Workplaces offer a lot of triggers for people who get migraines. The National Headache Foundation reports that missed workdays and lost productivity from migraine at work costs the American economy more than $20 million every year. Harsh fluorescent lighting, dry air, clashing perfumes and other scents, uncomfortable workstations and too much time sitting can all bring on the familiar aura and pain of a migraine at work. The stress of commuting – and heightened stress in general — can trigger migraines as well.

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic for migraine sufferers has been the ability to work from home and avoid many of those workplace triggers. But a lot of people are looking at a return to full-time office work soon, and with it, the return of those triggers. Many migraine medications make people sleepy or less productive and inevitably stop working, so they are rarely a solution. You need a long-term solution for your migraines, but in the meantime, you also need to be able to do your job.

How can you manage your migraine symptoms at work until you can get them treated effectively?

Talking to Your Employer

Make sure that your human resources department is aware of your condition. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, migraines may be considered a disability. That is determined on a case-by-case basis.  Unfortunately, some managers put additional pressure and stress on those with migraine, potentially worsening the condition, but migraine may require accommodation under the law. Talking to HR will lay the groundwork to make sure you can take off for needed treatments, leave the office if needed, get an ergonomic workstation or different lighting in your office space, take more frequent breaks or just go sit in a dark room for 15 minutes.

Because migraine affects women disproportionately, migraine can get caught up in workplace sexism, and your HR representatives will be able to help you successfully navigate all the politics of migraine at work, including managing sick time and having respectful conversations with colleagues wearing strong perfume or cologne.

Be sure to document all conversations and keep copies of any paperwork you submit to your human resources department about your migraines and any other health issues that you have.

Avoiding Triggers for Migraine at Work

Do your best to avoid the triggers for your specific migraine condition. Of course, that can be hard to do when you have little control over environment. But getting enough sleep, sticking to routines, staying hydrated, gentle exercise and eating healthily can help prevent some incidences of migraine at work. Make sure you drink lots of water during the day and limit caffeine if it’s a trigger for you.

Managing Stress

Stress is a key trigger for a lot of people, and workplace stress can lead to sleeplessness, bad eating habits and general wellbeing, all of which can make migraine symptoms worse and bring on attacks. If you’re feeling so stressed that you are concerned that the stress itself will trigger a migraine, see if you can get help from a teammate. Talk to your manager about your workload. Again, HR can be a help with those conversations. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to take a break. Sitting in a dark room with a quiet meditation app may bring your stress levels down and help you avoid an incident of migraine at work. For some people whose migraines are triggered by stress, essential oils like lavender may help reduce their stress and stave off an attack.

If you’re feeling a migraine at work begin, pay close attention to your symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound. If you need to leave or take a break, do it. But don’t wait to the point that your vision won’t allow you to drive if that’s something you face as a result of your migraine.

Find a Real Solution

Investigate a real solution to your migraine pain. Migraines are a symptom, not a condition, and the only long-term solution to migraine pain is to treat the underlying cause. A neurologist can perform a series of tests, including X-rays and MRIs if needed, to determine what that underlying cause is. Then the neurologist can access a toolbox of treatment options that may include hydrodissection, Botox, neuromuscular therapy, laser therapy, IV therapy and more. They may prescribe medication in the short term, as well as suggest dietary changes and supplements that will help you feel better while your in-depth treatment plan is initiated.

At the National Headache Institute, we understand your migraine pain. And we want to help. Our specialists will take the time to learn about your unique migraine symptoms and triggers and devise a custom treatment plan for you. We want to help you live the pain-free life you deserve. Schedule a consultation with our teams of headache specialists in Miami and Houston today to get on the path to a pain-free tomorrow.