Work Woes and the Chronic Pain Threshold of Disaster


There is always something new to figure out when it comes to this chronic pain life. Right now I am battling work woes, and let’s just say that chronic pain and work schedules do not go well together.

I have been working at the same counseling center for just over two years, and I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments in life that I have only called out sick because of my chronic pain twice in those years. Only two times! Seriously, my coworkers call out sick way more often than me. When every day is a sick day, I guess you just don’t take as many sick days.

Bragging aside, maintaining a steady work schedule in the midst of unpredictable pain flares is…horrendously difficult

Trying to increase your work schedule when the possibility of pain flares looms in the unknown horizon – well, I might just be a glutton for punishment.

I don’t necessarily want to add more hours to my schedule, but I am running into a predicament. Counseling licensure is different state to state, and in Maryland where I live, there are two levels of licensure. The first level of licensure is given after graduation, and the second is given several years later after you have obtained a certain number of client hours.

Currently I hold the first level of licensure, and I have been gaining hours for the second level for the past three years. You are allowed one extension that lasts two years, and if you don’t have your hours in by the end of that time…well they don’t say what happens because no able-bodied person would need that much time to get in the hours needed. But the assumption is that you can’t maintain your license if you don’t get the hours.

So, I find myself trying to add hours without triggering a bad flare up.

Even as I started feeling a little better over the summer, I made the decision that I would not make any changes to my schedule until the fall. Well, fall is here, and I find myself needing to add hours or face the consequences of not getting hours. If I don’t get all the hours, I will certainly appeal and ask for an exception to be made based on my health, but there are no guarantees this would be honored.

My strategy is to do my best to stay away from what I have decided to call the chronic pain threshold of disaster. This is that tenuous and unpredictable place in which you aren’t sure if doing something will tip you over the edge or not. That place where you try to toe the line, and find yourself falling over a cliff because the line happened to be a few feet closer than you thought.

Following my tracking chart, I just will not be pushing it anytime soon. The chart will tell me what I can and cannot do for the time being, and I am NOT ALLOWED to do something if the chart says no.

I saw an acupuncturist for a while and she told me that when I rely on charts and tracking I am treating my body like a machine and not a real body. She told me that I need to learn to listen to my body instead of what the numbers say. But let me tell you something – my body is lying, deceitful, and manipulative. It tells me it is fine when it is not fine at all. It says I can keep going when I can’t. And so for now, I will treat my body like a robot, thank you very much.

Hopefully adding a few hours to my schedule each week goes well. If I have a major flare-up I will be in trouble. But I feel like I have to try.

Wish me luck!



  1. I have chosen to stay out of the work force ever since my chronic pain started, mostly because I have children and wanted to be at home with them. But they are both teenagers now, and I sometimes wonder if I should venture back to work. But then when I have flares, I think to myself, how in the world would I be able to work consistently and reliably? I really admire your perseverance and dedication. It truly is an accomplishment you can feel proud of, and I hope your new work schedule goes well.

    1. Ugh, these are the exact thoughts I have as I consider adding a few more hours. How will I manage when I flare??? My flares can last for a VERY long time, and it was absolute torture over last winter when I worked for months through my worst flare. It’s definitely hard to think through and make decisions about. I feel like I have to try and do what it takes to get my license, but I do have somewhat of a peace that it may not work out, and I am only willing to compromise my health to a point where it won’t be worth it. Just need to figure out where that line is for me 🙂

  2. I take your point about the charts and tracking as opposed to listening to your body. The listening bit can be very complex especially if the flare-ups don’t manifest until 48 hours or more after the activity.

    It sounds like the stress associated with the licence could end up being a trigger unless you decide to drop the aspiration ( at least, that’s what happens to me!). I think you’re right to have a go BUT do try to maybe cut back on other things so that you aren’t overstretching too much.

    Best of luck and keep us posted! jxxx

    1. I agree about cutting back on other things. I started having groceries delivered to the house, which was taking a day out of every to every other week. And if need be I cut down to just work and church when I’m flaring. I feel like I have to give it a try, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll deal with it when I get there. But I know I will super regret it if I don’t at least give it a shot. Only one life to live!

Leave a Reply