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Holding down a job with Fibromyalgia

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 8 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Fibromyalgia Syndrome

There are many people who suffer from the condition known as Fibromyalgia but do not suffer from it on a chronic level, meaning that they can function in as normal a fashion as an individual who was not suffering from it.

There are four different levels of pain that can be measured in relation to the condition and they are:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Severe
  • Chronic

An individual suffering with either mild or moderate Fibromyalgia may experience what are referred to as ‘flare ups’ but should be able to continue working and carrying out normal day to day tasks without too much difficulty; they will also be receiving some sort of pain medication from their doctor in order to help combat some of the overlapping conditions associated with Fibromyalgia.

Suffering from Severe or Chronic Fibromyalgia

If you are unfortunate enough to have been categorised as either a severe or chronic sufferer of the condition then you may find it more difficult to carry out normal day to day tasks such as housework, looking after children or holding down a job of work. If this is the case then your doctor will have probably forwarded you to a consultant who may be able to help with a pain management regime.

These pain management plans are designed to help you –the sufferer – cope with the pain and also the loss of mobility that this pain may also bring about. As we have said before Fibromyalgia is a condition that has no cure so each of the symptoms are looked at in turn to try and best judge how to deal with them.

Overlapping Conditions

Overlapping conditions are for the most part the biggest concern when it comes to Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as M.E or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). As both of these conditions have fairly similar symptoms it is sometimes difficult for a doctor to offer a proper diagnosis until he or she has checked out all other possibilities.

Such overlapping conditions can include:

  • Migraines
  • Light sensitivity
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Stomach problems
  • Memory Impairment

However only some of these conditions can be dealt with using prescribed or over the counter medications such as pain killers. Other medications which your doctor must prescribe include anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

Continuing to Work if You Have Fibromyalgia

When many sufferers first discover they have Fibromyalgia (and this is normally long before it is diagnosed by their doctor) they experience a variety of symptoms such as pain, headaches and fatigue which can cause them to have time off work. When this is the case it is important to consult your doctor as soon as possible in order that he may attempt to treat the pain.

Sufferers of Fibromyalgia can continue to work but must embark on a program of pain management and also work out a daily regime that suits both them and their 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’.

What is 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.

Talk to Your Boss

If you have been diagnosed as a Fibromyalgia sufferer it is a worth while endeavour speaking to your supervisor, team leader or indeed managing director. He or she 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.

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I've just been diagnosed with chronic fybromyalgia although I've suffered pain for a few years . I've been off work for 2 mths and due back next week but don't know how I'll cope . I get so many bad days where I'm on so much pain and exhausted. How can I say to my employer oh I just need to go for a lie down . I only work 25 hours a week but it's still going to be hard . I don't know if I should go back to work or stay off and let them finish me on ill health.Money wise I wouldn't be much worse off to be honest . When I'm at home I spend most of my time trying to get comfortable and ease the pain . I also need to lie down a lot .
Pat - 8-Jun-17 @ 4:26 PM
Hi I came across you your forum as I was debating writing out my notice. I was diagnosed a year ago, now I understand it more I'm certain I have suffered for several years, had that typical "Super working mum" approach, I think after a car crash it has finally caught up with me. I'm really torn as I do enjoy my job, as a customer service manager, working shifts and weekend, with very demanding public, I feel I can't carry on, as I'm holding all the dress in my body, I feel like a lorry as run over me. I never take time off sick, I struggle through colds, and viral infections which ultimately leave me feeling worse. Realistically can you keep such a role with Fibro? Or is it time I put my career on hold for the sake of my well-being?
Petal - 17-May-17 @ 7:59 PM
Hi, i came out of hairdressing 8 years ago because of chronic pain in different parts of my body, but worse in my lower back which was agony and constant spasms. It took me 5 years to get diagnosed with fibromyalgia and joint hypermobility syndrome. Im in an easy job now but its so boring its mentally frustrating and i turn 30 next year and want a proper career again. Im thinking of going back into salon work but scared il not manage. Its my old salon i want to get back with and was thinking to suggest me doing a few voluntary days to see how i get on, but on the other hand i dont want to mention my health incase it puts them off employing me. I would be so embarrassed if i asked f for my old job back then started working there again and after a few weeks not being able to handle it and having to leave. Any advice? My pain isnt as agonising as in the past so im thinking il be ok, but then again it could be because im not doing hairdressing now, my current job is in retail and i only work 4 hour shifts.
Amy - 21-Apr-17 @ 5:27 PM
Andy - Your Question:
Have just been made manager of a team. One of our members suffers from fibro. She has a considerable amount of time off work to manage her stress and a reduced workload. I take on the extra work. I have taken on too much work trying to accomodate our sufferer. I'm beginning to get snowed under. So I distributed the work fairly across the team but this has been met with resistance from our fibro. sufferer. She's a good friend and amazing worker so don't want to move her to another department. How do I go from here? Does our company need to realise that she can't work a full workload and needs lots of time off, so needs to supply me with another staff member? I suppose because they perceive that work is mostly being completed that there isn't a problem? But I can't go on overworking myself. If I ask for support they just say "do the best job you can do, we understand".

Our Response:
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question as and decision-making process rests with your line managers. If you have spoken with them informally, your only recourse is to speak with them directly and officially if you feel this is affecting you personally. However, if you have her redistributed work fairly across your team, I don't think your friend can critisise this move as you are attempting to work around her illness in he best way you can. Negotiation with your colleague and your bosses needs to continue until you can resolve the issues between you all. You say you do not wish to move your friend to another department, but you need to discuss with your friend what she thinks is also the best for her.
FibromyalgiaSyndrome - 11-Apr-17 @ 10:20 AM
Have just been made manager of a team. One of our members suffers from fibro. She has a considerable amount of time off work to manage her stress and a reduced workload. I take on the extra work. I have taken on too much work trying to accomodate our sufferer. I'm beginning to get snowed under. So I distributed the work fairly across the team but this has been met with resistance from our fibro. sufferer. She's a good friend and amazing worker so don't want to move her to another department. How do I go from here? Does our company need to realise that she can't work a full workload and needs lots of time off, so needs to supply me with another staff member? I suppose because they perceive that work is mostly being completed that there isn't a problem? But I can't go on overworking myself. If I ask for support they just say "do the best job you can do, we understand".
Andy - 10-Apr-17 @ 12:26 AM
Hi all I am 30 years old, I work part time in a busy shop, I have two children. I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia around 7 years ago. I wanted to ask if anyone has any help as I am really struggling with my retail job & I'm considering retraining in something else but I'm unsure what would be best for me. Thankyou.
Kerrie - 13-Oct-16 @ 4:20 PM
pat - Your Question:
Had this condition for10 years, went back to work 3 years ago, best thing I ever did. Still tired and I pain but I have some of my life back.

Our Response:
We're glad you have managed to get your life back on track. Best of luck for the future too.
FibromyalgiaSyndrome - 13-Apr-16 @ 2:13 PM
Had this condition for10 years, went back to work 3 years ago, best thing i ever did. Still tired and i pain but i have some of my life back.
pat - 12-Apr-16 @ 8:03 PM
Hi I stumbled across your blog, I hope you don't mind me commenting. I haven't got a definite diagnosis yet but have been told likely fibro or ms. I am 32 mum of 2 working full time term time only. I have been having constant pain, burning, stabbing, crawling, pins and needles, twitching that started off in my right arm and over the year has spread to my entire body. Walking, standing, writing, sitting on chairs that are too hard and/or low causes symptoms to worsen, I am tired pretty much all the time. I feel I am just getting worse, people have even commented on how this is progressing. I have less patience where as before I would let things go over my head and lately uncontrollable itching/prickly feeling under my armpits and inside of my arm, nothing seems to help. I have problems maintaining my body temperature and often feeling freezing or boiling. I don't know what else to do that I haven't already tried, I've asked for help and stressed that I am not coping but there doesn't seem to be a lot of advice out there without definite diagnosis. I take loads of different pain relief prescribed by gp but barely takes the edge off on a good day and can't do a thing on the bad days. I force myself to continue for my partner and 2 children. I don't know what others do about work and home life? I feel so lonely and I feel like I can't keep going like this. Any advice I'd really appreciate
lyn83 - 26-Mar-16 @ 11:27 AM
annette - Your Question:
Its sad to see so many people suffer with this my doctors treated me for arthritis and rheumatic pain then diagnosed me with chronic fibromyalgia? I work full time but I am a manager with a fantastic team and they support me always, my husband is kind understanding and loving and really caring, yes I worry about it I am 58 year old and have extremely bad days but get through them, my exhausted days are the worse and I will never get over how difficult it is to move in the morning and dress my self and how hard it is after a full day at work to undress? But I do it and adjust everything I do to the day I am having, but yes I could cry scream shout but I don't know where that will get me, I am angry at the moment because my hands feel massive and I can't bend my thumb so it's getting me down? This won't do me any good but I don't know what to do? Annette

Our Response:
Sorry to hear this. Apart from visiting your GP. I can only suggest you join some support groups or forums in order to see whether anyone can recommend treatments that work for them. You can access one local to you via the link here. I hope this helps.
FibromyalgiaSyndrome - 19-Aug-15 @ 12:35 PM
its sad to see so many people suffer with this my doctors treated me for arthritis and rheumatic pain then diagnosed me with chronic fibromyalgia? I work full time but I am a manager with a fantastic team and they support me always, my husband is kind understanding and loving and really caring, yes I worry about it I am 58 year old and have extremely bad days but get through them, my exhausted days are the worse and I will never get over how difficult it is to move in the morning and dress my self and how hard it is after a full day at work to undress? But I do it and adjust everything I do to the day I am having, but yes I could cry scream shout but I don't know where that will get me, I am angry at the moment because my hands feel massive and I can't bend my thumb so it's getting me down? This won't do me any good but I don't know what to do? Annette
annette - 18-Aug-15 @ 5:48 PM
@Michelle - I am sorry to hear that you are struggling with your pain. You really need to re-visit your GP and stress that you cannot cope, if your GP is unsympathetic, then you may need to change your doctor until you find one that is. You could also try joining some forums to see whether anyone has any suggestions which may help. Fibromyalgia Action UK, link here is a charity that offers information and support via its helpline to people with fibromyalgia. I hope you manage to find the support you need.
FibromyalgiaSyndrome - 4-Aug-15 @ 10:01 AM
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia two weeks ago, but before that I was diagnosed with neuropathy. Since I started reading about fibromyalgia I can see how I was obviously miss diagnosed. I'm in pain all the time and it's getting worse. I'm scared it's going to continue getting worse. I'm already at the point that I don't know how I can take it any more. I'm 35 years old with a husband of 17 years and two daughters. My marriage is struggling because I'm not the wife and mom I used to be with being in pain and lack of energy. If you were to see me you wouldn't be able to tell the pain I go through. We rely on my income, but I'm struggling every day to work. I saw a pain management specialist, but he just says take more pain meds. I want to live for my husband and kids, but sometimes I also just want to give up.
Michelle - 1-Aug-15 @ 4:38 AM
Hi I've been suffering the last 5 years and been diagnosed with fibromyalgia I suffer from constant pain all over my body and had to give my job up as a carer as I couldn't cope I'm waiting to have injections in my nerves as pain tablets don't work it's very hard I don't sleep I get spasms burning feeling stiffness stabbing feeling and it can last up to a week constant pain where I end up in tears cos the whole of my body is in excruciating pain I getanxiety panic attacks there is no relief I'm 43 but worry how I'm going to be at the age of 50 I try and keep myself active wen I can which seems to make things worse as the pain increases so I feel your pain for all you suffering out there good luck
Claireo - 1-Jul-15 @ 3:37 AM
@jilly - thanks for your comments here. I'm glad the classes are helping and hopefully your experiences will be helpful to other readers.
FibromyalgiaSyndrome - 22-Apr-15 @ 12:27 PM
I have been diagnosed with Fibromoralgia for 2 years.I was at my wits end with the pain and feeling so tired most of the time and in pain in every joint in my body.I was determined that I was going to be able to get over this.I was diagnosed when I was refered to Physio for the pain in all my joints.I had an appointment 8 weeks after Idid a self referral .The physiopherapistrefered me to a rumatology physio but I had to wait another 8 week before I was seen. I was diagnosed at this appointment and given a great big book on the condition that I had to work through. exercise that I had to try and make comments on and how I felt and how this was inproving my condition.Then after my third appointment with the physio I had to attend a group session which was onlight exercises that we did to music and added to each week for six week.I felt that I was not getting any where and after the six week.I was told by the physio that their local virtality classes at local sport centres that I could join I was a bit apprehensive the first time I went along but they have helped me a bit.you start of with exercise that the instructor dose at the front of the class and you copy.Then you have a circuite of exercises that you have to do for 2.5 min then you go on to something else.Their are classes for all abilitys.
jilly - 20-Apr-15 @ 9:17 PM
@butterfly - There is a General Fibromyalgia Helpline on 0844 887 2444 run by the Fibromyalgia Association and is staffed by volunteers who tend to have fibromyalgia themselves. Hopefully they may be able to give you some tips which may ease your suffering. I hope this helps.
FibromyalgiaSyndrome - 18-Nov-14 @ 2:08 PM
I have suffered with this condition for 17 years. Although not diagnosed with it, I have all the symptoms without the pain. I also suffer with IBS.when I have a sudden attack, I feel my legs going weaker and weaker to the point where I can no longer stand. My body starts feeling weak and low in energy, the only thing I can do is to go to bed. I Start trembling and feel cold. in some cases all I can do is cry due to sheer frustration because it prevents me from completing my task. I have relapses. I can go weeks and months without an episode and like boltof thunder it returns. It hasn't ruled my life but affected it. I have recently started taking Berroca tabs. Its been two days, hoping once they kick into my system I will have more energy. All blood tests normal. Any advice would be much appreciated.
butterfly - 16-Nov-14 @ 11:18 PM
@Gaz. It must be very difficult for you, as along with depression Fibromyalgia is one of those illnesses that does not have any visible signs to other people, but can be extremely debilitating. In the first instance you need to cut down on caffeine and definitely on energy drinks is they can both induce a stress response and bring about anxiety, nervousness and insomnia, all of the things you don't need when you are suffering, as you need to be as gentle on yourself as possible. Have you visited your GP? I suggest you do this asap, they can offer advice and support about making changes to your everyday life that can help. There is also an NHS-approved patient course to help you cope better with your condition and it might perhaps advise on your work related issues. There are also support groups that you can join. If you have access to a computer then you can look up UK Fibromyalgia's support group section for a list of support groups across the country. I hope you manage to find a solution for your illness soon. Wishing you the best of luck
FibromyalgiaSyndrome - 13-Oct-14 @ 12:11 PM
I'm 37 year's old and have had depression since the age of 21.For many years I thought I had M.E as well but now realise that it's definitely Fibromyalgia.My whole body aches like I've beenin a car crash. Everday I wake up with very stiff joints and pain running through my body. Unfortunately I have to work as a windowcleaner. I've done this work for 8 years and I've recently had to reduce my round by a third to what is no longer enough to live on.Last weekwas very stressful trying to get the work done and I have spent nearly the whole weekend in bed. As you all know trying to explain this condition to others is near impossible.I have a fear of being stigmatised as being lazy. Unfortunately people tend to judge others by what they see.  In my case a healthy looking man of over 6 foot.I know I need to change my work as it's killing me but I have no idea what I can do instead.I've been living on coffee and energy drinks but found out today that they make fibromyalgia worse.Any advice appreciated.
Gaz - 12-Oct-14 @ 4:23 PM
I'm 37 year's old and have had depression since the age of 21.For many years I thought I had M.E as well but now realise that it's definitely Fibromyalgia.My whole body aches like I've beenin a car crash. Everday I wake up with very stiff joints and pain running through my body. Unfortunately I have to work as a windowcleaner. I've done this work for 8 years and I've recently had to reduce my round by a third to what is no longer enough to live on.Last weekwas very stressful trying to get the work done and I have spent nearly the whole weekend in bed. As you all know trying to explain this condition to others is near impossible.I have a fear of being stigmatised as being lazy. Unfortunately people tend to judge others by what they see.  In my case a healthy looking man of over 6 foot.I know I need to change my work as it's killing me but I have no idea what I can do instead.I've been living on coffee and energy drinks but found out today that they make fibromyalgia worse.Any advice appreciated.
Gaz - 12-Oct-14 @ 3:55 PM
I have only just been diagnosed . I think I have suffered with it 7 years.The pain has got too much and struggle every day taking my 5 year old to school and wen I return I'm that tier I want to sleep. The pain is stopping me from living. I have also got depression and suffered with that for years too.I'm off work and at my wits end for the fear I'm no longer having a income coming in. I cnt do my job cause of the pain . I'm a single parent and I dnt nonwere to turn.
yvonne - 12-Sep-14 @ 7:56 PM
Hi guys I suffered for many years until last year I was diagnosed with horrible condition. I am 43 worked all my life held Two jobs at time but as my condition has worsen and the doctors were unhelpful Giving my tablets that didn't work after reducing my hours from 40 to just 25 hours Per week I still couldn't cope. My employer wasn't that supported as due to my unpaid Absence I still was issued with two disciplinararies And I was going to be dismissed after 14 years of service I decided to give my notice As I didn't want to be ashamed of being dismissed. I feel like numb upset annoyed and stressed that people have judged me like there's is nothing Wrong but if only they knew that each limb hurtes like no other and I want to work but can't I feel so depressed due to leaving work feeling like nothing and I can't even tell people that I left my job so I don't go out therefore avoid them as I feel ashamed. I am not sure if I will get another job and I will probably end up selling my house As I have no income. I don't want any help from the state either as I feel I should be able up find some type of a job. It's so hard to be so unhelpful and I am the type of person who helps others but don't want help myself as I have no energy. I hope I can find some type of a job as I can't just sit around being in pain and feeling sorry for my self . It's good to know I am not alone but it's not nice to feel this way and There'sno cure which I believe there is some where but no one has found it yet
Naz - 4-Jun-14 @ 12:49 AM
Hi Guys I am in the same situation, as i had a lot of time off i was being pulled in to capability meetings all the time as my company does not or will not reg fms, my dr has signed me off work with server depression and i feel like im sinking deeper and deeper the pain in my legs is getting so bad i can bearly walk and i think im gonna have to give in and get a walking stick with will make me feel so self-con, and i dont have any real support wjich is hard as i am a single parent to a 4yr old
AJ - 27-Jan-14 @ 10:47 PM
For Betty, Sweetheart my heart goes out to you. I too have suffered this for over 18 years its hell Am just about giving up. Only it's not in my true nature to give up Lets grow a business for us
Ferrgie - 2-Oct-13 @ 10:23 PM
I have struggled for ten yeras with this condition. have had anti depressants which make me violantly sick, manged to hold down part me jobs at first but this year was made redundant ( I had a lot of time of previuos year and think this is why but you cant prove anything) I manged to getanother job but full time, this has resulted ime feeling really illeveryday with frequsnt migaines spending nearly every weekend in bed, I feel like I have gone down bank rapidly and last week I had to finish the job with immediate effect. I know now that i cannot manage any work, as I cant stand or walk for any period or length or time, to sit in one psoition is painfull then I cant get up. At least at home I dont have to be stressed thinking will I make it to work tomorrow. I can take my time ...especially mornings when It takes me a couple of hours to loosen up a bit. I am at my wits end as people think you are ok cus you look ok I have never asked the goverment or anyone for anything but I feel now I have done and tried what i can to stay in work so need a little financial help now. I cna no onger go shopping and have to do internet, vene yhis poses a probelem as its so painful to use a laptop, so have to do so little at a time.
betty - 11-Sep-12 @ 3:43 PM
I have suffered from the symptoms of fibromyalgia since having a bad fall at the age of 19 (I am now 32), and have only been diagnosed since last year. Although it is in a way reassuring to know that I'm not actually stark raving bonkers, feeling so tired and in pain constantly is not helpful when you have to then start trying to find out how you can try to maintain an income after having had to drastically reduce hours at work. After reducing hours, I was demoted which has made the financial situation worse, which then causes more stress, which worsens my syptoms, etc etc, so we go round in never ending circles. I have tried no end of 'alternative therapies', at a high cost, but unfortunatly none I've found have been too much use. It does help if you have an understanding boss - unfortunately I don't fall into that category, and I'm not confident that if I pack in my job, I am going find alternative employment when I tell them I have fibromyalgia and may take time off. All in all, not good!
Tori - 27-Mar-11 @ 12:24 PM
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