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How to Manage a Migraine at Work: 8 Tips

01 July 2021

Migraine headaches are difficult to deal with. Managing a migraine at work might be considered even more challenging. When you have a migraine at home, you can switch off the lights, burrow under the sheets, and close your eyes until it passes. However, unless you can leave the office early, you will typically have to live with the agony until it is time to go.

More than 90% of migraine sufferers report that they cannot perform well enough to work during a migraine episode. However, it can be challenging to explain to your manager why you cannot complete your tasks. Migraine is an unseen sickness, meaning no one can see how much pain you're in.

Migraines at work

If a migraine hits at work and is not addressed and resolved quickly, it will likely impair your ability to work at total capacity or, in some situations, to stay at work at all. Migraines are sometimes regarded as a minor ailment by those who do not suffer from them. If your colleagues have never had a migraine, they may be unaware of what you're going through. Avoiding headaches is one of the best approaches to deal with them at work, and if you don't already know, it's worth finding out what your most typical migraine factors are. 

What you can do during an episode

Here are some things you can do if you have a migraine at work:

  • If you are light and/or sound sensitive, find a private, dark spot to sit, such as a breakroom or empty office, while the medicine takes action.
  • Snack on something. 
  • If you've discovered that caffeine relieves your headache discomfort, have some of it.
  • Drink some water or an electrolyte-containing beverage such as Gatorade or Powerade.
  • If you don't take your meds as soon as you notice the onset of a migraine, it won't be as beneficial. Always keep extra doses of your acute medicine and a bottle of over-the-counter painkillers in your work bag.
  • Examine your medicine if it does not halt the migraine episode. Many migraine patients endure terrible headaches and other symptoms such as trouble speaking, difficulty concentrating, or disorientation. During a migraine, individuals may struggle to find words and understand what others are saying. Contact a trusted colleague or a family member. Someone who knows you well will typically determine you if you are cognitively impaired, even if you cannot notice it yourself. If you cannot drive home due to the severity of the attack, consider asking a teammate or friend for a ride or hiring a ride service. Driving while suffering from migraines might be hazardous.

Common triggers

If you aren't already knowledgeable of the triggers that cause your migraines, work on identifying them. Keeping a migraine journal is one practical approach to accomplish this. Researchers were able to pinpoint the most prevalent triggers, which include:

  • Stress
  • Light
  • Hormones
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Odors
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Physical exertion
  • Caffeine (or the lack thereof)
  • Heat

The goal of understanding your triggers is to assist you to avoid ones you can, whether you're working or somewhere else.

Ways on how you can manage

Once you've identified your migraine factors with the help of your migraine diary, you can begin making changes to help you avoid them. Keep these ideas in mind, especially at work. Whether due to the nature of the tasks or the workplace itself, many occupations can aggravate migraine symptoms in people who suffer. Migraines may be avoided by reducing the influence of work-related triggers.


Be aware of stress-related triggers at work and try to reduce them as much as possible. Stress is a crucial migraine trigger, and nothing beats a crazy day at work to stress you out. When you combine a demanding boss with unrealistic deadlines, you have a prescription for a massive migraine. Scheduling tasks one at a time during the day, for example, rather than attempting to complete everything simultaneously, is frequently beneficial.


Don't let a hectic workplace keep you from regularly eating, as hunger is a typical migraine culprit. When you're pressed for time at work, it's easy to miss lunch or snacks. That, however, is a mistake. Make sure you get your lunch break and that you must have extra snacks to munch. Skip sugary snacks in favor of healthier options such as almonds, protein bars, and fruit.


Reduce the glare of your computer screen, invest in an anti-glare screen, and lower the overhead lighting in your desk or workplace. Many migraine sufferers are sensitive to fluorescent lights flashing or very bright lights, especially when a migraine is approaching. If this applies to you, turn off the overhead light if possible and replace it with a floor or desk lamp that does not use a fluorescent bulb. Wearing light-sensitive spectacles is another alternative. These are very useful if you have a migraine while at work. They are available from a variety of online shops.


Dehydration is a common cause of migraines. Ensure you're consuming enough water by sipping from a water bottle regularly. If you don't like plain water, consider adding pieces of fruit or cucumber or substitute juice, sports drinks, or flavored water. Soup, fruit, and smoothies will also help your body stay hydrated.


If you work at a desk, the ergonomics of your workspace are essential. Setting your computer monitor at an appropriate height, so you're not gazing up or down will help reduce migraines. Adjust your computer screen and chair to improve comfort and reduce eye strain. Eye strain can cause migraines, and something as simple as the brightness of your display might make a difference. Poor posture can create muscle strain and, as a result, a migraine.


Caffeine might be a migraine trigger for some individuals. If this fits you, avoid counting on it to get you through a task. Caffeine, on the other hand, helps most people relieve migraines. Furthermore, studies demonstrate that taking 100 mg or more of caffeine with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like Motrin/Advil (ibuprofen), Tylenol (acetaminophen), or Bayer/Bufferin (aspirin) considerably improves migraine or tension-headache pain relief when compared to the pain reliever alone. This is because coffee improves your body's absorption of pain relievers.


Although you may not be able to prevent offensive odors, you can ask the assistance of others to help you diminish them. For example, if your workstation is near a break area where people eat lunch, you can request a move or explain to your teammate that the strong perfume he or she uses gives you a headache. Open a window, ventilate your office space, go outside for a quick stroll, or keep a tiny container of coffee beans or your favorite essential oil on hand to whiff as needed.


One of the reasons migraine is so vilified is that your suffering is invisible to others. It's easy for others to dismiss migraines as a minor headache, making it a complex topic to tackle at work. Be honest with HR and your employer, so you don't have to come up with reasons when your head hurts. If they don't grasp why migraine affects your productivity, have your doctor write a note describing migraine and how it can affect your productivity.

Migraine episodes can be incapacitating, making it extremely difficult to focus or complete tasks at work. You may need to gather your stuff in many circumstances and return home to rest till it passes. You can also stay on top of your situation by planning ahead of time for the worst-case scenario. This will help you get through your migraine and your workday.