Pain Concern

becoming 'disabled'


Hoping someone can help with this!

I have chronic back and neck pain and associated neuropathy problems. I have also been an outpatient of pain clinic for 4 years, and when I see them in Jan I'm going to ask to be re-assessed for fibro, as I believe I match many of the symptoms.

I work as a teacher and had occ. health come out last week to measure me up for a special chair. She said that I probably qualify under the equality act, as my condition is long-term and affects my day-to-day activities. I've read that there is now no facility to 'register' as disabled - and i've never thought i would need to, as i don't think i'd be entitled to any benefits etc. However, I had a day off sick last week and on my return to work form i was asked whether my sickness was as a result of a disability. I ticked 'yes' and now work are questioning it, saying i hadn't informed them of a disability etc etc. Does anyone have any advice on what I should do? I'm a bit confused by it all!

Louise x

14 Replies

A very good question to ask. I've been trying to establish for the last year or so if I am classified as 'disabled' or not because of chronic pain. Nobody can/will answer that question. Think we are the only ones to decide that. As far as I know it offers some protection and allowances work wise as employers cannot discriminate against you. But benefit wise I think it is more difficult as personally I do not qualify for any benefits either as they do not seem to apply to people who still have mobility, but with pain that isn't bad enough to stop movement, but makes life utter hell for the sufferer on a day to day basis! I too am trying to stay in work, but even occ health suggest I may be protected by equality act but won't state it as a fact. I wish there was a registration system, through a medical professional, as it would make it much easier. We are left in this in between stage and have to figure it out as we go along, and my chronic pain condition, pudendal neuralgia, seems to slip through the gaps and not fit in any normal disability terms. Pain is hard to prove! Would love to hear other people experience/knowledge about this.


I have had repeated episodes of absence from work over the last two years, my employer is considering retiring me early for 'health reasons' due to a long term condition. I struggle to understand how they can do that even though I don't qualify for any 'disability' benefits and wouldn't be able to look for another job because of health problems. So confusing!


Yes a very good question and will answer s best I can.

You have chronic pain but you haven't been diagnosed with MS or Parkinsons or any other named illness?

Until recently if someone at work took time off through sickness they wee paid Statutory Sick Pat. SSP. This no longer exists and the employer takes out a health insurance for his staff. It could in your case be the Local Aithority - or whoever employs you.

The employer needs to know if any of his staff have a recognised condition which means they will be taking time off work and that insurance will be adjusted. Up obviously.

Hope this makes sense.

Now if you go fo a job the employer is allowed to ask if you have had any time off in the previous 2 years and you must declare it. Maybe a few days through treatment, dialysis,etc. Many employers are now chosing NOT to employ people who have a recognosed illess or disability. It costs the employer money.

Finally you say you wouldn't be entitled to any sickness benefits. Why?

Pat x


Not sure if you are referring to me or not... The benefits I am talking about are PIP or ESA. I would have a very hard time proving that my pain affects my day to day life. I can still do everyday things on high dose painkillers, but suffer from delayed pain payback if I sit for any length of time, walk, stand too long or am generally too active. At the moment I work mon we'd and fri with rest days on tues and Thursday. spend most of my rest days in bed so I can function on work days. But during flare ups I cannot work or drive. I work for a large organisation in the public sector. I'm appealing against PIP decision but worry about not working and not getting ESA as nobody would want to employ me if I declared how much time I've had off work in last two Years!

Sorry if yr reply was not to do with me. Don't want to hog thread.


Just tell work that you didn't have a "disability" when you started with them, and you have only recently come to realise that you now have a chronic health condition that is disabling to the point where you feel you could benefit from small work accommodations like a better chair.

1 like

Hello Louise,

A good question, I have been asking that now for thirty years, Generally do you feel disabled ?? You have had an OCC at your school to sort you for a seat, are you getting the old DLA benefits. You have problems with your so called sickness is the pain or condition affecting everyday activities ?

We can go on like that for quite a while, no-one can really answer that question so it turns around back to you. Is your condition Acute or Chronic ? Have you had an appointment with DWP Contractors who asses you percentage disability. Technically again have you got restricted movement.

Yes you have a disability that restricts or changes how you live your life, you may need adaptations to fulfill life choices ?? With these adaptations allow you to carry on with your life without extensive changes you then have a restricted function. Disability is part of our lives, I never look at myself now in that way even though my life is badly affected with the extent of my disability. Something added together 80/90% ??

Disability takes in so many different problems, all need to be assessed all I can suggest is talk to your Specialist or GP

What do you want to be as I do not know who you are and the suffering you have, one further question do you need assistance in bathing cooking or other life activities. That is the only way I can square the circle.

The latter many disabled people never ask themselves as they prefer to live their lives like everyone else

Good Luck on your quest, at the stage you are at does it matter ???



As this was you question yes I was replying!

Sorry I can't always get people's names as my computer won't speak on my answer.

You sound to be om a vicious circle. No work no money and yet you cam only work alternate days due to flair ips from working.

We always say with CP to [ace yourself but again this is something you are unable to do.

Have you taken advice from CAB perhaps on c;claiming ESA? The money is crap but unfortunate;y for ,many they have no choice.

I don't know how old you are.

I was just trying to explain why you were asked whether you had a disability. Working with a high dosage of pain meds inside you ,ay be giving your employers cause for concern as to your safety. amd others, when you are at work.

Another thought. When applying for ESA or PIP it is whether you can do any of these actions in a...ti,ely. repeatative and safe manner. If you need a day off after then clearly you can't.

Pat x


Thank you, I appreciate your feedback. I am only 42, and believe it or not I work in healthcare! I have taken advice from CAB and they have helped me appeal the PIP refusal decision. Unfortunately large government run organisations tend to follow their very strict rules on absence, I am at the last stage in this this process and despite doing everything in my power to reduce abscence (which is not much apart from cutting down hours) if I have one more period of absence in next 6 months they can 'retire' me. I am fighting for another surgery which hopefully will reduce pain (previous NHS surgery caused the problem but they don't want to fund another surgery outside my CCG area), but that might cost me my job! Ridiculous! If I had that 'disabled' label and some financial benefits to fall back on if I am desperate it would reduce my stress levels and therefore my pain.

It is a strange world we live in, never thought I'd ever want to be labelled as disabled! But I have to believe things will work out somehow in the end, but I have to put my health first. Thanks again for your comments Pat.

Louise, I'm sure healthcare and teaching must be run similarly as both government run. Get occ health on your side as they do have a bit of sway with getting you equipment etc to help, and employers have to tread carefully once you have a long term condition. I hope manage better than i have at work. Disabilitys rarely happen overnight, they evolve from short term to long term. Good luck.


Thank you for all of your replies. I really do appreciate it. I think the main reason I want to 'label' is a bit of justification - as with a lot of 'hidden' illnesses, I can often seem perfectly fine but actually be in agony. Yet I still wouldn't feel comfortable using a disabled seat on public transport, for example, as I would feel that I didn't have the right. I also think it may help to justify my rubbish attendance record at work.

I will give my local council a call and see what they think. Thank you. Am starting to realise that if I am struggling this much at 28, then teaching is not going to be suitable for me long-term, and - much as I love my job - I will need to start getting some alternatives lined up. Preferably something I can do on my back (but not in that way!!)

Thanks again.



If you find a job that can be done from home on your back then let me know! (No rude answers!!). Jokes aside, I need to find a job like that. Xx


As someone who was forced into leaving a teaching job five years ago as my disability took over, (and still feeling resentful - doesn't it show ! lol ) I would stress that you need to follow the correct procedures at each step.If questioned, write a brief formal statement which outlines the UNEXPECTED changes in your health, but which - with simple adaptions, should make no difference to your working abilities. Be careful though, - teachers have exact personal files held in every Head's office, so be factual but careful in what you say. It is the accountants and lawyers who rule your terms of service and will be determining whether you are a liability. BUT, don't let yourself be passed over for promotion by prejudice either.

Nobody ever actually tells you whether you are 'disabled', either being scared of the label, or unwilling to commit; especially if they think it may make the patient give up and succumb to their health problems. How little respect do patients receive in that way.

It may be a good point in your life to speak with a neutral assessor, perhaps counselling would be helpful (and it's far too easy to brush that idea aside when one is a hard working professional, but trust me, it's important to get things in perspective)

With the label comes pros and cons.

Pro = some legal protections

Cons = most people will see you as a liability or worse, a malingerer especially if you have to take time off.

People need to be able to stereotype/categorise what they see, so you might want to simplify things for them (ah, bless) by using the label Partially disabled.

Because I was too gung-ho for too long, some collegues found it hard to accept when I suddenly gave up work, so I showed them some of my xrays in a blog and my alien bones solved the confusion. Any use?

Good luck with the uncertainty, it's not as if coping with the pain is enough, now you are going to have to re-educate others around you too :)


Thanks for all your replies guys. I have an appt with pain clinic in Jan so have made a list and i am going to go in armed with all my concerns (rather than just breaking down and crying like I usually do!) Fibro just seems to make so much sense and fit so many weird symptoms I've had for years. For the past few weeks I've been noticing a weird numbness in my tongue and lips - almost as though I'd sprayed them with numbing throat spray or something. Mentioned it to a colleague and she said her mum has fibro and gets that as a type of paresthesia. Fully prepared for pain clinic to just dismiss it and ignore it as usual but going to push for a re-assessment.


Regarding disability, I went to the Social Security office to register for disability. They sent me to a doctor that specializes in just that. After an hour of poking at all of the trigger spots and answering tons of questions he deemed me disabled. I do get a monthly check but it isn't enough to cover rent and utilities.

I would much rather work if I was able. How many companies would understand that some days are good and others you can't get out of bed. Literally!


I have day after a long time.I thought to myself what the he'll and phoned pip. Told them about my illness. All the sicknote from the doctors stop.on E SA have to wait for a medical and I won it.and got all my money backdated. If other illnesses come you must write to pip there to get any other rate of benefit.if you get any pip you are class as disabled.thanks Pamela.


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