Practical Tips for Managing Chronic Pain in the Workplace

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You can review more information about requesting a reasonable accommodation here.

Tips for managing chronic pain in the workplace

Depending on your industry, work schedule and responsibilities, there are lots of things you can do to manage your pain. Let’s look at practical tips for a variety of workplaces:

For office jobs and sitting down

If you work in an office environment where you sit at a computer all day, think about simple modifications you can make to ease your pain:

  • Take regular breaks to stand up and take short walks even if it’s a quick walk down the hall to refill your water bottle. 
  • Be aware of your posture while sitting: shoulders rolled back, chin up and lower back (lumbar) supported. 
  • Use proper computer positioning (keyboard and display height). 
  • Take quick technology breaks. Look away from your screen every 20 minutes to minimize eye, head and neck strain. 
  • Stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water at your desk and sip throughout the day. 
  • Focus on your breathing with relaxation techniques. 
  • Monitor your body at the end of the day. Address aches and pains in the evening with heat and cold therapy or pain medication as needed. 
  • Request reasonable accommodations to help you work more effectively. These can include tools such as adjustable workstations (like standing desks), alternative keyboards, alternative mice, supine workstations and ergonomic equipment. 

chronic pain in the workplace

On your feet or standing all day

If your workplace requires you to be on your feet all day (e.g. teaching, cooking, serving food, etc), your pain management plan may include the following:

  • Develop a plan based on low intensity and high intensity days. 
  • Be open with your students, coworkers, etc about your high pain days.
  • Find a coworker to assist you on high pain or high intensity days. 
  • Invest in proper footwear with proper arch support. 
  • Stand and sit with proper posture. 
  • If you have regular breaks built into your day, use them to sit down and rest. 
  • Build in an hour of rest time at home every day for healing. Use this time to take a warm bath or use a heating pad on achy muscles. 
  • Understand your limitations (physical and mental health) and don’t overdo it. 
  • Request reasonable accommodations such as an aide or assistant, a modified break schedule and stand-lean stools. 

chronic pain in the workplace

Industrial workplace ergonomics

If your workplace requires you to perform hard labor or is physically demanding, it’s crucial to be extra careful about your chronic pain and understand industrial ergonomics:

  • Follow all safety guidelines like wearing your hearing protection, eye protection, helmet, respirator, safety gloves and comfortable work shoes. These guidelines are vital in protecting your body from the physical harm of manual labor.
  • Wear your PPE at all times. 
  • Use proper lifting techniques when lifting heavy objects. 
  • Abide by maximum lifting weights. 
  • Get massages regularly even if they’re just for 20-30 minutes. 
  • Stretch before and after activity. 
  • Use relaxation techniques throughout the day to steady breathing and stressors. 
  • Incorporate hot and cold therapy into your evening routine by alternating with a heating pad and ice to ease tension in sore muscles. 
  • Discuss your situation with your employer to determine which workplace accommodations are available. 
  • Request reasonable accommodations such as anti-vibration gloves, anti-vibration seats and anti-vibration tool wraps and carts. 

chronic pain in the workplaceRemember: if you take prescription pain medication for your chronic pain, you may need to adjust the timing of your dosage so it does not interfere with your work schedule.

Workplace responsibilities can be exhausting both physically and mentally when you’re functioning at your best. Life in the workplace is often significantly harder when you’re living with chronic pain. By staying focused on your pain management strategies, knowing your limitations and keeping a positive attitude, you can find moments of relief and maintain your workplace productivity.

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