As I continue to trudge through work with injured knees and sciatica pain flare-ups, I know they are still affecting my job performance. Because I am a writer who needs to sit for long periods, you might imagine how sciatica pain feels when you are sitting on the exact nerve that’s causing constant pain at a level of eight to ten – that same nerve that runs from your bottom to the back side of your thigh and into the backside of the knee. How can you avoid sitting on it when chairs are designed to support those precise locations on the body?

Well, I’ll tell you; you can’t, and it’s excruciating. I must get up many times while I am writing to massage my areas of pain the best I can. That is as long as I can remember to get up before I am in agonizing pain again!

Those with chronic pain, arthritis, or other injuries/conditions struggle to sit in an uncomfortable chair for long periods, causing physical pain and added anxiety that can further lead to lower performance capabilities.

Here are a few things I have tried to implement in my life to maximize best my work performance as well as manage my pain for long-term effectiveness:

  • Get up and take breaks often
  • Use my knee exercise machine to gently care for the injuries before I am able to get surgery
  • Once a month therapeutic, deep tissue massage by a licensed therapist
  • Every two months, see my alternative physical therapist for dry needling acupuncture
  • Limit my trips up and down my stairs
  • Ice packs under my leg to minimize swelling in the sciatica nerve
  • Heating pads on my back while sitting

According to Harvard Business Review, “While chronic pain is increasingly becoming common among American workers, a recent survey of CEOs demonstrates that, while leaders recognize it’s an issue, few know how to discuss the topic with employees — let alone help.

To start, they should be ready to support employees by listening, but not by pressuring them to reveal health details. Second, they can focus their organization on preventing work-related pain. Third, they can design jobs with both autonomy and skill variety in mind. Fourth, they can allow flexible work. Finally, they can increase chronic pain management resources in their company,”.

Besides affecting my personal bottom line (no pun intended!), what are the numbers for the economic impact on businesses? I know I am not the only one out there who must deal with chronic pain and flare-ups in their day-to-day lives. Let’s find out.

What is the economic impact of chronic pain on businesses?

Chronic pain is a prevalent global issue, affecting about 20% of individuals worldwide. Research suggests that in China, approximately 20% of the population experiences chronic pain, while in the US, the NIH estimates the prevalence at 17%. Variations in healthcare systems and treatments contribute to these differences. Understanding the scope of chronic pain prevalence is essential to address this significant health concern.

The average reported reduction in work productivity is around two and a half days per week, with those suffering from joint pain. Alternatively, those dealing with multisite chronic pain lose about ten hours a week in productivity.

Below is a list of how chronic pain affects people at work:

  1. Focus and concentration
  2. Performance
  3. Overall satisfaction
  4. Mobility
  5. Completion of assigned tasks
  6. Problem-solving
  7. Stress
  8. Productivity
  9. Quality
  10. Relationships and work culture
  11. Performance on the company softball team (Okay, obviously this may not affect the company’s profits, but it does affect company moraleon some level)

Oh, how I wish I were able to play on the company softball team again. Unfortunately, those days are long gone for me now. I’m a crickety, old, broken-down athlete. But hey, I sure did have a great time and a good, long run of excellence before my body said enough, enough! 

Reasonable adjustments for chronic pain

Efficiency is crucial, but pushing too hard with chronic pain can lead to burnout, necessitating extra time off. Companies should make reasonable accommodations for chronic pain sufferers in the workplace beyond just massage chairs.

Adjustable desks and chairs can ease joint pressure, lessen fatigue, and promote better posture, while ergonomic accessories like footrests and wrist rests reduce strain.

Offering flexible work hours and remote work options allows employees to operate at their peak times, reducing stress and tailoring the work environment to their needs. By making these changes, companies can ensure their team members work comfortably and efficiently.

Most importantly, employers should provide access to mental health resources because I can tell you living with chronic pain is extremely mentally taxing. If I can have access to mental health support, it would help me cope with the stress of working with chronic pain and sciatica flare-ups.

Reasonable adjustments for chronic pain are essential to create an environment that is comfortable, supportive, and conducive to productivity.

Chronic pain statistics worldwide

Chronic pain is a widespread problem that affects a lot of people around the world. Imagine if there were a million people in China; around 200,000 of them would be dealing with chronic pain. In the US, about 170,000 out of a million people are also living with chronic pain. The numbers might vary in different countries because of how healthcare is managed and the treatments available. It just shows that chronic pain is something many people deal with, no matter where they are.

The summary of the NIH stated, “The prevalence, incidence, and vast social and health consequences of global pain requires that the public health community give due attention to this issue. Doing so will mean that health care providers and public health professionals will have a more comprehensive understanding of pain and the appropriate public health and social policy responses to this problem,”.

Managing chronic pain at work

In conclusion, it is imperative that I do my best to stay ahead of the pain, using the tools that help ease the pain when it flares up. Still, it is equally critical for my employer to provide accommodations and flexibility.