Chronic pain can get in the way of a lot of aspects of your life, including work. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons many people with chronic pain cannot find steady employment. The pain is too difficult to manage, and it is almost impossible to focus on the work when your mind is preoccupied with pain.
If you’re able to work while living with chronic pain, then you’re one of the few lucky ones. Nevertheless, it can still be challenging to deal with persistent pain and maintain a good performance at work simultaneously, so here are some of the best strategies you can use:
1. Inform your employer
Some people may be reluctant to inform their employer about their chronic pain for fear of getting fired, but they will be violating your rights against discrimination if they do so. It is illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their race, age, sex, disability, and condition, including chronic pain. Knowing this, you may be a little more confident about informing your boss about your condition.
This way, you can get accommodations for when your pain gets too intense or hinders you from traveling to the workplace. For instance, you can ask for a work-from-home set-up, if possible, for days that the pain makes it unsafe for you to drive to work. Moreover, informing your employer will likely make them more understanding during times when your pain flares up and you have to go home early or take a break.
2. Seek massage therapy
Look for a good massage therapist that specializes in providing pain relief. Massage therapy can be a great way to relieve the pain from a chronic disease or an injury. More than that, it can help you better manage your pain without taking potentially addictive pain medication.
If there is a spa or a massage therapy salon near your workplace, consider popping in during your lunch break for a massage, especially when you feel a flare-up coming. Aside from being a means to relieve pain, a massage is also an excellent way to de-stress and decompress from work.
3. Modify your schedule
By now, you probably already know when your pain flares up and what makes it worse. Is it during the morning as soon as you wake up? Or is it in the afternoon when you are already fatigued from work? Moreover, do certain activities make your pain worse? Such as rushing through your morning routine or joining the evening rush hour?
Once you determine what’s causing your pain to get worse, try to adjust your schedule to avoid it. For example, if you hurt worse when you’re going through your morning routine as fast as possible, wake up earlier so that you have enough time to get ready or ask your boss to start work later. On the other hand, if your pain gets intense when you’re using public transportation to get home during rush hour, request to start the workday earlier so that you can commute before the rush hour.
4. Use your breaks wisely
Instead of sitting on your phone or spending your entire break chatting with co-workers, use them for practices that help you manage your pain. For example, if doing a ten-minute stretch helps keep the pain away, find a quiet spot and spend a part of your breaks stretching your muscles.
Similarly, avoid using your breaks to finish work unless it is a truly dire situation. If you stay at your desk or continue manual work without stopping for a break, you are likely setting yourself up for a flare-up.
5. Pay attention to your posture
Proper posture can help you manage chronic pain, especially if you work in an office where you spend most of the day sitting down. That said, be sure to position your body properly when sitting at your desk (shoulders back, feet flat on the floor, elbows at a ninety-degree angle, head facing straight ahead).
On the other hand, if you have a more physical job, such as working in a restaurant or a manufacturing plant, be sure that you lift heavy objects with the proper posture (use your legs, not your back). Moreover, pay attention to the limit of weight you can lift without triggering a flare-up, and inform your employer that you cannot lift more than that.
Living with chronic pain is difficult, to say the least. For some people, the pain can be debilitating enough that they are unable to work. So if you are still fortunate enough to have a job despite your condition, use these strategies that can help you manage pain at work and improve your quality of life.