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Holding down a job with Fibromyalgia

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 17 Oct 2020 | 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 have been struggling with fibromyalgia for 10 years but I do believe I’ve had it longer. I’ve been trying since 2017 for some form of help and basically pip has said the can’t help as I work and drive a manual car and I socialise
Meme - 17-Oct-20 @ 9:32 AM
I was just diagnosed with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and carpel tunnel in both wrists and hands, I have been off work for 5 months, because i work at Walmart and they keep saying they don't have a position for me due to all my restrictions. So i'm stuck looking for another job in the mean time but there are no jobs in my area that i can do with all the chronic pain i have and the fatigue, and brain fog. I was looking for remote work with covid and all but no jobs for that either.Im slowly using my savings to live off of. I am not sure what i am gonna do. I did file for disability, although im sure i wont be approved. Have any of you tried filing for disability at all??Any advice would be appreciated.
Annette - 12-Oct-20 @ 4:04 PM
I've had fibromyalgia for several years now and it's got a lot worse this past year. I work in retail and I've had to take a few days off here and there due to the pain and stomach upsets. I recently had a flu virus and did a Corona virus test but thankfully it was negative but my absence rate is now rather high and my employer has started being nasty about it basically. He clearly doesn't understand or know what fibromyalgia is or can do to a person mentally, emotionally or physically as he stated that my severe back pain wasn't fibromyalgia!!! And that we needed to discuss my absences. I was referred to the occupational health person and the suggestions she gave have not be followed despite myasking. Where do I stand if they try to sack me? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Helen - 23-Sep-20 @ 11:33 AM
I have firbomylaiga for 3 years.Am a carer part time.Sins January Ihave was become weaker and in a lot of pain fromsharp pain in lower back,stinging,and burning in my thighs. Am sensitive to light and noises.I.ve been off work for four weeks now.Am getting more rest but still feeling fatigue all the time I put a brave face on at work and people say I don't look like am in pain.Am not sure what to do about work.
Meg - 31-Jul-20 @ 10:28 AM
Himy Job role is a cleaner and I've been off work for 8 weeks im in chronic pain I dont wanna loose my jobbut just ain't fit for work at the minute any advice please ?
Saz - 17-May-20 @ 6:28 PM
I feel so tired and devastated I need to take brake anything the a start doing migraine,insomnia ,loss memory ,stomach pain,sensitive a light ,fatigue is I move more the 10min I don’t now how can be possible the you have joints pain and inflammation sometimes a hug can be painful ,anxious,depression plus and my case I have sensitive stomach help if you now any treatments the you now I just want my life back
Liz - 3-May-20 @ 3:36 AM
I was diagnoaed with fibromyalgia about 2 weeka ago. Before that doctors told me it was endometriosis (i have this too). However it has just been getting worse and worse. Ive been signed off for 3 weeks, however i had my friends dogs over the weekend and walking 3 miles a day and getting up at 7am took it out of me and i was so emotional and tiered and then struggled to sleep last night as it hurt to lie down. Does anypne know who to go to for advice as im so concerned at the moment. It doesnt help im new to it all and have noone to talk to.
Charli - 2-Sep-19 @ 10:29 AM
I've had fibromyalgia for 7 yrs and it's getting progressively worse. I have been very fortunate with my employer who has bent over backwards to help me stay in work. Despite this, every day is a struggle and getting harder..... I count my blessings because I know some sufferers dont have the support I've had yet I have reached the point where I question the desirability of continuing to go on, feeling like this. I will soon have to make a decision to remain in work or take a leap into the unknown and leave. Very scary.... I wonder often how I came to land up like this..... but like Pandoras box - there is always hope....
Terri - 11-Aug-19 @ 8:48 PM
I'm 52...work f/t as a team leader in a busy theatre..as well as freelance festival and event work. Partner WONT WORK!!!Said I'm lazy because I wanted to go a short cut as in pain. I'm literally having no time to rest as at work on doubles.... Do EVERYTHING at home too.... At end of patience and tether.... In a lot of pain most days....no support so I just get on best I can.....often wonder if I'm there to fund holidays and everything else....work are OK but need a rest
Protopunkqueen - 11-Jun-19 @ 11:35 AM
Hello. I've been diagnosed since Dec 2018 with fibromyalgia after a 13 year fight for a diagnosis for my chronic pain and fatigue (I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome and IBS and CFS, so knew there was something underlying)I am struggling to hold down my job, having been sacked and on disciplinary in previous positions for absences and again being a step before a disciplinary.I don't know where to go from here.My doctor wont give me painkillers and is wanting to treat me with just anti depressants.I am at my wits end.I'd really appreciate any advice.
Ksnads - 10-May-19 @ 2:02 PM
I am off work at the moment. I have been reading CFS UNRAVELLED by Dan Neuffer. It is very informative. It appears that stress/trauma causes physiological problems in the body over time and the body loses its ability to handle any kind of stress. Healing consists of rest, relaxation and the right nutrition and some retraining of the brain. It all takes time though, which costs money. But health is so important. Just going to try taking magnesium and malic acid to start the healing.
Ali - 11-Apr-19 @ 8:48 AM
I have just read this interesting information as I am still waiting to see the Neurologist, I first saw my GP Feb 3rd 2019 but have been suffering for a year, just chose to ignore it!! The trouble is I haven't had luck with employers, most of last year I was temping anyway and so was able to rest in between assignments having recently left a job of 8 years because of bullying and wanting more hours (the pain wasn't as severe as now) I had to leave my recent employment because they wanted a medical report from my GP and having just had an operation on my womb were less than sympathetic about that or the pain I was experiencing. I was a full time receptionist but this was a role which had me working on a desk hand built for people who were tall or not seated it was too high for me. The stool I sat on wasn't comfortable and requested arms for it so I could actually sit on the damn thing. I was expected to carry heavy items, rush around, walk, run upstairs and it was all getting too much. I actually walked out after receiving a horrible email for the HR manager which suggested to me that they didn't necessarily believe me. I walked out.I also suffer oral Lichen Planus which flares up with the fybro flareup and I have had issues with osteoarthritis (partial knee replacement right knee 2015 and left knee clean out 2017) My dilemma at the moment is money as is for most people.I have applied for benefits have an understanding Husband to a degree but it is hard for him to understand, and I have just applied for a part-time reception position but have been honest about my health. Really feel quite lost, the brain is working til I feel tired, but I need to earn money!!! Anyone have any advise? Thanks, Jody
Jody - 14-Mar-19 @ 1:12 PM
I have fibromyalgia and been with it for nearly 7 years I suffer really bad fibro fog and for the main have accepted it. For the last 2 yrs of my working life I have suffered crippling anxiety from the job and trying to get through the day without forgetting something. Unfortunately my manager thinks it's ok to make my life hell by ridiculing me if i have forgotten about something. I'm at the point now I want to resign as I have lost all self confidence since being diagnosed and have been made to feel my capabilities are limited. 16 yrs in the job and I just want it to all go away.
Shell - 11-Mar-19 @ 12:17 AM
Hi everyone its interesting reading all your stories and good to know I am not alone out there. I have had moderate fibro from the age of 28 and chronic fibro from the age of 42 for the last 6 years I am 48 now.Moving from moderate to chronic happened like the flick of a switch where as before I had bouts lasting 6weeks now it is constant, the last year has been like a decent into hell and I am finding it increasingly hard to cope with the constant pain and tiredness along with other complications such as infections in my bowel and a few weeks ago a heart attack. I've gradually become completely sedentary over the last 6 years and now basically just live to go to work going to bed at 7 or 8 and getting up around 4am to take my pain killers and waiting 3 hours for me to get mobile enough to go to work.I am now struggling to even get to work and have spent the last 2-3 months mostly at home and am worried about loosing my job.I have a big enough mortgage to mean that I need to work. PIP being so ridiculous will not assess me as incapable of working as I can walk down the road to the shops, its just that I can't guarantee how long it would be in the morning before I could maybe 9am or it could be 1pm or somedays not at all. I miss having a social life and have become increasingly isolated as I very rarely can find the energy too meet people for an evening and if I do am usually exhausted the day after.I see the majority of advice here is around getting rest and reducing stress, I am definitely stressed as I see no end to the cycle and most of the enjoyment has gone from my work and social life and every day seems like a battle to stay in the game, I only work 4 days a week now and its not an option for me to work less than that, I feel trapped and often hope to an end to it all. My nan god bless her used to say that there's no point to worry about the future as life just happens anyway, since my heart attack I've realised that you should try to not worry about that you cannot change, I can't change my illness, I can't change my work just now, but I am in control of how I feel and how I can reduce my reaction to stressful situations, so I am working now on trying to not stress so much about my future and on how to manage my emotions, my nan was right. I wish all of you the very best.
Richy - 15-Nov-18 @ 8:12 PM
After reading all the letters that fibromyalgia sufferers have shared with others it makes me feel slightly better just knowing that I’m not alone with this illness . It seems there are a lot of people out there that just don’t understand anything about it ! It looks like we all just have to soldier on and be very strong and support each other !! I have no doubt in my mind that some doctors think it is an imaginary illness ! I get no support whatsoever from my workplace management ! Fortunately I have understanding colleagues and family and friends !! Management say they are not qeuestioning validity of my illness when I’m absent occasionally but they are only interested in hours lost to nhs ...
Rootie - 21-Aug-18 @ 3:55 PM
After reading all the letters that fibromyalgia sufferers have shared with others it makes me feel slightly better just knowing that I’m not alone with this illness . It seems there are a lot of people out there that just don’t understand anything about it ! It looks like we all just have to soldier on and be very strong and support each other !! I have no doubt in my mind that some doctors think it is an imaginary illness ! I get no support whatsoever from my workplace management ! Fortunately I have understanding colleagues and family and friends !! Management say they are not questioning validity of my illness when I’m absent occasionally but they are only interested in hours lost to nhs ...
Rootie - 21-Aug-18 @ 3:51 PM
Me again. Very surprised how many of us FM patients have depression and anxiety along with NON REM or no Deep stage 3 & 4 Sleep. We all have the pain and what pain you may feel is different in all of us. I have the sensation of burning fire under my shoulder blades, burning in my arms, and stiff muscle in my lower lumbar area up and down along each side of the spine. I have a sense of a heavy load on me like climbing stairs feels like I am also carrying 40 pounds of extra weight.One thing I have come to know is that the non restorative sleep, anxiety, and depression all play a major role in the symptoms ofFM. Get the stress out of your life at any cost. Get sleep medication, and low does pain medicine on an as needed basis and not long acting as this can be habit forming.Sue your company if they cannot help you have time to rest at work, 2 x 15 minute naps could help you gain some strength to continue through your day. Have family support you when things are very difficult for you. If they do not want to help you or support you, Get them out of your life immediately.... Sever Fibro will continue to post more as I can help all my brothers and sisters out there worldwide who suffer 24 / 7 with Fibromyalgia. Some people will pass away from cancer and other diseases and eventually their suffering will stop but those of uswho have FM our suffering will never stop so our pain is a life time of pain and agony. I do not think a cure will ever be had because there's no money in finding a cure, there are trillions to be made handing us medication they say work, yet soon after they recall or warn the public not to take it. May God bless all of us with FM. We all need to somehow get people to understand how bad we are suffering and how much money it takes to look for new medication to help us and save may lives that need man kind to step up to the plate and raise money to HELP FIND RELIEF IF ITS NOT A CURE. Many FM patients commit suicide when the ring of firegets to intense. People in general fear swimming when they do not know why when they have tried it. Well Forest Gump said it,"That's All I've got to say"Till next time Love to all my brothers and sister with FM.
Sever Fibro - 21-Jul-18 @ 5:33 AM
Im male 56 Had fibro since 1982 and got worse over the years. Wife leaving me due to illness and this has added to the stress. Have widespread pain with depression insomnia and terrible fatigue. Stress makes condition worse and wife tells me im a failure. I take narcotic pain medication which sometimes does not work at all. My advise to all who have FM CFS and all symptoms best you can do is get the stress out of you life including your non supportive spouse and anyone who claims to be your friends but does not stand beside you when you need them. Love to all of you who suffer. Those who are not with you will be judged when they meet their maker or sooner. Karma is real.. they all find out soon enough. Find real love within true friends. The WHO needs to help find a cure and start spending money on this awful condition God bless everyone with FM and those who try to help us.
Sever Fibro - 22-May-18 @ 3:36 AM
?????????? Just don't know what to do. Crawling to work. In tears most of everyday. How will I pay my mortgage? Where do I start? Sympathetic and wonderful gp. So scared of not being able to work. But don't know what to do!!
Miss v - 2-May-18 @ 9:42 PM
I was told i have fibromyalgia last year as suffering for years. I started a new job as a health care support worker in november working for the nhs. My shifts were 12.5 hours a daywhich were too much and my manager was not understanding when i explained i physically cannot do the long shifts .her response was 'its the trusts policy and it works' .i was made to work on my own from the 2nd day.no supervision at all.told i had to hurry up and get my care certificate finished as they need me on nights.even though i was told i had 12 weeks to finish it. They did not give a dam .only bothered about having enough staff to cover . I have now left which i regret deeply. Because of this i am now scared to open up about my condition . I have set up a page on facebook. Fibromyalgia won't be me.
Mazza4ever - 8-Mar-18 @ 5:11 PM
I too sympathise with all that have this condition. I have was diagnosed myself 2 years ago after doctor ruled out MS and other conditions. I work in a school with an understanding head so I am lucky. Often though it is others at work that don't understand as fibromyalgia is a invisible condition. I have found that mindfulness helps keep stress and anxiety levels down which prevents flare ups most of the time. I when I do have a flare up it can last for weeks. I get abdominal problems, sore throat, and flu symptoms, and extreme fatigue and that's without the intense pain. Sometimes it even hurts to touch my eyebrows. I try as I am sure others do to get through a day at work but that leaves me unable to function at home. So you are then left with a choice who suffers work or family.
Sammylou - 6-Mar-18 @ 7:40 AM
I was diagnosed 3 years ago with Fibromyalgia, Sjorgens disease and Rheumatoid arthritis. I am a chef by trade and have worked hard to climb the ladder in a mostly male dominated profession. it goes without saying that my job is very physically challenging. I first went to a specialist hand surgeon when I experienced overwhelming pain in my hands and wrists and would get the shakes when icing elaborate wedding cake. I was also dropping things a lot. I was told I had carpel tunnel syndrome and went for the opp. Nothing changed afterwards except that my hands were not as strong and my fine motor skills left a lot to be desired. I went to get a second opinion and was then asked to take off my shoes so he could see my feet, and then my knees. He asked how long I'd had pain in these joints. Chefs stand for 12 to 16 hours a day and I was well used to the pain so I had learned to live with it. That is when I was diagnosed but he said I'd had it for at least 4 years already. I find that having a strong mind set is vital! For me I cannot entertain the thought of pain in the morning. I just accept that its there, do the best I can on the day, and don't beat myself up for leaving things undone or choosing to go to bed early instead of going out with friends. What I am struggling with though, is that all my training and experience is in food. I now need to look for a less physical job as my condition deteriorates but I am qualified for nothing else. We do not have a grant system in South Africa so I have to work to support myself. (I am single) Can anyone shed some light on a career path that starts paying the bills from day one but that is not as taxing? I have tried teaching, but those jobs are like hens teeth and still require you to be physical for at least 8 hours a day. I am writing a cook book in the hopes that it will be published but that does not bring in money straight away either which I need as my medical bills are a sixth of what I currently earn. Lastly may I just quickly add that good supportive shoes, and long hotbaths steeped in Epsom salts have really helped for the pain when the painkillers and anti inflammatories don't seem to be doing their job. I have also made a helpful mind switch which keeps me motivated. I am not my diseases. I am more than just symptoms. I am first and foremost still the happy, fun-loving, creative and hard working person I have always been. I just happen to also have 3 auto immune diseases.
Kirsty - 9-Feb-18 @ 11:05 AM
I how do I deal with a boss that believes fibromyalgia is just being an hypochondriac. She told me in front of other members of staff that I am just an hypochondriac that loves being ill! I work 12 hours per week and in 6 years working there I've only had a 2 week period off work with a flare up.Today I'm taking the day off as I had a tooth out yesterday due to an abcess and my face is swollen and throbbing.I received a bad attitude because of it! Absolutely disgusted.Wouldn't mind but there are other people at work that have a day off every month with something or other.
Shreklover - 9-Feb-18 @ 9:48 AM
Hi there, I came across this forum by chance, and I truly feel for everyone that’s suffers from this horrible condition. I too was diagnosed myself in April this year, and have had to reassess my life, work, and lifestyle. It took a good 3years to get a diagnosis. And recently been on a mindfulness course which I found very beneficial to me. I still work 15 hours a week and claim pip, and now have a mobility scooter to get me to and from work. I don’t know what I would do without it now. I too get flair ups and in constant pain, but I take each day , and listen to my body, and pace myself. I take vitamins every day on D and B complex. And I have acupuncture when I need it. I hope you all have a nice weekend
Pam - 2-Dec-17 @ 6:40 PM
I have been suffering from fibromyalgia for several years but only diagnosed a year or so ago. I also have osteoarthritis especially on my hands and wrists. I started with bowel problems about five years ago. I was also depressed but the DWP assessor said I was fit for work. Because of the stress of threat of sanctions I got worse. After a year of applying for every job going although I am a qualified lawyer, I got a part time admin job. I was 55at that time. I started with migraine s after nearly two years, and was made redundant shortly after. I was the only person who was made redundant. I tried to work from home doing crafts. I started to feel exhausted and the pain was really bad in the end I had to give up as my health is unpredictable. I am always exhausted and feel like I have been beaten up. Just getting through the day is exhausting. I was in bed by 7 last night. I hardly go out as I am dizzy and fall over if I push myself. I had to appeal and involve my MP to get PIP. I claimed ESA but after an assessment had that taken off me. I can't work as I feel it would be dangerous. I'm 60 now and my retirement age has been increased by 6 years . I brought up three children on my own and did all I could to pay my own way. Now I'm chronically sick I am suffering depression and anxiety as well as all the other conditions. I am expected to sign on and go through the sanction regime at age 60 after 45 years. I can't get better like this.
Kathy - 22-Nov-17 @ 9:45 AM
Hi all, I was diagnosed with fibro, cfs, TMJ and hypermobility syndrome last year. It's taken 12 years to get the diagnosis. I was a manager of a recruitment branch for 10 years but last year had to reduce hours by 2 full days and take a lesser role. The fatigue is horrendous and the tension knots in shoulders neck and back are so big it looks like I've had golf balls rammed under my skin. I am also a Mama to a toddler (3) and since September I feel like I can't continue my job. I'm too drained and completely uncomfortable with the pain, I have actually made a claim for PIP as I'm having to take unpaid leave most weeks and struggling to pay for massages and acupuncture. My parents are a great support. I'm just worried as feel like I'm getting allot worse every year. Anyone had any luck with PIP support?
LishyLou - 24-Oct-17 @ 6:38 PM
Hi I'm 37 and I'm currently off work with Fibromyalgia, been off for two weeks starting with a virus, which led to flare up. I work in a school. Been to physio this morning and i've been recommended exercises and to change my lifestyle, don't get stressed anxious etc. Basically change my whole lifestyle approach. I will 100% give this a go and be as positive as I can about it. I'm finding it super hard to manage my fibro and work at the mo and the opinions of health professionals I've dealt with (physio, gp and specialist Dr) advise me to exercise more (as if I'm simply unfit) and keep asking if I'm depressed. This has left me really frustrated and confused as we all know it's such a hard condition to live with and I don't want to stop work. Has anyone here seen an improvement with daily exercise, back stretches etc? I don't take painkillers as I cannot function on them for work. I've also tried cbt and massage/acupuncture. The pain level in my back is constant, it's a hot pain like?? in my top back/shoulders. I get pains in my legs/hips too but less debilitating.thanks for reading x
Becca - 20-Oct-17 @ 10:58 AM
Hello. I haven’t been told if I am chronic or not. Had fibro diagnosed four years ago after being ill for some time. Also ha e a shoulder disability and degeratuve osteo arthritis in neck and lower spine, stenosis and also osteoarthritis in my hands, swelling in a tendon in the thumb and arthritis in knees... Working full time but off sick a lot and likely to lose my job because of the time off. Need to understand if I will likely be fit for full time workever again. Am 55. Can anyone share any research on prognosis when fibro bad for more than 4 years? Thanks
Eaneh - 17-Oct-17 @ 10:14 PM
@ Sparklyhol1 - thanks - this is helpful. I couldn't work full-time or only have four weeks off a year if working in an office. But once my kids are at school and my husband isn't around to help, I know I'll have to do something.
Ali - 21-Aug-17 @ 3:11 PM
Reading some of your comments below has made me want to offer some advice. I have had CFS for the past 11 years and recently (8 months ago although i think it has all been 11 years) been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and hypermobility syndrome. In the beginning I was on the sick for 18 months. I had counselling for 8 months coming to terms with the awful debilitating condition, which i believe saved my life because at 21 i really believed my life was over. I enrolled on a college course just 1 night a week to build myself up as i had been house and bed bound for so long. Then at 22 i got a job at a school working 22 hours per week. Although i struggle tremendously on some days, the thought of having a week or 2 weeks holiday every 7 weeks really helps me. I sleep on the afternoons which then allows me to do something on the night whether it be going for a walk or helping round the house. Im approaching 32 now....i certainly do have really bad days but i have better days too. I am on medication for the chronic pain aswell. Anyways my point is to try a career working in a school....the holidays are great for recuperation. Although i earn peanuts and now have to pay for all my medication atleast I am managing to stay afloat and have some purpose in life. Stay positive!
Sparklyhol1 - 21-Aug-17 @ 12:49 AM
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