By Karen Lee Richards*
Many people with fibromyalgia are able to continue working either full or part time. Others find that the chronic pain and fatigue are so severe, continuing to work is impossible. When that happens, it may be necessary to consider applying for disability.
Whether you’re struggling to continue working or trying to navigate the disability maze, the following sections offer guidance and tips to help you along your journey.
Working with Fibromyalgia
It is estimated that 60% of people with fibromyalgia work full-time jobs. While working when you have FM is not easy, it does offer some important benefits if you’re able to do it. In addition to the obvious financial benefits, working can contribute to feelings of self-worth, provide opportunities for social interaction, offer intellectual challenges and even help distract your mind from your illness for periods of time as you focus on your job tasks.
In most cases, there are modifications that can be made to your job, schedule or workspace that can improve your ability to continue working and increase your productivity. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most employers are obligated to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities.
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The following list of possible modifications for people with FM is provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network. You can use this list when discussing suggested modifications with your employer.
Fine Motor Impairment:
Gross Motor Impairment:
Depression & Anxiety:
For answers to the most frequently asked questions about your rights under the ADA, read: Working with Fibromyalgia or ME/CFS – Your Rights Under the ADA
* Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE, the very first full-color, glossy magazine devoted to FM and other invisible illnesses. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, and then for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network.
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