with their doctors.

Employees who suffer with chronic pain can become discouraged. For the coworkers and employers who do not suffer, many times, they cannot relate to the individual. This can cause unsatisfied relationships with the fibro employee.

Many suffering individuals will exclude themselves. They suffer in silence. Preferring to be left alone, they create a wall that coworkers fear to cross. It leads to misunderstanding and further mistrust. If a person allows themselves to be open about their condition, explain the pain in a way another can understand, others can accept the coworker relationships as they develop.

It will not be easy. There will be days when the alarm goes off with a trigger of pain that only rest and medicine can alleviate. The key is balance. Learning to say no and establishing a sense of boundaries.

Fibromyalgia in the workplace is a sensitive subject. Know your limitations. Communicate effectively. Get the job done and don't try to be a superhero.

The video below summarizes some great strategies for workplace success. Watch Fibromyalgia: 3 Strategies for Workplace Success.


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    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 5 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Thanks for commenting KoffeeKlatch Gals. You got that right. Unfortunately not many people understand Fibromyalgia unless they are personally touched by it. Appreciate your thoughts, thanks for sharing.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Wonderful hub. This is one of those diseases that people tend to discount. Some of them seem to think the people who claim to have it are just lazy. It is actually a painful, frustrating disease. Up and awesome.

    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 5 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Thank you for your comments and for your encouragement in sharing this piece with others. Silly*winks, it's good to know that this message is making a difference in someone's life.

      Since we spend nearly half our life working, it helps to let others know what Fibro is and what it is not. Living with Fibromyalgia is a daily battle and learning how to manage that battle starts by taking it one step at a time.


    • profile image

      silly*winks 5 years ago

      Thank you very much for this article. I even mentioned it in my own blog and forwarded it to a few people. I love the little video, it really hit a few messages home for me.


    • FaithDream profile image

      FaithDream 6 years ago from (Midwest) USA

      Thanks Pamela99 I appreciate your comments. Yes the best way to increase awareness is to share with others what we know. Glad you stopped by. Have a blessed day.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      I am glad you wrote this hub as we need to increase awareness of this disease. For a long time it wasn't even recognized. I think your hub is excellent and is full of great tips to make life easier if you are suffering from fibromyalgia. Rated up and useful!