When talking about chronic pain and the workplace you can find yourself engulfed in numbers—how many people are hurt in the work place, how many receive workers compensation, and a list of some of the most dangerous jobs.
But there is nothing about people who struggle as they try to hold down a job while dealing with the pain from an injury or illness.
Here are some statistics, numbers that may surprise many of you.
- Pain is the number one cause of adult disability in the U.S.
- Pain costs $294 billion annually in lost workdays, medical expenses, and other benefit costs.
- Lost productive time from common pain conditions among active U.S. workers cost an estimated $61.2 billion annually, largely due to reduced performance while at work.
- Thirteen percent of the total workforce experienced a loss in productive time during a two-week period due to a common pain condition, including headache, back pain, arthritis, and musculoskeletal pain.
The real question is how do people with pain manage to keep their jobs when pain seems to be their constant companion? For them, the responsibility of holding down a full-time job and keeping up with all the basic activities of daily life can feel insurmountable and eliminate any chance of having time to enjoy life.
Work is a big challenge for people with chronic pain. Some keep working at all costs—even at the expense of their health and relationships. Trying to find a balance between a job and taking care of yourself can be challenging. But the financial and emotional impact of losing a job because of chronic pain can be devastating.
Many people with chronic pain have trouble staying employed. Managing pain is a full-time job. Physical abilities can change unpredictably. One day you might be able to turn a certain way, or move your arm without pain and the next day you just can’t.
How Attitude Influences Disability
The disabilities that come with chronic pain affect us in different ways.
- Some people are learning to manage their pain and wish to return to work.
- Others know that life is different when living with pain and need to find a different job that is compatible with their more limited abilities.
- Still others feel their pain totally disables them and will not consider any job, unable to even work from home.
Attitude is key to believing that fulfilling employment can be part of a life that includes chronic pain.
The American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine’s (ACOEM) developed guidelines to prevent needless work disability. The main message of these guidelines is that work avoidance and job loss following injury, illness, or aging is largely preventable and not medically required.
The guidelines point out that a team approach by employers, doctors, therapists, insurers, and others is required to promptly help people keep life as normal as possible and get “right back in the saddle” to safe and medically appropriate work. Otherwise prolonged tenure in a passive “patient” role increases the risk of developing an “I can’t” self-concept, along with needless long-term withdrawal from work, social life, and a productive contribution to society.
Long-term worklessness is one of the greatest risks to health in our society. It is more dangerous than the most dangerous jobs in the construction industry, or working on an oil rig in the North Sea, and too often we not only fail to protect our patients from long-term worklessness, we sometimes actually push them into it, inadvertently.
Work provides people with financial security, a structure to their days, and a chance for physical activity. It offers community, social interaction, and a sense of purpose, contributing to one’s self-esteem.
Those without work in their lives are more likely to be sick, engage in risky behaviors such as excessive drinking, or fall into depression, and other emotional distress.
For more information on chronic pain management, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in South Kingstown, RI.
Source: Excerpts - theacpa.org