Pain at Work


This is a photo of my dream vacation. Who wants to see a photo of a desk chair? 🙂

Working with pain presents unique challenges. Here I discuss short-term coping strategies that work for me. I hesitated to write this post because coping skills for pain can be highly individual. For example I like to reserve my most difficult tasks for the end of the day. That means I do the hardest job before I know I get to take a break. But this idea might be unthinkable for those who need to get their toughest work done early.

But on the other hand, some of these ideas may either help others with pain or inspire them to come up with some new ideas for their coping toolboxes. So here is my preliminary post — I am always looking for new ideas. As always, you have to find what works best for you and your own health situation.

Pain Self-Management at Work

In general find that working helps me to not think about the pain. In fact when I am under stress or a work deadline I am best able to push the pain sensations from my mind. However I also find it critically important to not ignore pain signals altogether. I am writing particularly about the first indications that my pain is seriously increasing. If I ignore those signals, I am putting myself at risk for a flare-up. The kind of pain I live with can increase or decrease depending on several factors. So if I pay attention to increasing pain I can make small changes that help me cope with the work day.

My Chronic Pain Management Workplace Toolbox

1. Switching to another work activity when possible

2. Light stretching, even while seated at a desk

3. Taking the opportunity to move. This means I offer to take something to a different floor or department, and then I walk quickly and take the stairs to get a little exercise.

4. Massaging myself – this doesn’t decrease my pain but its still comforting!

5. Doing the most painful tasks at the end of the day

6. Taking a break for deep breathing ASAP, even if only for one minute

7. Putting my arms in a sink full of hot water

8. I correct my posture

9. Stick on a thermacare

10. I just go ahead and ignore the increasing pain signals for a while, but I remember to give myself a break when I can.

11. I try making my colleagues laugh. Really! A happy atmosphere can be less tiring and even uplifting.

12. Remind myself that I can manage the pain, and that my activity is not going to cause me any injury (I am strictly talking about my own health here!).

For more tips on coping with pain at work, the Arthritis Foundation has these articles from their “On the Job” series. Click here for more information about the foundation and Arthritis Today.

Patient advocate Jennifer Jaff esq. offers suggestions for learning more about workplace rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act in her article about managing pain in the workplace.