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10 ways to deal with fibromyalgia at work

Are you aware that fibromyalgia patients are more likely to miss work and professional responsibilities due to pain and discomfort? According to the estimates reported by Centers For Disease Control, fibromyalgia patients take approximately 3 times more sick days per year than individuals with no fibromyalgia (17 days vsersus 6 days in normal adults).


Fibromyalgia patients are less productive at work than normal adults.

Working females who experience recurrent attacks of fibromyalgia pain are 10 times less likely to continue occupational responsibilities.
Post-hospitalization continuation of work is 4 times less in fibromyalgia females than normal healthy women.
Unfortunately, besides affecting the capacity of individuals to work, fibromyalgia increase the healthcare cost significantly. According to estimates, fibromyalgia patients spend additional $5945 per year in direct and indirect medical cost to manage the symptoms.

68% fibromyalgia patients report moderate to severe difficulty in performing normal day to day activities that makes it even more difficult to continue occupational responsibilities.

What Are 10 Great Tips To Manage Fibromyalgia?
Majority of the patients may feel that it is annoying to invest so much money, energy and effort in a career and lose it to a debilitating health issue like fibromyalgia. In addition, it is definitely hard to continue pursuing your dreams when your muscles are aching, your limbs are numb and your thoughts are foggy. But can you give up?
Do you really intend to let fibromyalgia taking away your passion and success from you? Well, of course the answer is a big “NO”! Therefore, if you are living with fibromyalgia, here are some great tips to keep yourself focus and active at work. Remember, do not let fibromyalgia affect your productivity and performance or even your daily lifestyle by taking control of the disease today.

Tip # 1: Choose a job or career that suits your physical health
Fibromyalgia affects cognitive as well as physical capacity of an individual that may affect the capacity and performance at work. It is therefore recommended to:
· Switch your job or career if your work requires a lot of physical labor or mental exertion. This is mainly because, trying to continue a job that requires strenuous mental and physical capacity can worsen the symptoms of brain fogging and intellectual decline besides deteriorating the intensity of pain attacks.
· Avoid jobs that require long hours of standing. If mandatory, you can utilize specialized ergonomic mats that acts as shock absorbers or heavy-padded seats to prevent backache.
· You can also opt for part-time jobs instead of working full-time.
· Most fibromyalgia patients are more functional or active in the morning hours as compared to evening hours. You can always look for morning jobs with flexible working hours.
· If you think your current job responsibilities are becoming difficult for you to manage, take the decision to let go of the current job to explore more feasible options. You can acquire education or a different skill-set to still maintain your productivity without compromising your health.
Some ideal career choices for fibromyalgia sufferers include secretary jobs, telephone operators or data entry managers and others.

Tip # 2: Re-train yourself to work effectively
· Try to divide your tasks in small functional bits or steps.
· Minimize the risk of mental exertion by avoiding multi-tasking (which although seems like a time-saver at times), but in reality it may make a simple job far more challenging for you.
· Maintain planners and schedule calendars to stay on top of your responsibilities and activities.
· Take small and frequent breaks to avoid over-stuffing of information in your head (that may lead to confusion, agitation and cognitive issues).
· If your workplace is noisy or uncomfortable, you can use ear-plugs or headphones to keep yourself motivated to your assigned tasks only.

Tip # 3: Organize yourself and your workplace
It has been observed that fibromyalgia patients are very easily distracted and disturbed with the distractions around them. But when you are at work, you need utmost focus, attention to details and highest degree of professionalism to achieve goals and reach targets. Therefore, it is highly recommended to organize yourself and your workplace to get rid of all the clutter and distraction.

For example:

· Park your stationary items in stationary bins.
· Make different baskets for different items. Appropriately label each basket or bin to prevent confusion.
· Keep your desk clean and free from garbage, empty cups, water bottles and wrappers.
· Develop a habit of cleaning and properly disposing off unneeded papers and files at least once a week
· Utilize planners and mobile apps to keep a track of your ‘to-do’ list for the day. Develop a habit of recording everything appropriately so that you do not miss any important meeting or event due to forgetfulness.
· Prepare everything in advance so that you do not have to run at the very last moment.
· Set alarms and reminders for important events, dates or meetings.

Tip # 4: Dress according to the weather and office climate

A lot of fibromyalgia patients are very sensitive to cold temperatures. In severe cases of fibromyalgia, even slight changes in the climate or temperature can provoke an attack.
It is therefore recommended to:
· Dress according to the weather.
· If possible, maintain optimal room temperature or at least sit away from the air-conditioner.
· Wrap yourself adequately in winters while going in and out of work premises.

Tip # 5: Make appropriate choices while deciding the footwear
Proper footwear not only makes you feel comfortable but also helps in improving your physical strength and productivity after long hours of work. It is understandable that most of us are required to dress according to some corporate protocols (especially at work and work related events), but make sure to have an element of comfort and support while choosing your shoes for work.
Ideally, shoes with some degree of cushioning are helpful, but you can also consult a professional podiatrist to learn more about the choice of proper footwear that suits you.

· Always keep comfortable sandals or slippers at your work place to replace uncomfortable heels at intervals (especially when you are sitting on your seat).
· A lot of females also feel comfortable in ballet shoes (you can add extra padding or inserts for the arch support).
Tip # 6: Rest your body as much as you can
There are a number of strategies that can be adopted to enhance the mental and physical energy levels.
For example:
· Make sure to sleep at least 8 to 10 hours each day to maintain productivity. Develop healthy sleep cycles to minimize the risk of insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep deprivation.
· Occasional intake of sleeping aids is helpful (especially during periods of fibromyalgia exacerbations). However, make sure not to develop physical or psychological dependence on tranquilizers or sleep-aid medications.
· Develop functional sleep habits such as waking and sleeping up at a particular time (regardless of your daily activities). Other helpful tips include, sleeping in the same room and adequately maintaining the temperature, light and noise of the room before going to bed for a restful blissful sleep.
· Natural remedies for good sleep include limitation of caffeine intake, massage therapy, hot baths and spa treatments.
Restful night-time sleep has a great impact on the mental and physical performance at work during the daytime. Make sure to share your sleep issues with your primary care provider to learn about more functional remedies for better quality of rest.
Tip # 7: Pay attention to your diet and nutrition
Diet and nutrition plays a vital role in the management of fibromyalgia. A lot of individuals feel that certain diets or nutrient trigger or exacerbate the attacks of fibromyalgia in patients. Therefore, take extra caution in the choice of nutrients.

For example:

· Avoid processed, in-organic foods that increase the production of inflammatory mediators.
· Increase your daily water intake to keep your muscles and tissues hydrated.
This helps to minimize the risk of accumulation of toxins or irritants that may cause pain or discomfort.
· Consume a lot of fresh fruits or vegetables (salads for example) while you are at work to maintain high energy levels at all times.
   · You can also consume lean meat, whole grains and vitamin D-rich foods (like         low fat-dairy products) to maintain normal bone metabolism.

Tip # 8: Do not feel shy in asking for help
We all need help, support and love from our friends, family members and co-workers. Instead of trying extra hard to make goals meet, it is sometimes better to share your issues with trusted co-workers or boss to get help and support. It is not necessarily about asking for leniency in accomplishing the task, but instead you can ask for simple favors like:
· Ability to work in a quiet corner, since a lot of distractions like people talking or yelling can often makes it hard for fibromyalgia patients to focus on the job (which can affect the productivity significantly).
· Join support groups and speak to other fibromyalgia patients to learn what strategies worked for them.
According to a new study reported in the journal Disability And Rehabilitation, investigators reported that fibromyalgia patients who have identified positive social support at the workplace and outside of job premises are more successful at carrying out their professional responsibilities than patients who do not seek any help.
Same is true at home. If you are experiencing difficulty in juggling among home chores, children and work-related responsibilities; feel free to ask for help from your spouse, family members or neighbors.

Tip # 9: Muscle strengthening training and aerobic exercise
Exercise and physical activity is another method of keeping yourself fit and motivated. There are a number of patterns and forms of physical training such as resistance training, strength training endurance training, aerobics and yoga. 
It is imperative to keep in mind that the choice of physical activity is dependent on your personal preferences, pain tolerance and convenience, but the key is to maintain some degree of activity. If you work involves sedentary style of working, you can incorporate simple lifestyle modifications like:

· Instead of using elevators, take the stairs

. Avoid transportation in cars or buses if your workplace is within walking distance. 

· Avoid long hours of sitting on your seat in one position. You can walk, stretch or even move your limbs at periodic intervals several times in one hour.

Tip # 10: Keep your brain active and prevent depression (or other cognitive issues)
Psychological and neurological deficits are also fairly common in fibromyalgia patients. The best way to deal with this issue is to keep yourself stimulated and active (not just physically but mentally as well). For example:

· Try to solve riddles and puzzles in your leisure time. 
· Read books and increase your horizon.

Depression is a fairly common associated symptom of fibromyalgia that affects majority of the patients at some point of their life. It is strongly recommended to identify the symptoms of depression in order to seek appropriate treatment options such as:
· Pharmacotherapy – A number of anti-depressive drugs are available that helps in optimally managing the symptoms.
· Cognitive behavioral therapy.
· Patient training or education regarding symptom awareness.
· Relaxation therapy
According to a study reported in Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, fibromyalgia patients are 3.4 times more likely to experience depression than their normal peers.

Often times, the medications we take for the management of fibromyalgia and related issues makes us sick or tired. If your symptoms are due to a specialized trigger or side effect of certain medications, speak to your primary care provider to:

· Advice alternative options.
· Dose modification of existing drugs.

In short, maintaining a functional and productive professional life by managing fibromyalgia at work is definitely a challenge, but with little planning and dedication, you can maintain a balance between your health and occupational functions.

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