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Working a Full Time Job with Migraines?

  • By ladeyjadey

    I work a full time office based job 5 days a week 9-5.30 in London. I have always suffered with migraines, however felt my 2 hour stressful commute probably didnt help, I worked 1 day a week from home to help this which it did it went from 1 or 2 a week to 1 a month.

    7 months ago I moved an hour commute from my job hoping to give me a better balance and improve my migraines giving me more time in the evenings to be active (particularly yoga). I was also asked to be back in the office for 5 days a week. I feel that the office environment makes my migraine situation worse – the bright lights, loud noise in the office and the stressful journey into work – where as working at home I have no stressful journey I have dim lights and no noise and my work is more productive in this environment however I am still struggling with sickness days. They are getting better in the last 2 months since returning to 4 days a week in the office but not where I want them to be.

    In 5 months I have had 11 bouts of sickness of work (1-2 days each time). 7 of these were while doing a full 5 day week in the office, so I can see improvement in working from home but am I expecting too much too soon? I am now in a situation where my empolyer although have previously been flexible and quite good with my situation are now taking things down a formal route and want to avoid my working from home all together. I am worried as I can barely manage 4 days in the office, and definitely cannot do 5.

    This not only affects my work life but also my social life – I avoid social situations due to noice/stress of traveling and generally having too many attacks to be able to arrange anything without canceling.

    Treatments – I have tried sumitriptan (it works but I cannot take while in the office due to side effects and if I put off longer than a couple of hours it doesnt work and makes my attack worse causing days off sick). I get a lot of pain in shoulders and neck with an attack and find pressure points at the back of my head seem to soothe it depending on severity whilst I am at work, sometimes a large dose of painkillers will hold off till I get home. I get bad nausea (although never been sick) and light sensitivity and end up in pain in the dark.

    I am young (27) and feel there has to be more to life, I am at a point where I will try anything. This weekend I am going to get my daith pierced – its worth a try?! Also in my monthly GP appointment next week I am going to ask to have Optic Nerve Injections – so any advise on either of these would be great? I enjoy my job and would like to keep it or find a way it will work around my migraines however I am loosing hope that I will be allowed to or that it even can work.

    However how do people work full time with migraines?

    Have you had to change your job or cut down hours/work part time because of them?

    How did you deal with the pressure of not taking sick days at work?

    I am losing hope and feeling really down and depressed, I need some advise on how to work with migraines, and how to try and live?

  • By wsonnendecker

    Try Pristiq 50mg daily. It has removed all nausea and vomiting
    Has significantly reduced the strength of the migraine.

  • By JessicaFairall

    If the lights are difficult to deal with try wearing sunglasses at work or getting a pair of special light filtering glasses to protect your eyes. If noise is a problem you can try partial noise canceling ear plugs. Have you tried explaining to your boss all your triggers and what exactly a migraine entails for you? Most people don’t realize that a migraine is more than just a bad headache.

  • By adie.platts

    Hi LadyJadey,

    Have you tried getting touch with Jobcentre plus? They have a grant scheme called Access to Work –

    If you make an application to them, assuming you are sucessful they should send out a Workplace Assessor (all this is free), that will review your work environment and author a complete report that should outline any recommendations and support that you may benefit from.

    The term “Support” doesn’t just refer to physical products, but should outline any Reasonable Adjustments that your employer should take into consideration, this can include funding for awareness sessions, hardware, time outs, enhanced breaks, adjustments to working hours i.e. to remove the need to travel at night etc.

    I’m a former Access to Work assessor and I have seen many people where we have been able to help employers understand more about what they can do and in many cases funding is available from DWP to assist.

    Hope this helps


  • By SandyWylie

    Please know you are not alone in this. I don’t know that I have a solution. I work full time and am struggling with taking too much time off. My boss has been generous and understanding, allowing me to go “into debt” on my paid time off, so that I get a full pay check. But I’ve used up all of that leeway and any future time off will be unpaid until I build up my paid hours again.
    I have talked to my boss about possibly telecommuting, so that if I do have a window during the day when the pain has eased and I can log in to do some work, I can do it from home. He is resistant. But I’ll continue to try to negotiate that. I have also thought of asking for flex-time – meaning that if I miss a week-day, maybe I can come in on the weekend to make it up. Our office schedule doesn’t require that we accomplish things between 8a-5p, Mon-Fri. But he is also resistant to that. Neither of those are completely out of the question, but it will take some careful negotiation.
    I hope that I am otherwise productive enough and a valued employee that if these negotiations become more critical that he’ll consider them. He makes other allowances for other staff who have family demands, other jobs, or who have had illnesses. I guess I’m fortunate to work for a small business where 1 person can make that determination, as opposed to a big corporation with less flexibility.
    I do know that if I ever change jobs, I will discuss this with a future boss. I will also do my best to kick ass on my good days. I guess it’s kind of like “banking” my contribution to the organization.
    I wish you luck.

  • By connielutz

    Two things that worked for me — Rest (sleep) and CO2 therapy! I tried this since I was too desperate to get rid of my migraine. It was starting to affect my life so I researched online and read some published research on the relationship between pain (including migraine) and our microcirculation. As chronic pain progresses, our oxygen metabolism gets impaired. So what introduction of CO2 does is it “activates” our body to “deliver” more O2. Anyway, enough about the scientific part of it lol. At first I thought CO2 therapy was an invasive procedure so that kind of turned me off. But then I saw this non-invasive, painless therapy that does just that!!! It is so convenient and I noticed a significant decrease in my attacks! I just thought of sharing my experience with you. Best of luck, LadyJadey!

  • By pennych

    I can totally relate to your situation. My previous job was 9-5, i did some telecommuting work on days when my migraine was bad but could not complete a whole days work at home due to the pain. I now work part-time but still, if I don’t show up for work then no pay. I’m looking into work from home jobs where I will be able to work around my chronic illness.
    Have you though about doing work from home? with your office skills there should be virtual assistant positions that you can apply to.

    If anyone has any advise on work from home jobs, or websites that you know are legit, i would appreciate it. Thanks!

  • By Cait513

    Honestly, my migraines were the worst when I was in highschool and starting college. I ended up on a daily medication as a preventative and tried a few different ones. Have you met with a neurologist about your migraines? I would ask to see a neurologist and ask for a preventative. I HATE being on daily medication but will probably start again soon since it seems like these migraines are back. As much as I dislike the meds, the I dislike the pain and inconvenience more.

    My mom and I have had luck with Topamax, but you have to titrate up soo slowly and the side effects are awful until you adjust. My old supervisor had migraines and said she absolutely could not do topamax and was on another preventative. There are different options and a neurologist should be able to help you with this. You’re so young and shouldn’t have to live this way! I would also second the sunglasses, even if it’s weird to wear them inside, it can help with the lights. Also, I find that wearing my hair down helps as it’s less weight on my head. I have crazy curly hair and have learned to not care, when my head is starting to hurt, I let loose. I also have computer glasses that help with the reflection off my computer.

    I’m in CA and am not sure how it works where you are, but my doctor actually wrote a note to my employer reducing my hours to 30 hours per week for two months as he didn’t want me working so much due to some health issues. I’m back to full-time now, but our HR has to accept a medical note and work with you to create an acceptable schedule. Good luck 🙂

  • By carine1988


    Medications do not help much, but relaxation and massage are the best way to avoid migraines and headaches

    • By Joanna Bodner Keymaster

      That is wonderful to hear that you have found that massage & relaxation to help, but it’s important to remember that there is certainly no one size fits all approach to migraine management and many do in fact find relief with medications. I understand you are sharing what has worked for you, but many are not fortunate enough to find any relief in relaxation & massage. We absolutely do appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us! Wishing you a gentle day. – Joanna ( Team)