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Careers and working with chronic pain

Hi, seen a few other threads but not any recent ones so wanted to restart discussion about careers. My medical history:
Herniated L5S1, microD 2012. Reherniated L5S1 again 7 weeks ago, having microD next week.
Disc first started having problems when I was at uni at 23 years. Since then I've been in a job which is sitting at a computer 80% of time. I have pain everyday from this & if do full working week (40hrs) have severe back pain and stiffness. Been trying to get off the pain killers as got stomach ulcer from these last year. Have physio and sports massage every week & do pilates X2 per week. Sitting upright in lumbar support chair makes pain worse. Get up every 20 mins and walk around every hour. Doesn't make any difference. If I work at home I do so in recliner and spread my 8 hours over 12 hour period with break in middle for walk/swim. This helps but I can't do this everyday and now with new job, not happy for me to work at home.

I had 2 months off work for holiday early in the year and pain was massively reduced. For first time in 3 years I didn't have chronic pain every day. Been thinking that after my surgery when I've recovered I might retrain, although not sure in what, maybe teaching. Sitting at a desk seems to be causing too many problems and my physio saying that because I've not been able to work at home in new job, sitting at office desk mightve contributed to my disc going again.

Anyone have any experience of teaching with chronic pain or after lumbar surgery? Anyone experience of going from a desk based job to something else and had relief?
I want to work and I'm still in my 20s so have many years of work left! I just want to find a career which could cause more and more problems down the line.


  • Hi Lily2014. I am a teacher with chronic pain and herniated L4-L5, L5-S1. I have had it for 13 years and have been teaching through it. One thing that you need to consider is that teaching can be much more physically demanding than many people realize. If you are teaching young kids, you will be bending, kneeling, squatting and standing for 6-7 hours per day. For older students, you will be standing 5-6 hours per day. IThis is without much walking-- just standing. Like your experience when you were on holiday, my pain levels become much more manageable during school breaks. But, over the years even the breaks have more pain. I have managed pain through the years with meds, injections, PT & exercise, but many many school days I am exhausted from the pain at the end of the day. My doctors agree that the physical nature of my job contributes to the massive flares, but in my mind I can still work, so I do. I wish you all the best in your surgery.
  • Hi Katiedee that's really interesting, perhaps teaching may make it worse for me. Really I think I need to be in a job which allows flexible working from home as I can do all of my exercises and break up the day by swimming etc. In previous job, this didn't solve the problem but did help. It seems though that unless you are registered as disabled, employers have less responsibility to help make reasonable adjustments like flexible hours or home working. This would be less relevant in a job like teaching though I guess. Does anyone know anything about what responsibilities employers have to make these reasonable adjustments if you have long term pain but are not classed as disabled? This might help me to do a job which I enjoy but can have sufficient support to be able to do so.
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  • PlumbTuckeredOutPlumbTuckeredOut Philadelphia, PAPosts: 325
    Hi Lily!
    All you need is your word saying you are disabled. I receive disability and medicare but when I go to work at part time positions all I say is "I have disabilities. I need these accommodations...." I don't have any way of proving disability. Any one of my doctors would confirm it but the only time I needed a "proof letter" was in getting a dog certified as a service dog.

    Back in 1988 I did my student teaching at a high school. I taught Italian and Latin and this was before I was admitting to being disabled! I was in serious pain and also, Celiac Disease had not been diagnosed yet either so I was a mess. I'd walk in the classroom, sit at the desk, sit on the desk. Sometimes I declare "game day" and I'd take the class outdoors to play games in the target language. I remember one of my evaluating professors not liking my strategies but he also did not know how much I hurt! But I got out of teaching for other reasons and am now self-employed.

    You may want to look up The Americans with Disabilities Act so you will feel more confident asking for your rights as an individual with chronic pain!


    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by...... (Robert Frost)
    I still don't know if I should have taken the one that said, "Caution! Dead End" (Me)
  • Lily2014LLily2014 Posts: 84
    edited 11/10/2015 - 12:11 AM
    Hi Shiela, thanks for your advice. I asked my specialist if he would write saying I had a disability but he said no. Other doc also not happy to put this. I think the doctors think I'm trying to use this so I don't have to work, but I desperately want to work and don't want any handouts! since my first surgery my limits have been as follows: standing for 20 mins, walking for 45 mins, sitting for4-5 hrs. After this I have to lie down as so painful. It can also fluctuate but there is still pain every day. All I want is some help so I don't have to do things like lift tables or heavy equipment or sit for a full working week in a large open plan office (where I can't lie down). When I asked my employer for help, they asked for medical evidence and I gave them what I have but nothing says "disability" and they did very little to make adjustments for me. I think thats why I'm current situation now with reherniated disc. If I could afford to work part time I would but I'm the main wage earner. If I have an empathetic manager I think I will be fine as I can do shorter days on my bad days and make up time at weekends etc but I don't think I can rely on whether or not my manager understands. How could I go about getting this kind of support from my medical team?

    At the moment I'm classed as "short term disabled" because I have limp and can't walk very steadily but I'm scared that if/when this goes after surgery and they won't be able to see my pain, I will be back to square one. Unless someone sees what I am like after standing for 20 mins/sitting for a full day, they don't see how much pain I'm in & doc appointments only very short.
  • From the sounds of all your comments and with my standing limitations, teaching would be a very bad idea! Thanks for your input I think I won't go down that road in a hurry.
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