Chronic Pain Patients in the Workfield

Chronic pain has been a frequently discussed matter recently, which in turns begs an important question. It is important to remember that according to the NIH, chronic pain affects over 100 million Americans or 1 in 10 Americans. Not to mention chronic pain affects 1.5 billion people worldwide. Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability. With these facts in mind, perhaps the most significant question, and most commonly asked to chronic pain patients, is that of their ability to work.

The Real Answer

The reality is that there is no clear answer to this question. Some chronic pain patients can indeed work successfully, while others simply cannot. Each case is different. We cannot expect two cancer patients to be the same, so why do we treat other illnesses and pain patients like they are?

Imagine chronic pain patients like volcanos. Some are active volcanoes; their pain intense, widespread, and too unpredictable to control. Others, on the other hand, are dormant, where they can manage and push through their low pain levels enough to work. And then the rest fall somewhere in between. Where most of the time the pain is dormant, controllable. The problem arises however when the pain switches over to active. It bubbles to the surface, erupting violently. For some, this happens it can happen if they merely work too hard or if their body just becomes too tired.

For others, it is if they catch a virus, or do not get enough hours of sleep. Trying to find a balance in this world for them is what can be so challenging for chronic pain patients. With chronic pain levels and abilities so fluctuating, it becomes difficult to hold down a full-time job, let alone find one that even accommodates their needs.

Difficulty Finding Work for Chronic Pain Patients

Those who cannot find a job that will accommodate their needs find it the most difficult to find work. It is especially frustrating because these individuals aren’t incapable of working, but they also aren’t fully capable of working either. They don’t fit in anywhere in societies’ usual standards. This can be so disheartening and frustrating for those with chronic pain.

Yet, chronic pain is not something that should hold us back or prevent us from following our dreams. While it may be a longer and harder journey for those who suffer from chronic pain, it is often those who prevail through pain that are the most robust, hardest and most mature workers; no matter age, education level, or previous experience. So perhaps instead of employers seeing chronic illnesses and chronic pain as a liability, we should see it as a possible advantage or benefit to our companies and teams.

Supporting Statistics

Chronic Pain Patients Jobs

According to The Good Body, 36 million Americans missed work due to pain in a single year. Additionally, they reported that America loses in between $299 and $325 billion dollars in lost productivity due to pain, based on factors including days of work missed, hours of work lost, and lower wages. While this is a large loss to America’s economy, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way.

If we want to see more people with chronic pain succeed and working, we should also be prepared to work with them in helping them accomplish such that. It is critical to understand that there will be both good and bad days for those with chronic pain. In doing so, employers should have a plan set up with those employees to establish what to do on those sick days. A prime example of this would be to have them work from home remotely that day. Working from home allows employees with chronic illness to recover some and relieve some of the pressure and pain on their body; all while still being productive.

Stay Encouraged

Regardless, this all starts with a healthy employer and employee relationship based on being open and honest. No matter how hard someone with chronic pain works, sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter or goes unnoticed if their co-workers judge if they might occasionally need to take a break. On the flip side, it can also be hard to find a job if employers see someone with chronic pain as a liability or lesser candidate. So the question becomes less about those with chronic pain being able to work, but rather how difficult it can be for them to find work, and then to hold down that job.

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Sierra Martin

I am a 22 year old young professional who suddenly became seriously ill during my senior year of college. I have been struggling with my chronic illness, debilitating migraines, POTS, and searching for a diagnosis; all while attempting to move forward for almost three years now. It’s been a long hard journey, but I have learned much and gained significant insight into suffering with chronic illness and pain, dealing with both supportive/un-supportive family and friends, and even the pros and cons of having an emotional support dog. It’s not easy; but that just means you have to look a little harder for the humor and silver linings (one of favorite movies btw!)

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14 Comments on "Chronic Pain Patients in the Workfield"

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Pain is subjective and we have to go by what patients say. Also, I have learned that everyone has a different pain tolerance. The important thing is to have a great relationship with your provider and build trust to find adequate treatment because living in pain can lead to a miserable life.


I know a few people with chronic pain who have had a hard time with finding jobs. It’s not that they don’t want to work, or can’t work, but they tend to have more days that it becomes impossible to get to the office, or school. My cousin has Crohn’s and has a hard time with high school sometimes.

fashion wanderer

great share. my grandfather has lived with debilitating pain for over 40 years. he has shared a lot with me. your not alone and there are good people around you too.


My heart goes out to people with Chronic pain because I used to suffer from it myself.. Thankfully, I was lucky enough I had a really great doctor who treated me with tons of physical therapy and stretching which corrected the issue.


Wow, this is really eye opening. And very true. I love your outlook on it though. Seriously inspirational!

Angela Tolsma

This is super fascinating to me. Pain is a never ending cycle for me but I have never really considered it to be chronic level pain. But I like how you’ve outlined that you can work through it or that it comes and goes in cycles. It makes me curious and definitely something I’ll be talking to my doctor about.


Great article! My best friend has chronic pain, and if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I’d understand it as much as I do. It’s so invisible, she’s shared many times that she felt crazy. I’m glad there’s more awareness.


I just read your bio. I am so impressed by your knowledge and insight. I knew that chronic pain can effect people but never really thought about the work place.

Jazmin Williams

My mother had to give up her job because of her fibromyalgia and she has been devastated ever since. She’s trying to find some kind of job she can handle but it’s proving very difficult. We also noticed how there’s specific medication in the states for her condition but we’ve yet to have anything like that brought to the UK, which is frustrating.


Your viewpoint in this subject is inspiring! I need to send this over to my uncle who suffers from chronic pain


Chronic pain is difficult for the individual and their employer, but when you find good talent, someone you want to keep, it’s totally working around their pain to try and keep them!


i admire your courage and insights! my heart goes out to people with chronic pain <3 <3


My mom has suffered chronic pain for years. She was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Such a difficult topic.

Prajakta Sharma

That was a good read. I know a few friends with chronic pain and can totally relate to your post. Your post is very inspiring.