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Coping with the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia Whilst Working

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. It is important for example to rest when you can and not to overwork yourself. Not only does this lead to stress but stress can then trigger what is known as a ‘flare up’.


A flare up is a bout of symptoms that can suddenly appear without warning; this may be most evident if you are stressed or under a lot of pressure either at home or at work.

Flare ups often only last for a few days unless you are a chronic sufferer of the condition in which case they can last for weeks at a time.

Whatever career path you follow, keep asking yourself if you're deriving pleasure and value from the work you do. If you're forcing yourself to continue working in a way that's not healthy, what good is that? Instead, you may want to find a different kind of job, one that's physically easier, or more enjoyable.

Managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia on the job can be challenging, however, there are some strategies that you can use that will allow you to cope better and be more productive in your daily job activities.

Be Open—Talk with Your Employer
Before you have your meeting with your employer it’s important to have your “facts at hand”. You need to have documentation if possible. Perhaps being able to show appointment dates with your doctor, a written statement of diagnosis, or perhaps a journal that you keep with your symptoms in it will be what you use to do this. You don’t have to share all of your personal details, just something to substantiate your condition as real and on-going.

Admit that you have Fibromyalgia and that you have symptoms that you can neither control nor predict, and that it is a very real condition.  Talk to the people in Human Resources first.  There’s a chance your employer may not be supportive, but pluck up the courage and go ahead. You have to risk having an honest and heartfelt discussion with your employer regarding the truth about your condition. There is a chance that your employer may be more supportive of you than you thought and your work condition could actually improve by “clearing the air”.

Without all that hiding and pressure, your work production and quality may actually improve and help you achieve a much healthier and happy existence. Plus, your employer may be able to help you understand with the help of Human Resources, the laws and regulations regarding workplace discrimination against those who have very real and verifiable health conditions. Don’t neglect doing a little research first! Find out for yourself what the guidelines are, and what you have to have in order to show documentation of your condition. Arm yourself

It’s important to talk about what you are able to do.  You want to assure your employer that you are still a valuable employee and that there are many things you are able to do in order to contribute to the company. Remind them about things you’ve accomplished in the past while they were not aware that you were dealing with your Fibro symptoms.

The next step is to lay out what you have to have or do in order to deal with days when your symptoms are insurmountable and how you need to deal with it. This shows initiative, it shows a position of strength, it shows responsibility and it shows that you are not falling back on excuses but actively taking control of your condition.

Before your meeting write things down and if possible print them out so you have something they can look at and also keep in your employee file. Tell them what you will be using as tools to help you deal with your condition at work so it doesn’t come as surprise when they see it. You need a plan of action in place before you go in for your meeting.

Perhaps your employer may have access to other things that can help you as well. Ergonomic tools and furniture to help you or other things that they know about that perhaps you don’t. Be open to suggestions and work together to come up with a plan.

A lot of employers are more than willing to work with you to keep you because they don’t want to spend the money to interview, employ, and train a whole new employee for your position.

The relief gained from finally coming out with it and then taking control of a plan of action can benefit you in so many ways. Again, like that rock thrown into the pond, the ripple effects can go on and on both professionally and personally.

You have the potential of learning new ways to cope, new ways to increase your value at work, and most of all you gain the knowledge that you are not alone and you have the backing of your employer and co workers

It is a good idea to list the symptoms which are causing the most problems for you in the workplace. Then discuss with your employer what can be done about making modifications to make coping with the symptoms easier for you.


Ideas worth discussing
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
  • providing to-do lists and written instructions
  • reminding the employee of important deadlines and meetings
  • allowing time off for counselling
  • providing clear expectations of responsibilities and consequences
  • providing sensitivity training to co-workers
  • 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 migraine headaches, employers may wish to 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 disorder, employers may wish to consider:

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

To address issues with Temperature Sensitivity, employers may wish to consider:

  • Modify work-site temperature and maintain the ventilation system
  • Modify dress code
  • Use fan/air-conditioner or heater at the workstation and redirect vents
  • Allow flexible scheduling and work from home during extremely hot or cold weather
  • Provide an office with separate temperature control



Tips for Employees - Coping with Anxiety

In the Workplace

Everyone feels stress in the workplace, but for those with anxiety disorders, this can interfere with their ability to do their job. The fear of not doing well, missing a deadline or getting fired can consume thoughts. For those with social anxiety, talking and interacting with co-workers can create enormous pressure.

Treatment can help people with anxiety cope with the daily stresses. There are also some strategies you can implement in the workplace to help manage your anxiety disorder:

  • Request a desk away from high-traffic or noisy areas. Having a quiet place to do your work can help you to accomplish more.
  • Using warm fluorescent lights can help, even if they are just over your desk.
  • 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 (ask about using a conference room) 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.

In addition to the above tips, keep an "anxiety" log to help determine events and situations that may trigger intense feelings of anxiety or worry. This will allow you to work with a therapist to find specific strategies for coping with anxiety symptoms at work.

To address issues with moving around, employers may wish to consider:

  • Moving workstation close to other work areas, office equipment, and break rooms


Useful websites for further information. 

A great deal of this information is found on American websites—but the basic information can provide the basis for discussion between Employer and Employee:

Fibromyalgia on the Job

Accommodating employees with FMS

Women Living and Working with Fibromyalgia

Men with Fibromyalgia (Check out the forums)

All nurses – Working Full time with Fibromyalgia

Work and Disability Issues with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Work and Fibromyalgia

Even if you can't work at all right now, you may want to find some way to volunteer or otherwise participate in your community. The friendships we build at work can nurture us; you can also build valuable personal connections outside the workplace, connections that keep you feeling positive.

For a free information pack from the Fibromyalgia Association UK (FMA UK) please send your name and address To the Cradley Heath Office:


FMA UK, Training and Enterprise Centre, Applewood Grove, Cradley Heath, B64 6EW.

Or: Visit http://www.fmauk.org and request one on line.

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