Occupational health and Lymphodema

I wonder if anyone has any hands on experience of Occupational health consultations.
I was dx in 2004 and had a right mastectomy with full axilla clearance.This led to lymphodema which is mainly mild but has flare ups at times. I have some problems due to the fact that I work totally desk bound -using a head set to talk to incoming callers and using a mouse/keyboard. I have 1 hour in total away from my desk during the day but otherwise am always talking and using the computer.
At the behest of my lymphodema nurse specialist I asked for a work station assessment. This showed that I have some arm problems and an OHS referral was put through. I have a telephone interview on Wednesday and Im so scared that I will put my job at risk by saying something that makes the doctor think I can no longer continue my job.A colleague told me that since I was employed to do that job they could make me leave as Im unfit to do it.
I feel sick that a complaint may make things worse.

I just would like a bit of help -maybe a different keyboard or mouse but feel like turning down the referal-can I do that?


Hi Freda and welcome to the BCC forums

I am sure your fellow forum users will be along soon with support and information for you, I have copied the link to BCC’s publication, ‘Employment Charter’ which may be useful for you to read:


For further support and information do phone the helpline and they’ll be able to talk to you in more detail about how you stand with work issues. The lines are open Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm and Sat 9 am - 2pm. 0808 800 6000. Hope this helps.

Best wishes

Hi Freda

I wouldn’t turn down the referral.

I had a work station assessment a few years ago after the private physio I was seeing wrote my employer a stiff letter. Employer was terrified of the H & S implications and as a result I got a proper footstool, a super-duper chair and, most important of all, an erogonomic support for my worst arm (I’ve got lymphoedema in both). The arm support cost about £80, so not megabux.

Also, it is possible to buy an ergonomic mouse, so that your hand and arm rest on your desk at a much more comfortable, and natural, angle. Ditto for keypads - there are even some around that can be used with only one hand, altho’ I believe you might need time and training to get fully proficient with these.

I think if you can come up with positive suggestions (perhaps your lymphoedema nurse also has some ideas on how to improve your work station?) such as these at the assessment it may help. Ordinary mice and keyboards can injure (tennis elbow, RSI, etc) even the healthiest of arms, too.

There is related thread on the lymphoedema board - I will give it a bump.

Good luck




Freda sorry to hear your problems at work, I think its a good idea as well to come up with some positive suggestions. Like you I work at a desk, but I’m able to leave my postion to do my exercises/massage in morning and also I’m encouraged to have a break as often as necessary ie to walk round. I had a work assessment done, I was given a footstool and a document holder. Footstool fine but holder was a waste of time. I have an ‘L’ shaped desk and this was turned around so i could rest my arm on the desk. I also have my own airconditioning unit as where i sit gets really hot and as you will be aware these sleeves arn’t the most comfortable of things to wear when its hot and add in the hotflushes, oh the joys. Things still aren’t right but I’m going to take up some of Bahons2 suggestions. Hope you are able to get sorted.

S - If i sound abit thick sorry but what does erogonomic mean. I’m sure my employers would be interested coz they do seem willing to make things as comfortable as possible for me. Oh yes and whats your chair like?

Take care everyone


Thank you so much for your kind words.
I think I was getting into a panic and actually forgot that we are covered by the DDA. I have printed out the leaflet and will digest it before Wednesday to help calm me down hopefully.
My nurse specialist talked about different equipment that could be used but since neither of us know what is available we didnt get very far :slight_smile:
Ill let you know what the outcome is- but since this is the civil service it may take some time.
Thank you

Hi Lynne

Your own air-con, wow, what a good idea.

Ergonomics…‘The study of people’s efficiency in their working environments’ is how our dictionary defines it, but it seems to be applied to things that are designed to help you do your job as well as possible, so this is where the arm support, etc would come in.

My chair (I’m not working at that job any more, but that’s another story), was a very high quality ‘typists’ chair that could be adjusted all over the place and gave particularly good support to the back and shoulders. It was also possible to take one or both arms off it (I used to have one on and one off a lot of the time, I think, and then I decided to have the other one taken off as well, so that I could fully support my arms on my desk .

I’ve also got a gel pad (a narrow strip about as wide as my keyboard) from PC World to support my wrists when typing and I think you can also get mouse mats with a gel pad to support your wrist as well.

I think there’s a bit of trial and error necessary to find out what suits you, but so many people work at computers these days (and get injured from doing so) that therre seems to gradually more awareness and more products that can help.



Thanks S

I use to have a desk fan on my desk, but papers kept going all over the place, plus occ health said i may get a stiff neck from the draft. It was suggested to use a small a/c unit but they bought an air cooler by mistake but it wasn’t powerful enough and still had to use desk fan. By then i hardly had any room left on my desk! I tried the gel pads for keyboard and mousemat but found I got a pain in back of arm above elbow, so advised to stop using them. Awkward bu***rs aren’t we!!! I haven’t used it yet coz been off work on sick but hopefully it will help when I go back. I use a higher backed chair but they took the arms off so i could rest arm on desk.
I go back to lymph clinic begining of dec hoping for a further reductionfingers xd.

Just thought I would post an update about my Occ Health assessment.
After a couple of false starts I eventually had a telephoned assessment with someone -not too sure what their status was though. This amounted to covering along list of questions and noting my answers -but nothing more than that. I did let myself down with the alcohol units though and got a bit of a telling off …

The end result though was that a desk /workplace assessment was arranged for a weeks time.

The lady came on Friday and she did a very thorough assessment of all aspects of my work environment. It has resulted in the following recommendations:

*vertical mouse
*special adjustable chair with gel arm pads
*noise cancelling headphones
*writing slope to fit over the keyboard
*my very own personal heater -this is the best of all as our office has a tendency to the Arctic-15 degrees this morning!

Plus I should have fixed 8-4 day rather than have to alter my hours as most of our building does . And I am banned from using the stairs as I have fallen both ways (at separate times) .

I think thats the lot for now. I cant wait for it all to get put in place though it may take some time. One girl was waiting for a chair ,complained to the union and was put on gardening leave for 12 weeks! I think theyve got themselves together a bit better now though.


Hi Freda

I work for civil service too, buthaven’t waited too long for stuff. Pleased they’ve identified some areas of improvement for you and hope you get sorted as quick as possible.

What’s a vertical mouse? and the chair sounds interesting too.

The writing slope - if its the one I had was a waste of time for me. Mine pulled down over keyboard when wanting to write on document and pushed back up when wanting to use keyboard. It clanked and creaked everytime I did this and found it more bother that it was worth.

Keep us posted and take care.

Hi Freda

Lots of positive signs, there! Brilliant.

I think the vertical mouse is what I’ve seen called ‘an ergonomic’ mouse. Lynni - one that has the buttons placed so that your hand is thumb uppermost (and not palm down) when you are using it. I know someone who got one like this for his tennis elbow and he says it’s a great help.



Hello gain
Just a bit of an update and a question.

The update is that the equipment has been ordered. Thats it. No sign of anything yet but I assume its on its way…:slight_smile:

The question is about a recommendation from OH . The statement has a recommendation for me to have fixed hours 8am-4pm. My line manager has asked me to consider having later fixed times(maybe 9-5) . This is for business needs. The assessor asked what would make my job easier and I said fixed & early hours which is what she put in the statement. Can management go against what is in the recommendation ? I gave a flippant answer when asked outright but dont know what to say if asked again.


Hi Freda

Glad to hear that the equipment you need has been ordered and hopfully won’t take too long to arrive.

Re your working hours; I think most people, even those without lymphoedema tend to swell a bit during the day (eg ankles in hot weather) and your preference for an early start sounds like a good idea, particularly if you feel your lymphoedema is at its best first thing in the morning and also if your office tends to get uncomfortably hot in the summer.

I’ve no idea whether your line management can overrule OH (one would hope not) - but, thinking along the lines of compromise and diplomacy, would 8.30 to 4.30 also be a possibility that could be considered by all involved?

Good luck