Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fibromyalgia & Work

So pertinant right now....Fibromyalgia Online - NFA Newsletter: "To Work or Not to WorkIs That Your Question?"

Research studies carried out to assess the importance of work for women with fibromyalgia seemed to indicate that I was not the only one with these thoughts. In the year 2000 Swedish researchers Dr Henriksson and Dr Liedberg interviewed 176 women with fibromyalgia regarding their symptoms, sickness benefits, work situation, work conditions and adjustments, opinions regarding their own work ability, and satisfaction with the situation. These women reported the classic symptoms of fibromyalgia: pain, poor quality of sleep, abnormal tiredness, muscle stiffness, and increased pain after muscle exertion. Twenty-three percent gave fibromyalgia as the main reason for not working, which seemed very justified to me.

However, to my surprise I read that 50 percent of these 176 women were employed, 15 percent full-time. How did they do it? Fifty-eight percent of these working women went on to explain how their work situation had had to change due to their symptoms; they were obviously having to make modifications and perhaps move from full-time to part-time work. The study concluded: "The majority of women with fibromyalgia have limitations in their ability to work. The results indicate that individual adjustments in the work situation need to be made and that women who have found a level matching their ability may continue to work find it satisfactory"

A follow-up study by the same researchers was carried out in 2002 and reached similar conclusions:"The ability to remain at work depends not only on limitations in work capacity, but also on the capacity of society to adjust work environments and work tasks. More individual solutions are needed to allow women with fibromyalgia to maintain work roles"

These two studies clearly indicate that employers need to be prepared to be flexible and to allow people with physical limitations to work within their own capacity finding individual solutions to the various problems they encounter. Of course, working with an employer is always going to be tricky to some degree: they want someone who can get the job done on time and may only be prepared to compromise on certain issues. However, employers are beginning to realize the value of workers with physical limitations (encouraged by the Disability Discrimination Act) and are becoming more open to providing solutions."

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