Work and Disability
Work and Disability
Most of us have to work for a living. There are bills to pay and families to provide for. Since fibromyalgia patients do not usually look ill and on superficial examination appear strong, complaints of difficulty performing the job can be hard to believe. This chapter will review definitions as they apply to disability, impairments reported in fibromyalgia patients, and constructive approaches that allow individuals with the syndrome to work most effectively. The World Health Organization defines disability as a limitation of function that compromises the ability to perform an activity within a range considered normal. Efforts to manage work disabilities considers issues such as age, sex, level of education, psychological profile, past attainments, motivation, retraining prospects, and social support systems. Additionally, work disability issues take into account work-related self-esteem, motivation, stress, fatigue, personal value systems, and availability of financial compensation. An impairment is an anatomic, physiologic, or psychological loss that leads to disability. Impairments include pain from work activities (e.g., heavy lifting), emotional stress (e.g., working in a complaint department), or muscle dysfunction (e.g., cerebral palsy). A handicap is a job limitation or something that cannot be done (e.g., deafness). Patients with a disability can be permanently, totally disabled and thus potentially eligible for Social Security Disability and Medicare health benefits. Other classifications include being permanently, partially disabled, whereby vocational rehabilitation, occupational therapy, and psychological or ergonomic evaluations can address impairments or handicaps to optimize employment retraining possibilities. Temporary, partial disability allows one to work with restrictions (e.g., no lifting more than ten pounds) while treatment is in progress. Temporary, total disability involves a leave of absence from employment while undergoing treatment so that one can return to work. Subjective factors of disability include symptoms such as pain or fatigue, while objective factors of disability are physical signs such as a heart murmur or a swollen joint. One can be disabled from a work category and granted disability even if employment is ongoing in a different work category. Work categories are rated as sedentary, light work, light medium work, medium work, heavy work, or very heavy work, each defined by how much exertion is used over a time interval.
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