Coping With Fibromyalgia In The Workplace
Fibromyalgai is a condition which has numerous symptoms such as chronic muscle pain, muscle tightness and/or spasms, insomnia, moderate to severe fatigue, stiffness, depression, and headaches as well as many other symptoms that are too many to list. The symptoms of Fibromyalgia can fluctuate over time with periods of no symptoms that are referred to as remission, to periods of exacerbated symptoms which are referred to as Fibromyalgai “flare ups”.
In order for Fibromyalgai to be a properly diagnosed medical condition the patient must have met at least two criteria by (1) experiencing chronic and widespread musculoskeletal pain for a period of at least 3 months or longer, as well as (2) have at least 11 of 18 total Tender Points verified by a physician. Many times Fibromyalgai can be an extremely frustrating condition because many of the symptoms can point to other conditions or diseases which must be ruled out before a diagnosis can be made, this takes away from valuable time that could be spent towards treating the symptoms of Fibromyalgai and providing the patient with some sense of relief. While there is currently no known cure for the condition of Fibromyalgia there are a few improvements which can be made in order to allow Fibromyalgia sufferers to live “normal” lives both within and outside of the workplace.
Living with Fibromyalgai in the Workplace
Research shows that Fibromyalgia is a condition which affects more than 5 million Americans over the age of 18. Of those 5 million people over 80% of them are women. And while Fibromyalgia is not a fatal disease the condition does cause symptoms that can easily interfere with daily tasks and responsibilities. However, many individuals who are diagnose with Fibromyalgai must continue to work full time, or at least keep a part time employment status, just to be able to stay on top of the cost of living as well as the extra medical expenses due to their condition as well as treatment.
The main concern for those who must continue to be employed (either full or part time) while living with Fibromyalgai is how the symptoms may affect them on a daily basis. Some days are good and there are little to no symptoms, but other days are bad and they can experience moderate to severe symptoms which can literally interfere with their ability to cope or maintain quality employment statuses. The two main symptoms that interferer with workplace productivity are fatigue and chronic pain. In order to cope with the condition of Fibromyalgai within the workplace it is imperative that an understanding about how the condition presents itself in symptoms between the employee as well as employer and co-workers. A few ways that this can be successfully accomplished are by following the steps laid out below:
- Communication – if a Fibromyalgai sufferer expects anyone in their place of employment to become sympathetic and helpful at the workplace then the proper communication about how the condition of Fibromyalgai actually affects them (and their work productivity) must take place. It is important that communication about the condition be simple, straightforward, and yet polite in order to convey the seriousness of how the symptoms and condition will affect everyday life within the workplace. Communication should also involve clear expectations by the employer in order that the Fibromyalgai sufferer can make decisions as to whether or not the job can be continued in the realm of reality.
- Stress Reduction – again along the lines of clear communication one of the most important things that Fibromyalgia sufferers should avoid is stress. Stress can exacerbate symptoms and cause problems for the Fibromyalgai sufferer so clearly communicating regarding schedules, deadlines, and job descriptions is crucial for everyone involved.
- Flexibility – if it is possible and an employer understands how hard of a worker and how valuable the Fibromyalgai suffer is to their company they might be willing to be more flexible given the circumstances of a diagnosis of Fibromyalgai. Provisions of memory aids (such as schedulers and organizers), provision of written job instructions as well as expectations, communication of clear deadlines, and the allowance of flexible work hours when physical appointments or flare ups occur. Some employers might even allow a Fibromyalgai suffer to work from home or set a self-paced work load whenever possible.
Clearly not every single exception to the rules can be made. Employers and companies still have to remain productive and decide if the fit is right for both themselves and the employee. But when clear communication takes place regarding the basics of Fibromyalgai then many times a Fibromyalgai sufferer may still be able to keep their jobs and maintain productivity.