Coping with Migraine On the Clock without Medication

Working while experiencing a migraine attack is something none of us wants to do. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to keep pushing through for one reason or another, even on days we can’t take abortive or rescue medications. Today is one of those days for me. In this video, I discuss a few tricks that occasionally provide some relief while still on the clock, such as wearable ice packs, fingerless gloves, computer glasses, and a comfy seat. (Note: Please excuse the slow speech! I struggle not to trip over my words when experiencing an attack, and speaking a litte slower than normal helps.)

I’m eager to know what works for you. Do you have any tricks for working through an attack on those days when you can’t use medication? Please share in the comments below!

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19 comments on “Coping with Migraine On the Clock without Medication

  1. mileniumc5 says:

    I was taking triptan, wearing sjades and removed two over head flourescent tubes above me.
    Usually i end up at home in the dark.
    Since my heart attack,..unable to take the triptans so now thats out.
    End up applying for accomodations due to running beyond my FML.

    Had 2 thunderclap headaches in june.
    Worst pain ever

  2. Sarah Hackley author says:

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling so much right now. I hope your accomodations come through, and that you find some relief soon. There are quite a few articles on the site about accomodations and disability benefits if you need some help navigating the journey. Warmest wishes to you.

  3. mindwiped says:

    MigraineSavvy-I’m an American, if there’s any way I could help, aka, buy the hat and ship it to you, I would be willing. I’d just, sadly, have to make you cover shipping to me AND shipping to you. If you’re willing, and there’s a way to pm me, do so, if not, reply and I’ll try to check for a way to contact you.

    DonnaFA- You can still get the cola syrup, if it helps you. You might have to ask the pharmacist where they keep it, it’s not as popular as it used to be. An alternative is to just buy the SodaStream cola flavor, it is the same thing.

    I work in a call center, so what I look like doesn’t matter. I’ve got polarized sunglasses to cut the glare and a couple different sun hats I work in daily. If I’m trying to describe who I am to a co-worker in the building over the phone, I tell them, “You know the lady in the hat and sunglasses? That’s me.” They always know who I’m talking about. Between essential oils, coke, nausea meds, bonine for vertigo, and thankfully 3 different triptans, I struggle through work. I’m in a chronic migranous state, so my doctor has finally allowed me to take a daily triptan. I try to make it through the weekend without meds, but that doesn’t even always work.

    I can take extra breaks to rest out of the noise and light, but I have to stay until I’ve worked an 8 hour shift, thanks to ADA accommodations. I can also miss up to two days per month of FMLA, that can be as a full 8 hour day, or one day can be two four hour parts, which can let me either medicate, sleep, and drag myself in; or cope until I can’t, and leave at lunch.

    It’s a complicated work-around, but it’s what’s still allowing me to work, and thereby cover our medical insurance. Hubby is self employed, and since we both have pre-existing conditions, we can get self-insured, but I’m not sure if we could deal with the monthly payment! We’re closely watching what our government’s decision is on the changes to the ACA.

    Sorry for the novel!

  4. Sarah Hackley author says:

    It sounds like you’re doing your utmost to find workarounds to stay on the job. I think most of us do that when we can. I admire your creativity and self-confidence. Keeping health insurance is a big deal for all of us, I’d say, and I think many of us have a close eye on changes to the ACA. Thank you for sharing! Warm wishes to you!

  5. jd89 says:

    I work in a pharmacy, so its sucks when I get a migraine because I am in full constant view of customers and am standing all day. I mostly do not take more than Motrin if I get a migraine at work, because the triptans all cause severe muscle tightening in my shoulders and sides of my neck. But its not as bad if I’m at home and can take a nap.

    So, at work I chug my 34 oz Nalgene of water (that I carry everywhere! I sometimes carry 2 haha) and sometimes a Coke with the green label if I’m nauseous. One of my older pharmacists recommended it one day I was really bad, because it is similar to the old remedy of “cola syrup” for nausea (which people still buy). And I walk around with an instant ice pack on my neck for my migraine “hot flashes” haha. My customers luckily do not judge me for it or my speech issues because they feel bad that I am still working with my migraine.

  6. DonnaFA moderator says:

    Hi jd89, It’s always terrible having to work with a migraine. It’s a small comfort to have such robust support. I remember when you could get coke syrup from the pharmacy 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We’re glad you’re part of the community! – Warmly, Donna ( team)

  7. Carolelaine says:

    I would love to be able to use your tricks Sarah, unfortunately I work retail selling furniture and home accessories working directly with the customer and would never be able to get away with wearing an ice pack on my head. It’s tough for me because I love my job and I’m very good at. But, when I have a migraine attack I have trouble finding words and make a lot of typing errors. I hate to complain at work, but will often ask if there are any tasks that need to be done that will keep me away from the customers. I don’t take meds, nothing has ever helped. So, I plod trough and hope I don’t end up making a mistake or looking like I don’t know what I’m doing.

  8. Sarah Hackley author says:

    It is so much more difficult when you work outside the home. I’m glad you love your job though. That can go a long way toward quality of life. Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. Oh Sarah you are so cute – I’m so please I watched this. My first reaction was “I can’t work with a migraine!” But I see what you mean … the count down to the pain phase where you just can’t work anymore. I had 14 years with no effective pain relief until I found naratriptan to work a few years ago but before that I used to use these things:

    – a short black coffee to abort the attack (this worked for 3 years until I ended up drinking it every day! – due to migraines becoming chronic)

    – 2 or 3 drops of Lavender and peppermint essential oil (in coconut oil) rubbed into my lower back, neck, stomach and temples. Lower back and stomach just because it felt relaxing!

    – hot water bottle or those click instant hand warmers

    – sunglasses for the computer

    – Sadly the migraine ice hat will not ship here to Australia :- ( So once it progressed, I would lay down on ice packs rolled up in my favorite tea towel. Ice packs save me! And a guided meditation to listen to to drift off to sleep.

    So similar to you really. I now also work from home to accommodate migraine attacks. They knock my socks off for 10 days if I don’t treat them early. I love the idea of fingerless gloves, and I’d like to know the make of your computer glasses. Are they the FL41?

  10. Sarah Hackley author says:

    I haven’t heard of the FL41, I don’t think. I use Theraspecs. I also have an aromatherapy liquid I rub on my temple. It helps sometimes. Thanks for sharing! So sorry the ice hat doesn’t ship to Australia. 🙁

  11. blancj8 says:

    Savvy, I had some FL41 glasses for a while. They worked pretty well, but the basic glasses that come from one of the sources where pretty cheap. So much so they developed optical variation, which I cant stand. I priced out a new pair with glass lenses and they was some extreme sticker shock.

  12. triciaf says:

    Sarah-Thanks for sharing. I have a question for you. I would like to know about your computer glasses. I would find that really helpful.Thanks

  13. Sarah Hackley author says:

    I use Theraspecs. They help me a lot.

  14. CathyinPain says:

    Hi Sarah, I have a very understanding boss and flexible job. I work less than a mile away from home so I can take an hour to run home and relax and go back very quickly. I have found for me, taking some Benedryl helps relax me at work since I feel anxious with migraine. I also play a game with my mind. I go 5 minutes at a time, reevaluate, go another 5 minutes, until I can’t take it any more. That’s when I give up and hole myself up at home in my bedroom with the fan on and shades down.


  15. Sarah Hackley author says:


    I’ve never quite described it that way, but I do something similar to your five minute game. I can’t take Benadryl, though. It knocks me out completely. No work then! Thank you for sharing.

  16. Jc3.48 says:

    I use DMSO gel with Helychrism/Lavender oil mixture diluted with a non-oily carrier fluid in solution…Followed by an application of moist heat. The DMSO speeds the absorption of the oils to any pain site, including behind the eyes. Helychrism is not exactly inexpensive but it works, and it does not cause internal bleeding in old folks. DMSO data can be found at

  17. Sarah Hackley author says:

    I’ve never heard of DMSO gel. Interesting. Thank you for sharing!

  18. 1. Drink some Gatorade
    2. Rub some Origins ‘On the Spot’ peppermint lotion under your entire chin area
    3. Plug in an Aromatherapy warmer. Fill it with water and add 6 drops of peppermint oil and either 4 drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil.
    4. Take 2 Aleve plus 2 Extra Strength Tylenol at the same time. I take three orange enteric coated aspirin instead of Aleve, due to high blood pressure.

  19. Sarah Hackley author says:

    Thanks for commenting, Laurie. Gatorade sometimes works for me as well, especially if it is very hot.

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