If you have chronic pain, then you are no stranger to the struggle of finding a job that won’t aggravate your condition or give you more pain down the road. For many people who suffer from chronic pain, working can create more problems than it solves.
Jobs that require more physical activity than others can aggravate existing chronic pain and can lead to more doctor visits and physical therapy than you may previously need.
Furthermore, if you are working a part-time job that doesn’t offer health care, or a full-time job that may not offer comprehensive health care, an increase in doctor visits could not only be out of the question but also a strain on your wallet.
Things To Consider When Working With Chronic Pain
There are lots of things to consider when looking for a job that suits your chronic pain needs. For the most part, the day-to-day strains of working include things like physical exertion and frequent movement. However, there are other things you should look for that can help make work more comfortable and enjoyable overall.
A job with little to no stress is a job for just about everyone but can be especially beneficial if you suffer from chronic pain. Stress can worsen nearly every chronic pain condition. When you stress, it can cause your muscles to tense up or spasm, which can increase existing pain in your lower back, neck, and joints. Stress also increases the level of the hormone known as cortisol in your body, which can cause inflammation and pain over time.
Little to No Travel
Travel can be fun, especially when it’s on the company’s dime. However, if you suffer from any type of chronic pain, being stuck on a plane, or stranded in an airport due to bad weather, hundreds of miles away from home can be a horrible experience.
Stays in hotels or long car rides can also be excruciating when flare-ups occur, and if you’re not prepared, can be the abrupt end to what could have otherwise been a fun business trip. Travelling can also increase stress levels, especially when it doesn’t go according to plan, which can worsen chronic pain.
Try and find a job that requires little to no travel, as this will ensure you never have to be far from home, and can also allow for a more flexible schedule with little mobility.
Low Physical Exertion
Perhaps the most important part of any job search for those with chronic pain is the amount of physical activity required. Jobs that require large amounts of physical activity such as retail jobs, food service, or manual labor such as landscaping, call for long periods of standing, walking, or strenuous activity; all of which can aggravate your chronic pain.
Avoid jobs that require repetitive movements, extensive use of your lower extremities, and repeated standing or bending motions.
A flexible schedule is key when looking for a job that can work around your chronic pain. When you’re having a flare-up, or if your pain becomes so severe that you simply cannot get out of bed, having a job that can work around your needs is imperative.
Normal nine-to-five jobs that rely on workers having a set schedule may not be ideal. Instead, look for remote jobs that allow you to punch in and out as needed. For non-remote jobs, look for companies with large groups of employees, this way if you need to stay home or leave early you have a larger pool of people to ask to cover your shift.
These types of jobs allow you to rest when you’re not feeling well, and work when you’re feeling healthy.
Best Jobs For People With Chronic Pain
We asked our Invisible Illness Facebook support group for their opinions on what jobs they think are best for people with chronic pain. The group, which is open for anyone to join, is a support group focused on helping people with chronic pain or illness connect and find support with one another.
We asked the members of the Invisible Illness support group to tell us what jobs they felt were best suited for people with chronic pain or illness. Among some of the highest voted results were remote work, content writing, and self-employment to name a few.
While there were many other popular responses, the common denominator between all was the lack of physical exertion required by the job. The best jobs for people with chronic pain, as told to us by people with chronic pain, were jobs that required minimal physical labor and allowed for flexible schedules.
Below is a list of our recommendations for ten of the best jobs for people with chronic pain.
1. Remote Work
A clear winner in our Facebook support group poll was remote work. While this category is quite broad, especially with the millions of people across the country who have transitioned to work-from-home jobs due to the pandemic, it nonetheless represents a great way for anyone with chronic pain to work safely from the comfort of their own home.
However, as more and more people are getting back to work, and more people are returning to the office, remote work is returning to more of what we know it to typically be. While most of the jobs below can, on some level, be remote, the most typical remote jobs can include consultants, sales representatives, website developers, or programmers to name a few.
The important thing about remote jobs is that they take the physical strain off your body. Most remote jobs available today require little to no physical labor and are often very flexible on scheduling. With the ability to dictate what hours you work, and from the comfort of your home, remote work is perfect for anyone who may find it difficult to work for long periods on their feet, or especially for those whose chronic conditions make it difficult to work around a set schedule.
While the majority of jobs on our top ten list can be remote, here are some common work from home jobs that are not listed below, and are great for people with chronic pain.
- Computer programming
- Social media marketing
- Online teacher or tutor
- Data entry or transcription
- Web developer
- Graphic design
2. Content Writer
A great gig for those suffering from chronic pain or illness is content writing. There is no shortage of companies looking for good writers who can develop unique, creative content for their online blogs, social media accounts, websites, or other platforms.
Content writing can be especially great for those who may find it difficult to work from an office every day, as the majority of a content writer’s work can be done remotely. Content writers also have the ability to choose from a wide range of companies, allowing them to write about topics they may be more interested in. Whatever the case, content writing can be a great job if you live with chronic pain
3. Customer Service Representative
In recent years, the need for large, in-person call centers has declined, and as more companies are transitioning from brick and mortar to online, the need for remote customer service representatives has exploded.
A customer service representative may be the quintessential work-from-home job. Many companies employ large numbers of people to work directly with customers from the comfort of their own homes, as their work is done strictly over the phone. These types of jobs also require virtually no heavy lifting or physical exertion, making them great for people with disabilities and chronic pain.
4. Office Job
Office jobs typically require long periods of sitting, which doesn’t exactly sound ideal if you suffer from chronic pains such as lower back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. However, with frequent stretching breaks, and the proper office products that can alleviate aches and pains, an office job can offer plenty of comfort and stability if you have chronic pain.
One of the most important things to consider when looking for an office job that works around your chronic pain is the employer’s willingness to accommodate your needs. Having the right amount of flexibility in your schedule can be helpful on days that you may not be able to make it into the office.
Be upfront about your needs when talking to a potential, or existing, employer, and understand that your chronic pain should not be viewed as a burden.
Self-employment is an incredibly large category of job and can cover virtually any type of work. Statistically speaking, roughly 28.2% of the United States population reported they were self-employed at some point during a given week in 2019, according to a poll conducted by Gallup. Of those, the most common job amongst the self-employed was an independent contractor, with about 14% of workers reporting it was their primary job.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, self-employment can be a great solution. While it is hard to get started, working for yourself can allow you to not only make your hours but also work from virtually anywhere.
Aside from an independent contractor, some other popular self-employment options can include the following.
- App development
- Tax specialist
- Marketing services
- Real estate
- Interior design
- Event planner
6. Freelance Writer/Blogger
If you have a knack for writing, or you simply have an interest in telling your story, then becoming a freelance writer or blogger can be a great career choice. Freelance writing can take on a variety of forms, such as copywriting, ghostwriting, or content marketing, all of which can be done on a laid-back, do-it-when-you-want basis.
Being that writing now almost exclusively takes place online, the overwhelming majority of freelance gigs can be done from home, with virtually no need for an office. If you have chronic pain, then writing for companies that specialize in your condition can not only be a great way to share your experience with others but can also be a great way to learn more about your condition.
While it can be difficult to find a freelance gig that can support you full-time, once you establish yourself as a writer and build a solid portfolio, then you may be able to turn what was once a hobby into a full-blown career.
7. Technology Worker
Another career that has exploded in popularity amongst the remote work crowd is tech workers. While this category is quite broad, it typically includes jobs like software engineers, informative technology (IT), website developers, and basic computer user support specialists.
Technology-based jobs require virtually no physical labor and are most often completely remote since your workspace is online. If you do happen to land an in-office tech job, chances are they will understand the needs of those who sit at a desk for virtually all of their workday.
While technology-focused jobs do require you to be a little more tech-savvy than others, they can be a great job if you have chronic pain.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, tech jobs such as web developers are expected to grow by 8% over the next ten years, which they classify as “much higher than the national average.”
Accountants are often required to perform large amounts of computer and desk work. Given this, it may not seem like it would be a great fit if you have chronic pain. However, given the right amount of accommodations and flexibility, accounting can be a great entry point for those looking to break into the larger financial industry.
Accounting jobs can also be done from home, and can even be a great way to work if you are looking to become self-employed.
9. Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofits are organizations that are dedicated to advocating for a particular social cause or a shared point of view. Nonprofit organizations typically operate in or around the religious, scientific, charitable, educational, literary, public safety, or cruelty-prevention areas.
Since nonprofit organizations are aimed at furthering social causes and helping groups of people that are at a disadvantage, they can be extremely welcoming to those with chronic pain or illness that may need certain accommodations.
These types of organizations are typically more laid back than for-profit organizations, and can often have more flexibility in their scheduling and workloads. If you’re lucky enough, you may also find a nonprofit that is aimed at helping people that may have the same type of chronic pain as yourself, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or back pain.
10. Research Analyst
Research analysts are responsible for collecting, organizing, and analyzing opinions and data to solve problems, explore issues, and predict trends. In a time in which data collection is becoming one of the most popular ways for companies to market their products, there is an increasing demand for research analysts.
These types of jobs can be another great work-from-home job, and while a bachelor’s degree is typically required, entry-level positions are an excellent way to break into a new career path.
How To Face Discrimination When Working With Chronic Pain
What’s important to remember is that your chronic pain should not, and can not, be used as a basis for discrimination. Make sure that you understand your needs, and make those clear to your employer, whether that be current or future.
If you need frequent breaks from your desk, a better office chair, more days working from home, or a more flexible schedule, your employer should be more than willing to help make those accommodations. Your chronic pain should never be a burden on your employer, and that should always be factored into your choice of where you work.
Finally, know your worth. If what you bring to the table is valuable, then that table should at least be comfortable to sit at.
If you believe that your chronic pain may qualify as a disability, meaning that it substantially limits activities related to your job, then you may be qualified to claim disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
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