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Musculoskeletal Care. 2010 Mar;8(1):18-26. doi: 10.1002/msc.162.

Women's narratives on experiences of work ability and functioning in fibromyalgia.

Author information

  • 1Rheumatism Foundation Hospital, Heinola, and Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, Pori, Finland. merja.sallinen@samk.fi



Fibromyalgia is a significant health problem for women of working age. However, little is known about the long-term effects of fibromyalgia in everyday life or on work ability.


A narrative interview study was conducted to explore the experiences of work ability and functioning of patients with a long history of fibromyalgia. Twenty women, aged 34-65 years, were purposively chosen for the interviews, to reach a wide range of patients with different social and professional backgrounds.


Four types of experience concerning work ability were identified in the narratives: confusion, coping with fluctuating symptoms, being 'in between' and being over the edge of exhaustion. Severe pain and fatigue symptoms, combined with a demanding life situation and ageing, seemed to lead to substantial decrease in work ability and functioning over the long term. In the narratives, vocational rehabilitation or adjustments to work tasks were rarely seen or were started too late to be effective.


Exploring the life stories of women with fibromyalgia can reveal the perceived causes and consequences of fibromyalgia related to work ability or disability, which can be utilized in developing client-centred rehabilitation approaches and effective interventions to support work ability and avoid premature retirement in fibromyalgia patients.

Copyright (c) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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