Fibromyalgia is an ailment that is characterised by severe musculoskeletal pain. Musculoskeletal pain refers to pain that affects the muscles and the skeletal structure of the human body. This includes pain in the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.
In fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal pain is often accompanied by fatigue, sleep problems, memory trouble, and mood issues. Women have a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia than men. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is yet to be identified, however, researchers and doctors believe that it is caused by a host of factors that include the individual’s genetics, certain infections that have the ability to aggravate symptoms, and physical or emotional trauma.
Fibromyalgia cannot be completely cured, however, its symptoms can be managed.
Fibromyalgia’s many symptoms vary from person to person. However, one common symptom is widespread pain, characterised by pain that occurs on both sides of the body, and above and below the waist.
Other symptoms include extreme sensitivity to pain all over the body, stiffness, fatigue, poor sleep quality, cognitive problems, and headaches.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and arthritis can often be confused with each other. However, unlike arthritis, fibromyalgia causes soft tissue pain or myofascial pain, i.e. pain caused by pressure on sensitive points in your muscles. Fibromyalgia symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, a surgery, an infection or after significant psychological stress. In certain cases, symptoms can gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Factors such as stress levels, activity levels, and weather changes can cause your symptoms to get better or worse.
The good news is that many people with fibromyalgia can continue working as they wish. However, strict precautions need to be taken to manage painful symptoms that can make working very difficult.
Here are a few steps you can take at your workplace to make dealing with fibromyalgia easier.
You can reduce stress at work by planning ahead of time. Be assertive with your supervisor and colleagues, and ensure that you do not take on more than you can deliver. Individuals suffering from fibromyalgia may also encounter memory trouble. In such cases, it is advisable to keep a copy of job instructions, along with other important work documents handy.
Ensure you have an ergonomic work desk setup: To deal with the fatigue and weakness that accompany fibromyalgia, ensure that your work desk setup suits you well. The top of your computer screen should be at your eye-level, your chair should support your lower back, and your feet must be well supported on the ground. This will help you stay comfortable at work and will reduce physical exertion.
Needless to say, taking periodic breaks from work will help ease muscle tension and stiffness, reduce eye strain and improve concentration. You can consider taking short
five-minute breaks every 30 minutes, and then a longer break every two hours or so. You may use this time for various stress management techniques such as deep breathing and meditation, or for stretching.
While exercising may seem difficult initially, doing it gradually and regularly will help decrease symptoms. Consult your doctor on what exercises are most appropriate for you. Generally, exercises such as walking and stretching can help with fibromyalgia symptoms. Outside work, swimming and water aerobics can be helpful. However, remember to not over-exert.
Get enough sleep and maintain a healthy lifestyle: Getting enough rest in the form of sleep is crucial to dealing with the fatigue that comes with fibromyalgia. Try to inculcate healthy sleeping habits such as sleeping at the same time every night, and limiting day time napping. You can request your employer to allow you flexible working hours and work from home to cope with the fatigue. Remember to eat healthy foods and limit your caffeine intake.