How to Manage Chronic Pain at Work

It’s estimated that over 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences chronic pain. Those in the workforce often need to manage their daily job tasks while also navigating discomfort, doctor’s appointments, fatigue, and medication side effects. While coping with chronic pain isn’t easy, some strategies can provide you with relief and support you at work.

Managing Chronic Pain at Work

People who have chronic pain know there just aren’t any quick tips that provide permanent relief. Pain can fluctuate, and you might wake up not really knowing how bad it’s going to be that day. While you may not be able to prevent such discomfort from occurring, you can take steps to manage it and prevent further pain.

Prioritize Practicing Pain Management Techniques

The mind and body are undoubtedly connected, and regulating your stress levels is imperative for managing pain. A physical or occupational therapist can teach you various techniques that you can practice regularly. Here are some common coping strategies worth trying:

Deep breathing: Research shows that taking deep, intentional, and slow breaths can impact how much pain you experience. Even though this exercise won’t eliminate discomfort, practicing more mindfulness is a free and accessible tool that can offer needed relief.

Progressive muscle relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation is a pain management technique that focuses on tensing and then relaxing various muscle groups systematically. This can help provide a distraction from the pain, and it can inadvertently reduce stress.

Hot and cold therapies: If you experience pain in the workplace, using cold or heat packs on the impacted areas may provide temporary relief by decreasing inflammation.

Light exercise: If you have clearance from your doctor, gentle movement throughout the day may mitigate the intensity of your pain symptoms. Consider if you can take a short walk or engage in a few different stretches.

Take your pain medications as prescribed: If you’ve been given medication for chronic pain conditions, it’s important to take it regularly. Missing doses throughout the workday may exacerbate pain levels.

Talk to Your Employer About Accommodations

While you have the right to keep your health conditions private, it may be worth talking to your employer if you experience persistent pain. This can give them insight into potential physical limitations, and you can ideally collaborate together to discuss appropriate workplace accommodations.

It’s important to try to pace yourself at work and take regular breaks when you need them. If it’s possible, talk to your employer about making reasonable adjustments, like flexible work hours and assistive devices like ergonomic chairs, back supports, or footrests.

If you don’t feel like your employer is addressing your concerns seriously, seek support from either HR or senior management. You do have rights in the workplace, and it’s important to advocate for your physical wellness.

Try to Manage Your Stress Levels at Work

Stress causes the muscles to spasm and tense, and when you experience stress, your body releases more cortisol, which can aggravate inflammation.

Stress is unavoidable, but people with chronic pain need to be proactive in managing how they react to life’s ups and downs. Reducing stress at work can help you physically feel better.

Identify your main stressors: Building this awareness can help you better understand and anticipate stress when it arises. While you can’t avoid all triggers, you can make a plan for how you want to cope with them.

Reassess your boundaries: Think about what work-life balance means to you and consider how you might need to better nurture your occupational health. You may need to revisit which professional boundaries you uphold during and after work hours.

Set up healthy rituals before and after work: It’s important to try to start and leave your job with an optimal mindset. Consider which routines you can implement to infuse more positivity into your day. For example, you might decide to meditate for a few minutes in the morning after waking up or taking your dog on a walk right when you get home.

Seek support outside of work: Chronic pain can feel isolating and frustrating. It’s important to be reminded that you’re not alone with your feelings. Reach out to supportive friends or family who can validate you and provide you with the kindness you need. Consider joining a support group for individuals managing chronic pain or other medical conditions.

How Therapy Can Help Manage Pain-Related Concerns

Chronic pain is difficult to live with, but improving your mental health can positively impact your physical wellness. That’s why therapy is often recommended within comprehensive pain management services. Learning how to reduce your stress and take good care of yourself can mitigate some of the discomfort associated with your pain.

As a seasoned therapist, I work with clients experiencing a variety of medical concerns, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, and chronic pain. I also treat caregivers who are looking after loved ones with such conditions.

If pain is interfering with your quality of life, I am here to provide you with the support and tools you need. I welcome you to contact me today to schedule an initial consultation.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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