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Work and Migraine: A Juggling Act

Work and Migraine: A Juggling Act

On most days, dealing with a serious migraine means leaving work early. Some days it means not going in to work at all. The inherent problem is finding the proper balance. It is often difficult to know when you should throw in the towel and call it a day. If you fight it for too long, you end up miserable for much longer than necessary. If you give up too quickly, you become unreliable in the eyes of your employer.

I am fortunate in the fact that I rarely miss work due to migraine. Perhaps one out of every six or seven cause me to leave work early. I understand that for many people, the numbers are far worse. Try as you may, there will always be some trigger or habit (good or bad) that you forget along the way.

Lack of job security

I was raised with a strong work ethic. I believe that if you are physically able to go to work, then you should go. On the flip side of that, you also have a responsibility to keep yourself as healthy as possible. In previous generations, there was a thing called job security. Unfortunately, today job security is almost non-existent. This is where that juggling act comes into play. If you miss one too many days at work, companies will simply replace you with someone else. However, if you spend too much time at work ignoring your symptoms, you will eventually run yourself down to the point of exhaustion.

Much like deciding when to take your migraine medications and when not to; deciding when to stay at work or go home can be just as intimidating. Although I am not always successful, I always try to make sure I have completed my workload for the day before leaving. That is the only thing I can do to make sure I am not leaving someone else in a bind in my absence.

Doctor appointments too

Whenever possible, I even try to schedule any appointments with doctors at the end of the day or as close as I can get, so I minimize the time I miss at work. Please don’t misunderstand my statements here. I cannot speak for anyone else. Everyone’s pain is their own and we all have to deal with it in our own ways. These are simply my most common experiences. When I have a bad episode with migraine, I am down for the count, immediately.

Controlling what I can

The primary focus here is simply finding some level of balance in your daily life. There will always be certain things that are outside of our control such as weather and perhaps work schedules. There are also plenty of things we do have control over. Maintaining good habits can play a large role in how we feel every day, such as trying to keep to a consistent sleep routine, exercise, and a healthy diet.

Lifestyle changes: one size does not fit all

It is tough to determine which lifestyle changes will have the biggest effect on how you feel. I have met people who had their migraines basically completely go away simply by removing gluten from their diet, while at the same time I also know vegans who suffer daily with migraine. To this end, there seems to be no clear-cut answer on what a person should or shouldn’t do to get relief. The one thing I would recommend to anyone trying to find balance is to keep a log of different things you have tried, and how you felt when you tried them. Maybe thing “x” didn’t get rid of your migraine, but perhaps it made the migraine a bit less painful. In doing so, you may eventually be able to find combinations of different things to try together.

Do you struggle with juggling your work schedule and your migraine pain? Have you ever tried keeping a log of meds or daily practices you have tried? Did you learn anything from it?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Kalysta
    8 months ago

    It is a difficult call. I don’t think I cared for my health well enough, and when my parents became ill with Alzheimer’s, it hurt all 3 of us. Maybe there was nothing more I could have done, but trying to juggle a demanding career, migraines, and I’ll parents, by myself was too much.
    You have to step back and ask yourself what you will do, if you experience a tragedy. Everyone does sometime in their lives. You might not believe me but it’s true. The only differences are when, where, and how much support you have. Can you keep the job you have with your migraines when tragedy strikes? If not, have a plan to get out and pursue another job or part time job and live on your savings until things are better. In my case, it was 12 years. My plan wasn’t sufficient and I’m making adjustments now.

  • pennych
    8 months ago

    I can totally relate to your comments Kalysta.
    Job, plus ill parents plus migraines creates a lot of stress for me. When I get migraines, I can’t go to work and that means no pay. On top of that i feel bad for not going to work ….as my coworkers think that i should just take some pills and i will be fine. I’m looking for work at home jobs in order to work around my migraine episodes.

  • tobysunny
    8 months ago

    When I worked as a nurse it was an hour to hour day when I had a migraine. I Migraine meds would not work unless I laid down. They were doing construction on a wing when I often had to find an empty room and lay down on the floor and sleep for my lunch. I will never, ever forget those days. I truly feel for all ppl in fast-paced and stressful jobs.

  • Frosti
    8 months ago

    I always tried to go to work with my migraines. People would notice a change in appearance but I always tried. When I returned back to work after having worked with the migraine I could always tell that my charting was “off”. Problem is if I called in every time I had a bad migraine I would only be a part time worker and likely let go. It is a balancing act. I found it is sometimes better to call in and say you are going to be a little late than to miss the whole day – would get my migraine a little under control (eye sight back, balance back, no longer slurring speech, tc) and then go in. Everyone’s pain level and ability to endure are different and we all need to do what works for us.

  • dmae
    8 months ago

    I have more job security than others may have, but any work left undone that day has to be completed by me the next day. Then there are additional consequences I have to take care caused by being gone. For that reason, I too, try to stick it out as long as I can before leaving. Taking 1/4 to 1/3 of a sumatriptan pill a few times throughout the day is better tolerated than a single full dose at once to be able to get through an hour at a time on the job.

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