Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain

How it Affects Employees in the Workplace

Advice for Managers and Colleagues

This guide was created by Charlotte Goodwin (Expert Patient) in conjunction with the Plymouth Pain Service

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition which results in your body becoming extremely sensitised - up to 150 symptoms have been associated with the condition.

Symptoms can include:

  • Widespread joint and muscle pain, including the common feeling of deep bruising in certain areas when lightly pressed.
  • Decreased mobility when getting up, especially in the morning
  • Severe fatigue taking several days to recover.
  • Inability to sleep or have a nourishing sleep
  • Memory loss (brain fog).
  • Dizziness particularly on standing.
  • Temperature fluctuations.
  • Sensitivity to light, noise and smells.
  • Irritable bowel and bladder problems.

What impact does chronic pain have in the workplace?

The points below show some of the ways an employee may feel whilst suffering in the workplace with fibromyalgia and/or other chronic pain conditions:

  • Isolated
  • Frustrated
  • Inability to cope
  • Resentful
  • A nuisance
  • Upset
  • Negative
  • Worried
  • Ignored
  • Unsupported
  • Judged
  • Angry
  • Useless
  • Depressed

How managers and colleagues can support

  • A sufferer’s key need is acknowledgment and a feeling of being supported.
  • Educating yourself about the employees’ condition especially if you have never heard of it before.
  • Implementing reasonable adjustments.
  • Referring the employee to Occupational Health - especially when newly diagnosed and/or they are triggering sickness leave.
  • Encouraging the employee to communicate with colleagues about options that would help them in the workplace (some sufferers may find it difficult to explain their condition to others)
  • Understand that one day they may seem fine and the next day struggle to cope with the pain.
  • Be aware that they may be in pain constantly.
  • Allow regular breaks to take pain relief.
  • Be patient and understanding.

Supporting employee’s with the points above will help the employee feel supported and may reduce their need for sickness leave.