Managing Migraine at Work

Community Ideas: Managing Migraine at Work

Managing migraine at work can be incredibly challenging; yet many people do so quite often. So, we asked our Facebook community: "How do you handle migraine in the workplace? Do you have tips for talking to colleagues or managing work-related triggers?" Check out what the community had to say - and share your experience in the comments below!

How to speak with your coworkers

  • For the first time, I've got more understanding than ever before as there are four other migraine sufferers which makes it so much easier to (not need to) explain why I can't tolerate light/ sound/ smells/ some foods etc.
  • If you have a close & trusted colleague, it really helps to have someone who can keep an eye on you when there's a migraine on the horizon.
  • I have three other migraine sufferers in the office besides myself. Plus a colleague in HR suffers too. Many of us have FMLA documents in our file. It's saved our jobs.
  • My manager is pretty understanding.
  • After many years, I finally have an employer who is sympathetic to my situation (chronic migraines) because his wife is also a migraineur.
  • I am very lucky because I can take time off as needed for doctor's appointments and migraine attacks without using vacation days.
  • My employer adjusted the lighting in my office to make it more tolerable for me. He's also learned to recognize the warning signs of an impending attack and will often send me home before things get out of control. 
  • I've learned that the best thing you can do is be honest with your employer about your condition. Yes, migraines are covered under ADA, but many people still don't understand that a migraine is SO much more than a headache.
  • It is especially important to talk with your employer if you have chronic migraine as the frequency of attacks makes silence about your condition your enemy.

Daily strategies to live by

  • I've found some daily medications that have calmed them down; namenda and trileptal.
  • I explained triggers and how I feel on day when I don't feel my best... so communication and lots if information on both sides are important
  • I'm a teacher. Most of my HS students are understanding. Some will help with the day's lessons.
  • I guess I'm thankful I've finally got the right doctors and regimens for now.
  • The doctors I have now work in conjuction to help me.
  • I've gotten really good at reserving the conference room and sitting in the dark.
  • Luckily I'm not required to spend a lot of time in the office.
  • I would sleep in my car during my lunch hour in hopes that sleep would help.
  • I once had to bring medical records to prove the need to sit further away from a guy who wore cologne. I have to back out of stairwells, elevators and even leave meetings.
  • I bought huge fake plants to put on top of my cubicle to block bright florescent lights.
  • I avoid people as best I can.
  • Use a lot of vacation and sick leave for migraine.
  • Very lucky to have a private office with a door I keep closed and can work with only partial lighting.
  • Have brightness turned down to low on computer screens and low volume on the office phone.
  • Rub Vicks vapor rub on my temples, try to stay away from light & strong odors
  • I run stairs and mostly power thru it. Mine apparently aren't as bad as many folks and I have an aura to clue me in to get moving to forestall the pain. Exercise nearly always works.
  • I miss my migraines with aura! See spots, take meds, feel better.
  • My neurologist wrote letters... almost an individual health care plan... it states what I suffer from and that I must be dismissed from work or they will be dialing 911. I am lucky...blessed that my principle also has cluster headaches so she understands.
  • Generally do not discuss it.
  • I have non prescription glasses with glare filters to make using the screens more tolerable.
  • Fortunate to be able to take time off when needed.
  • Started taking antidepressant at night to help me sleep and it really helps. Stopped taking propranolol. I just suffer through.
  • The only relief I get is by locking my door, turning all the lights off, sipping a Diet Coke, and trying to be quiet.
  • I would have to go into a vacant room and give myself Imitrex shots. Wait 10 minutes and was able to go back to work.
  • Sometimes I go sit in my storeroom and count to 10 or if it is really bad my deputy rushes me to the doctor.
  • I recently got prescription glasses that darken under neon lights and school lights... they do work miracles at times!!!
  • I would tell my boss straight up on the interview. Some were great about it and others not so great. But they couldn't ever say I never said anything.
  • My work family installed special pink tinted bulbs, took out smelly carpeting even adjust my schedule.

Knowing your legal rights

  • Migraines are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Talk to HR & find out what paperwork you need to have filled out by your doctor.
  • Remember we are covered under the Americans with disabilities act. Yes migraines are a disability. You do not have to register just have doctor record and let your employer know.
  • I made a copy of the disability act laws and gently reminded them. I was ready to go to Human Resources if needed.

Managing expectations and challenges

  • To avoid questions, I suffer in silence.
  • I've been over looked for promotions and am trying to build my reputation back.
  • I work in a bowling alley - noise, lights, screaming children, crashing pins, video games, stinky shoes, bad smells, shall I go on??? A migraine sufferer's worst triggers... But I love my job... I try to just get by...
  • My last job was awful- two coworkers tried to get me fired for missing work even though I had FMLA. I had no support!
  • Vacation time is nonexistent. It all goes to migraine absences and doctor appointments.
  • I had FMLA for my migraines, they still found a way to terminate me.
  • It is difficult to go to work and be able to function/concentrate, taking a pill just makes me drowsy.
  • People just don't understand the word "migraine"
  • I have a colleague that insists that I can 'heal myself with the power of my mind' - I find his constant comments wear me down and it borders on being bullied in the workplace.
  • I get harassed at work... I was told that I should just quit...
  • I suffer
  • Very few people understand

Stopping work and/or losing employment

  • I no longer work I am on disability.
  • I'm on leave from work due to my migraines, they didn't understand thought it was me trying to get out of work, when all I was doing is survive.
  • Migraine + workplace = Unemployment
  • I finally had to quit working altogether!
  • I've lost so many jobs because of attendance.

What is your experience around managing migraine at work? Please share in the comments! 

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