Living with Chronic Pain

Workplace Accommodations

Source: WebMD, Heathline

Due to the nature of chronic pain, remaining employed or securing employment can be a challenge. Chronic pain is unpredictable; the duration and intensity of chronic pain varies on a daily basis. Bouts of increased pain can cause individuals to miss work which can lead to job performance issues. Chronic pain can also affect productivity because fatigue, pain or required medications can interfere with completing on-the-job tasks in a timely manner. Jobs requiring manual labor may be impossible for some individuals with chronic pain. Fortunately, the United States has laws that help individuals with disabilities, including people with chronic pain, retain employment.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Chronic pain levels vary from day to day; when pain is intense, an individual may not be physically able to work. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects employees who have frequent absenteeism due to disabilities, including chronic pain conditions. The FMLA is a law that allows employees to take up to three months of medical leave per year.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities. This ADA states that employers must attempt to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Also, employees who become permanently disabled on the job may receive disability insurance.

Employees with chronic pain should discuss with their employer specific accommodations that will help them maximize their work performance. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can request accommodations for individuals as needed.

Workplace accommodations

Possible workplace accommodations, include but are not limited to, the following:

  • Adjustable desk height
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Ergonomic workstation
  • Automatic opening doors
  • Dictation software
  • Lumbar cushions
  • Additional breaks
  • Arm supports
  • Reduction of physical exertion
  • Ability to telecommute
  • Handicap parking
  • Book holders
  • Co-worker sensitivity training

Reasonable workplace accommodations should be made by employers to ensure that individuals with disabilities can perform their jobs efficiently. Individuals can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if they experience discrimination due to a disability. For more information, visit their website at

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