Techniques and Tips for Remaining Productive at Work

New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
[ << Previous Thread | Next Thread >> ]

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2010
Total Posts : 77
   Posted 8/5/2010 7:43 AM (GMT -6)   
I work 35 hours/week at a university as an administrative assistant -- four 8 hour days in the office, and one 3 hour day working from home. With how bad my pain has been recently, I've been finding it difficult and sometimes impossible to handle working. I have used up almost all of my sick and vacation time at this point. My job consists of sitting in front of a computer almost all of the time, except for occasional meetings, trips to deliver something to another office, trips to the photocopier, and filing. My boss has been fairly understanding of my situation, but as of late I have been struggle to concentrate and get anything done while at work, which I can tell he's upset about. I need to find a way to make this work because I both need and want to keep working. My job is the one that provides the great insurance, the copay reimbursement program, the tuition assistance that's allowing me to get my master's degree, and is the place where I'm going to be doing my thesis research project (which is all I have left to do in order to receive my master's). And receiving my master's is extremely important to me.

I also have a hobby of making jewelry, which I have recently started selling. I have only sold one piece so far, but I only started selling this past weekend. I am so happy that I finally found a hobby that I am passionate about. I never thought of myself as a creative person, but for some reason I just clicked with this. It serves as a good distraction from the pain most of the time, except for situations like last night where I had to stop since the pain was making me shake so badly. It's not safe or effective to work on making jewelry in that condition (sharp tools, damaged components, etc.). If I ever become successful at that, I could consider only working part time. But for now, that's not an option. Daycare is too expensive, and having to care for my daughter more than I already do would make my pain even worse. Caring for a 3 year old is harder on my back than working in an office.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on. If you have any advice, I would greatly appreciate it.
Scoliosis fusion w/rods - 1992; herniated disc - 1996; partial removal of rods - 1997; microdiscectomy - 1997; sudden increase in pain - 2008; since 2008 I've tried the following non-pharmaceutical treatments: physical therapy, aquatic therapy, TENS, acupuncture, trigger point injections, selective nerve root blocks; other diagnoses: depression, anxiety, add; current medications: tramadol, lyrica, baclofen, vicodin, welbutrin, ativan, ritalin

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 278
   Posted 8/5/2010 11:05 AM (GMT -6)   
I am batteling the same thing!
I will watch for advice as well!!
Tethered Spinal Cord~1.5x1.2 cm spinal cord cyst at L5/S1  (Lumbar Laminectemy completed 9/10/09)~Scolosis~Migrains~Leg Deformity~Foot Deformity~Knee, Hip, Back, Neck Pain~Severe Depression~Insomenia~DDD~Artheritis (Spine)~Spinal Bone Spurs~NEW: Herniated Disc T5/T6 
"I'm not going to vacuum 'till Sears makes one
you can ride on"
~Roseane Barr~

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9664
   Posted 8/5/2010 11:11 AM (GMT -6)   
While sitting at the computer desk, take in a old shoe box and prop a foot up, this might relieve some of
the stress off your lower back, try using an icy/hot patch while sitting..try some of those chair exercises that
they do on PBS sit n fit program, start easy..try proping up the foot...and maybe try one of those massaging back
cushions that go up over the chair...and a 3 yr old can learn to help, by making her pick her clothes
each night, make it a game, ask her what she likes to wear and to show you...
just some suggestions...Hope these work...
healing hugz
(sorry about the typos)
* Asthma, Allergies, Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis, Degenative Disc (Lower Lumbar S1-L3 and Cervical C5,C6, C8 and T1), Fibromyalgia, Gerd,
Enlarged Pituitary Gland, Sjogren's, Ocular Migraines, mild carpel tunnel, ect.... "Would be nice if we could use the edit button in real life"...


Mrs. Dani
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 8/5/2010 11:11 AM (GMT -6)   


  Dear Daga,

     Good morning. It is so nice to hear from you. I hope you are able to make it through your day with as little pain as possible. It sounds like you have to sit at your desk all day and with so many problems in your lower back... that has got to hurt. Only suggestions I could think of is to bring sneakers to work... do your stretches and brisk walk at lunch or break time. Get a heat and massage insert for your chair if possible. Stock up on heat wrapps for "those days" and bring a high protien snack. (we burn up alot of energy being in pain) I think there are "foot rests" you can get for under your desk that will help the strain on your back (minimal).

     I just started making jewelry a year ago too! It was originally part of my "goal" with my pain psychologist (Hobbie sharing ~ hobbies that arnt physical). Send me your email address and I will send you some great sites for ideas and videos. I think what I like the most is seeing all the neat designs I make while in pain. Never would have thought something so positive could come from my pain. Now I find myself sketching out all day, then search for the components to make what I sketched in my free time.

     Parenting little ones while in severe chronic pain is so.. impossible. I mean, we do what we have to do. No doubt. It is just that there are way to many days in the week that it takes all we have in us to provide the basics!  smhair   You would think there would be more resources available for parents with chronic illnesses. I had a nurse last year tell me "You cant bring your daughter with you." I laffed at her so hard. Had to be the funniest thing I ever heard. Then I reported her while she was standing there. Had a neighbor tell me once "You cant be a parent on pain medicine. You need to stop taking that.". ..... Unrealistic expectations of society only make matter worse!...humm.. I seemed to have stray off on a tangent there. Sorry!

     I do hope you are able to make it through you work day today. It was so nice to catch up with you. You are in our hearts.


TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
Chronic Pain Moderator

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 16787
   Posted 8/5/2010 5:26 PM (GMT -6)   
Off the top of my head is, sitting is the very worst thing for you to be doing considering your back situation. You need to get up and move around as much as possible and try not to sit for more than 30 minutes at one time. Sitting puts so much stress on the lower back. Is your boss aware of of your medical situation? Do you have a good supportive chair to sit in? Chart's shoe box is a great idea. I know when I stand in my kitchen and attempt cooking, I have to prop one leg up.

One of our members on here is named Frances I hope she see's this, I feel certain she would have some great info for you.

crohns disease dx 2002 & small bowel resection, still looking for remission whatever that is, chronic pain 22 yrs, added ulcerative colitis 6-05 to the mix, high blood pressure 28 yrs, aortic heart valve insuffiency, depression, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis lumbar spine, scoliosis lumbar spine, peripheral neuropathy hands & feet, COPD & on oxygen therapy, lupus & psoriasis and psoratic arthritis. Several other health issues just not enough room to list it all. Too many surgeries to list and too many medications to list. Currently on 17 different daily medications. Intrathecal pain pump implanted June 05.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 2317
   Posted 8/5/2010 8:10 PM (GMT -6)   
We have very similar jobs (though I don't make jewelry in my free time). There are benefits to working for NPO's, but you're right that even NPO jobs have limitations on what they will put up with.

I'm not sure what kind of pain you have. I have pain in my low back, radiating down right leg & in my neck/shoulder/base of head radiating down my right arm. If the pain is in your upper body, try adjusting your seat, getting something under your feet if you're short & making sure your stuff is all within easy reach. That means your monitor is 12" from your head & the top of the screen is at eye level. Your phone (if you use it) is within easy reach of your computer. And, if needed, maybe look into special technology. I just got a Goldtouch keyboard (it's fully adjustable -- go to the site, I really can't describe it) and have an Evoluent vertical mouse on order (GT sells them, but they're manufactured by Evoluent). You can get them used or remanufactured to save money. Goldtouch sometimes is really nice to NPO's with pricing, but it depends on what time of year you're ordering. If they can't give you a good price, ask around.

If the pain is in your low back, make sure to schedule breaks (actually, that's just good advice no matter what). Sometimes I've used a balance ball in place of a chair. I've gotten mixed results from that. At my current workplace I have an office, but at the NPO where I used to work I had an open cube, but I talked to my boss & she set it up so I could borrow an office or meeting room for 30 minutes basically whenever needed so I could lay on the floor & stretch out my back. I also talked to the cafeteria manager & was allowed to keep an extra large ice pack in the freezer (the kind that are 24"x24" -- they sell them at Walgreen's & other pharmacies; they stay cold for up to 8 hours, well, I've only gotten them to stay cold for 6 but they say 8 on the package). I switch positions a lot -- sitting, standing, walking around for a minute, kneeling on my chair, sitting sideways, sitting backwards. I also, on occasion b/c you can't use it all the time or it will make you worse, use a cervical collar for neck pain and a hard prescription back brace for low back issues.

And then at home (when I'm good & I've been naughty lately b/c I'm trying to pack to move) I do crunches -- regular up & down, but also the sideways ones & the ones where your top half stays flat & you reach your legs/toes straight up in the air. Plus I got a home traction unit. It's under boxes right now (oops) but it did help a lot when I used it. My insurance covered it 100% b/c I had met by out of pocket max.

Other than those kinds of self-care tips, I would say to try to find some powerful people to get on your side (donors are the best, board members are also good). If you can show that you have strong people skills & that people who give a lot of time or money to the organization, or people who are very powerful in your field, are wanting you there then your boss will find a way to accommodate you whether he likes it or not. I know I hate the whole political aspect of universities & higher education groups, but it can literally mean the difference between having a job or not. Find those people & if they ever send you a letter figure out how to send them a nice response & copy your boss on it so he knows that people like you & will be up in arms if you leave. Higher Ed can be a double-edged sword. I remember even when I was in school it was like that. Now I'm starting a new job & was told I had to be the gopher for our semi-annual conferences. But I make nice with a few people who brought in a number of new members because of me & also the top person in the field. They threatened to leave the organization & to tell everyone they knew how unhappy they were if my boss didn't figure something out so that I didn't have to be on my feet all day long at conference time. God bless them, they even offered to run errands for me (and these are well respected professors & authors of some of the leading textbooks in the industry).
I know sometimes that's easier said that done, but I've also seen that often people with pain/disabilities are the most sensitive people out there & are really good at customer service. So pull out that roladex & see what you've got. :)

Gosh, sorry for such a long post. It seems like trying to stay on top of the pain so I can work 35 measly hours a week is like a second full time job, but most of the time it does work for me. And the rest of the time, I make sure I'm building relationships with the important people. And I'm really evil & sneaky b/c if I'm going to be out I will send out an email to those key people letting them know that I'm home & available on my cell if they need me so not to worry about bothering the boss (as nice as they are, they can turn on you in an instant so I take every precaution). At every organization I've worked for that always seems to result in them mentioning how helpful I was even while out sick to my boss. Gotta love that. :) I really try to keep that group as small as possible -- no more than 6 people -- but it does seem to make a difference. I help them; they help me.

Hope that helps. Wishing you favor with your boss, relief from some of the pain & steady work for years to come.


Mrs. Dani
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 2787
   Posted 8/6/2010 11:55 AM (GMT -6)   


   Dear Daga,

     I sent you the email last night. I hope you got it? More so, I hope your found the resources to be useful. They are where I go for all the latest trends and design ideas.

     Hope you are able to have a low pain day!


TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
Chronic Pain Moderator

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2010
Total Posts : 416
   Posted 8/6/2010 10:08 PM (GMT -6)   
:-)  I have used the foot propping while having to make 350 sandwhiches. I use a small wooden prop. It's not really ideal for the situation but it does work. When I have to do my paperwork, it tugs and pulls on my back, so I had to get a chair that has some mobility. It helps not to stay in one spot and sitting or standing for more than 30 minutes,too. I don't know how well this will work for you. I still have monuemential pain but as far as my back is concerned('s stock,etc) it all helps. I hope you can find some relief. Oh and a mobile 3 year? Work is prob. def. less painfull((she says thinking of when hers were that age)). That is half the reason I kept working. Just take care of you. WOW a masters!! That is so amazing. Not that you are doing it, but that you have stuck to it. If it wouldn't hurt to much I would say give yourself a pat on the back!! Big gentle HUGS, Heather yeah
New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
Forum Information
Currently it is Saturday, September 22, 2018 6:08 AM (GMT -6)
There are a total of 3,005,639 posts in 329,245 threads.
View Active Threads

Who's Online
This forum has 161791 registered members. Please welcome our newest member, Manuel de Leon.
211 Guest(s), 3 Registered Member(s) are currently online.  Details
bigecase, getting by, Worried Guy