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Managing Migraines at Work



Migraines, those inexplicable piercing headaches, happen to millions of men and women. In the United States, more people suffer from migraines than diabetes and asthma combined, but they still remain one of the most undertreated, underdiagnosed diseases. Even people who get migraines have a loose grasp of what they are.

They can happen in any setting, but migraines frequently occur at the office and those that suffer often soldiers on to stay at work and get things done. While corporate management training programs cover a diverse range of topics, nothing really prepares office workers for dealing with migraines.

Understanding Migraines

A migraine is more than a bad headache. It’s a legitimate medical condition with a wide range of debilitating symptoms that include:

  • Auras, which consist of flickering lights, spots, and lines that seem to curve
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Pains that settle right behind the eyes
  • Neck pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Sensitivity to lights and sounds
  • Throbbing pains on one or both sides of the head

What really makes figuring out migraines so difficult is the cause. There are dozens of potential causes, some of which may not apply to you. Some triggers include:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain foods, including alcohol, chocolate, aged cheese, and caffeine
  • Stress
  • Sensory stimuli, like bright lights, loud sounds, and even unusual smells
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Some medications

What to Do At Work

If you look at those triggers, you’ll notice that a lot of them are present in the average workaday life. You probably enjoy several cups of coffee throughout the day, subject yourself to bright computer screens and fluorescent lights, deal with tons of stress, and have trouble sleeping at night. Even with thorough personal effectiveness training, improving yourself and your migraines at work is a challenge.

What are some things you can do to reduce migraines at work?

  • Keep a diary that identifies potential triggers and do your best to avoid those triggers.
  • Inform your coworkers and let them know what they can do to help, like wearing less perfume or cologne.
  • Use an anti-glare computer screen. If possible, do away with fluorescent lights around your work area and instead work with non-fluorescent spotlighting.
  • Beware of your caffeine intake. While small doses of caffeine have actually been shown to help migraines, excessive amounts can make things worse. It’s a delicate balancing act.
  • Take frequent breaks to stretch and get some fresh air and sunshine.
  • A change management video may help you with stress from a work change, but find healthy ways to deal with stress in all aspects of your life.
  • Don’t skip meals, and stay hydrated on water. Sugary drinks can only exacerbate problems.

If your migraines get worse—to the point that you are missing work or unable to perform tasks—seek medical help. There is a wide range of treatments and prescriptions that your doctor can recommend.