More people are trying to stay on the job despite chronic pain. Find out how you can integrate your pain management plan into your workday.
Besides providing a way to make a living, working can be very important to people living with chronic pain and dealing with chronic pain management. Remaining on the job is a tremendous boost to the self-esteem of people with chronic pain. The challenges of work and the social interactions that take place on the job may even serve to distract you from your pain. Research has found that those who return to work enjoy greater success in their pain management.
A recent survey found that one of every four working people in the United States experiences chronic pain — an increase of nearly 40 percent from a decade earlier, yet nearly 9 out of 10 people living with chronic pain choose to remain on the job rather than stay home. Nearly all said only severe pain would keep them home from work.
Unfortunately, pain can keep you from being an effective employee. That same survey found that about half of chronic pain patients who remain in the workplace engage in "presenteeism" — they are present at work, but their chronic pain sometimes or often prevents them from performing their job.
Manage Pain in the Workplace
Pain management on the job is possible, but requires that employees with chronic pain take a proactive approach to the challenges they face. Effective coping skills include:
Advocate for yourself. Don't feel as though you have to manage pain in silence. Talk to your human resources department about accommodations that could help minimize your pain and maximize your productivity. If you feel comfortable, talk with your boss and co-workers about your pain so they can understand and possibly assist in your pain management practices.
Set priorities. Be aware of your limitations and your health, and don't push yourself in ways that will cause a setback in your pain management efforts. Say no when you need to.
Take breaks. Use regular breaks as a way to bring your pain management practices into the workplace. If getting up and stretching helps your chronic pain, be sure to do so. Some people find that taking a few minutes to meditate in a quiet place helps them manage pain. Others squeeze in a short walk during lunch to gain the benefits of additional exercise.
Adopt healthy habits. On or off the job, you can help your pain management efforts by eating well and exercising. Inquire about any wellness programs offered by your employer; these can be a valuable source of information about healthy living. And be sure to stay on top of taking your prescribed pain medications.
Tweak your workspace. Examine your work area for ways to minimize pain and make you more comfortable. Ergonomic tools like special office chairs, hand rests, foot rests, keyboard trays, and telephone headsets can be tremendously helpful, and many employers will provide these items for you, especially if they understand the benefits.
Be aware of pain management options. Ask your doctor about new ways to deal with your chronic pain and if sessions with an occupational therapist could help you make on-the-job pain management strategies more effective. A therapist also can provide exercises and coping skills tailored to your particular ailment.
Staying at or returning to work can be a helpful component of pain management. By following certain strategies, you can be more productive and experience less pain while benefiting from being around other people on the job. For more information on chronic pain management, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in Warwick, RI.