Going to Work With Fibromyalgia

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Portrait of laughing office workers

Daily activities, such as household chores and working, can be very tiring for people diagnosed with fibromyalgia. But many people with fibromyalgia are able to hold down a job and be productive in their everyday life. There are changes you can make to your home and work environment that can help.

Adapting Your Life

By setting down some ground rules in your home and making changes to the way you live your life, you can prevent fibromyalgia flare-ups. Here are some tips:

  • Pace yourself: Don't overdo it. Pick a few things to accomplish each day and rest as needed. Even if your energy is high, try not to push yourself too much. Like the saying goes, "Don't sweat the small stuff!" 

  • Dress comfortably: Choose a wardrobe that will not make your pain worse. Avoid tight-fitting waistbands, uncomfortable undergarments, scratchy materials, and socks that squeeze your tender points.

  • Keep warm: Have a pair of comfortable slippers or a sweater nearby in case you get cold.

  • Lay down rules: Talk to your spouse and children about your fibromyalgia symptoms and ask them to respect your needs. This may include keeping noise to a minimum and not startling you.

  • Delegate household duties: Everyone in the family can pitch in to help with chores. Even young kids can help by getting the mail, putting trash cans on the street, and picking up their toys.

  • Meet with an occupational therapist: An occupational therapist (OT) can teach you how to perform regular activities and work responsibilities more easily and with less strain on your body.

Adapting Your Work

If circumstances permit, you may want to talk to your supervisor and colleagues about your fibromyalgia symptoms so that they can better understand your needs. Explain that some days you may feel better than others, and ask them for their support.

There are a number of adjustments you can make and practical requests that you can ask of your boss to improve your work environment. Ask if you can:

  • Work from home, take work home with you, or request flexible hours.

  • Make up missed work on the weekends.

  • Have breaks during the day to rest.

  • Change your workstation so that it is more ergonomic. Do you need better computer and telephone access, more arm support, writing aids, or book holders? Don't be afraid to ask for help.

  • Adjust lighting to meet your needs.

  • Relocate your workstation to a more suitable location, such as a quieter or warmer spot or ask to move closer to the entrance.

  • Limit physical exertion. Don't be afraid to ask for help on a project or request a longer deadline.

Most importantly: Don't feel guilty. If you are unable to go to work or complete a project on time, don't beat yourself up. Discuss your concerns with your supervisor and work on an action plan to improve the situation.
If you continue to feel overwhelmed, and your job is making your health worse, it may be time to reevaluate what you can and cannot do.

Fibromyalgia and Disability Benefits

If you are unable to work, you may qualify for disability insurance. There are two types of disability insurance:

  • Short-term disability is a type of insurance that pays you a percentage of your income for a specific period of time, usually no longer than three months. Talk to your boss or your employer’s human resource department to find out if you are eligible.

  • Long-term disability is a type of insurance that pays you a percentage of your income for an extended time. Many employers have long-term disability insurance. The government also offers long-term disability through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

Keep in mind that the process of qualifying for disability can be challenging and most people with fibromyalgia don't qualify. If you are denied coverage, you can appeal the process.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Feb 8
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. Benefits for People With Disabilities. Social Security Administration. http://www.ssa.gov/disability/

  2. Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees With Fibromyalgia. Job Accommodation Network. http://askjan.org/media/Fibro.html

  3. Disability Information. The Fibromyalgia Community. http://www.fmscommunity.org/disability.htm

  4. Occupational Therapy. Fibromyalgia-Symptoms.org. http://www.fibromyalgia-symptoms.org/fibromyalgia_occupational.html

  5. Fibromyalgia: 3 Strategies for Workplace Success. National Women's Health Resource Center. http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/fibromyalgia-3-strategies-workplace-success