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How to Prevent and Handle Migraines at Work

How to Prevent and Handle Migraines at Work Image
Dr. Betty Acker

Medically reviewed by Dr. Betty Acker, MD on September 4, 2020

Migraines work on their own schedules. It’s impossible to know exactly when one will begin, but once it does, you have no choice but to deal with it. While an impending migraine during a social outing or family vacation is a nuisance, one that arrives on the job is another beast entirely.

Migraines can be difficult or impossible to simply work through, and yet many workplaces don’t have policies in place for employees who suffer from them. While every person’s migraines are different, there are a few key steps to take in order to avoid the worst of them, including: 

DO: Keep your medication available

If you’ve been prescribed abortives for your migraines, be sure to keep them on hand whenever you’re working — they’re probably your best bet for getting through the rest of the day. For those without a prescription, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help bring pain down to manageable levels, particularly when consumed alongside a bit of caffeine. However, most doctors only recommend extra caffeine for very infrequent headaches—less than 3 days per month as a general rule—as it can be exceedingly addictive and a sure way to get caffeine rebound headaches.

DON’T: Work through breaks

Overwork is a common contributor to headaches and migraines alike. Regular breaks are necessary for decompressing and lowering stress levels when they get too high. Establish a break pattern that prevents you from unnecessary overexertion — this can help you deal with migraines as they come.

DO: Go to a dark, quiet place

Dealing with a migraine in a brightly lit work environment or in your home office can be next to impossible. If you can, you should remove yourself to somewhere with minimal light and noise in order to keep stimulation low. While some severe or long-lasting migraines may require you to call it a day early, sometimes as little as 20 minutes in the right environment can be enough to get you back on your feet.

DON’T: Skip meals

Regular eating is an absolute must for anyone who suffers regularly from migraines. Migraines can make it difficult to focus on the task at hand, and an empty stomach will just make the problem worse. Your body simply works better when it’s well-fed and nutritionally stable, so working through lunch can seriously sabotage your attempts to stave off migraines on the job.

DO: Stay hydrated

Dehydration is one of the most common instigating factors for severe headaches, and neglecting your water intake is easy to do when you’re on the clock. If you aren’t consuming enough water, the migraines you do suffer from could be exacerbated — bring a water bottle or set reminders in order to keep the possibility of dehydration low.

DON’T: Overdo the caffeine

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, a bit of caffeine during the day can actually help dull the sting of migraines, but too much caffeine can have the opposite effect. Research suggests that overconsumption of caffeinated beverages can actually trigger migraines. While everyone’s triggers are different, too much caffeine is unlikely to do you any favors. As a rule of thumb, try to limit caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day max. That includes coffee, tea, chocolate, and sodas. 

DO: Focus on relaxation

It can be a difficult thing to do at work, but staying relaxed is one of the most effective ways to get through a migraine. Identify what works best for you: yoga, calming music, white noise, or just silence — whatever helps you enter a calming state of mind should be some of the first things you do when a migraine strikes at work.

If you’re looking to find the right migraine treatment for you, the Nurx medical team is always here to prescribe a personalized treatment plan and provide ongoing care. Get in contact with Nurx today to take control of your migraines.

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