Working with Back Pain: What to Tell Your Boss
When you're dealing with an invisible illness like chronic back pain, it's tempting to keep it to yourself to avoid the deluge of well-meaning but irritating suggestions of treatments you've already tried. However, explaining your pain to your boss is the best way to adjust how you work to minimize pain and get help when you can't handle it. Break the news about your spine health the right way to give yourself the best chance at getting accommodations.
Explain the Pain
Don't just say that your back hurts. You're likely to get a less than sympathetic response. Outline how and when your back hurts, with a clear description of how debilitating the pain gets in bad moments. No one wants to sound like a complainer, but minimizing the pain you're experiencing will only make it harder for you to be taken seriously. Explaining how your pain comes and goes also helps when you have good and bad days and need different types of help.
Ask for Equipment
If your pain is considered a disability, your employer has to make accommodations for you within reason. Even if you're not considered disabled, most employers are happy to buy you a new ergonomic chair, or at least let you bring in your own equipment, if it increases your productivity by helping you avoid intense pain. Accommodations for disabled employees can include working from home when you can prove that skipping the commute and using your home office equipment results in less back pain. Go ahead and gather signed notes about your back pain from your doctor before approaching your boss to save time since it's reasonable for an employer to want some proof of your problem before making major office changes.
Get Permission to Move
When your position involves being chained to a computer desk for eight hours or more at a time, it's pretty much impossible to avoid back pain whether you already experience it or not. For the best spinal health, you should change positions at least once every 30 minutes. Getting an adjustable desk allows you to move between standing and sitting twice an hour, which usually results in dramatically reduced pain during the work day. If you're always on the phone, ask your boss about getting a hands-free headset with a long range so you can stroll around a quiet area to relax your back muscles as you're working.
Explain Treatment Limitations
Finally, don't forget to tell your boss about any limitations you have from seeking back pain treatment. For example, you can't do any lifting or bending for the first 24 hours after injections in the back to numb overactive nerves. Keeping your boss up to date on your treatments and their effects is the best way to avoid unlawful firing and the subsequent battle for unemployment benefits.
Still uncomfortable about talking to your boss about pain? Get in touch with us here at Capital City Neurosurgery and we'll help you gather documentation to give weight to your side of the discussion.