Migraine in the Workplace
Migraine in the Workplace
|“Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, and yawn and stretch and try to come to life…
Jump in the shower, and the blood starts pumpin’, out on the streets, the traffic starts jumpin’ for folks like me on the job from 9 to 5…
Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’, barely gettin’ by, It’s all takin’ and no givin’, They just use your mind and they never give you credit, It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it…” 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton 1980
Working 9 to 5 or 6, etc can be stressful, with deadlines to meet, files to be filed, emails to answer, holes to be dug, trees to be planted, etc so the last thing anyone needs on top of that is a migraine. That ‘cup of ambition’ and ‘traffic jumpin’ may be two of the things that will push a migraine sufferer over their threshold and into Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” sentiment!
The workplace can be a minefield for a migraine sufferer, especially an office environment, where everywhere you turn there’s a potential trigger, be it fluorescent lights, overpowering perfume, long periods in front of a computer screen, loud noises from machinery, air conditioning, or lack thereof… It can all be overwhelming.
To ask your colleagues and boss to help you by not doing something, or changing something in the office is a daunting prospect as you first have to tell them that you suffer from migraine, then you have to try to explain that it’s not just a headache, you’re not taking the mick, and you’re not looking for time off. Then you might have to go through all of the other symptoms to explain it better, after which, you have to wait and see if they accept it and are willing to help, or if they’ll just brush you off and tell you to cop on!
If you work in a small office, with a few close colleagues who know you and understand, then this is easier, but if you work in a huge office with many other workers, then who’s going to care what just one of you suffers from…? especially as they may have to stop doing something that they like, such as wearing their favourite perfume/aftershave every day.
This is where the Migraine Association might be able to help. As part of our Corporate Outreach Program we try to educate people in workplaces about the disorder. The program is aimed at those with migraine, those who work with sufferers and those who employ sufferers by showing that migraine is a hidden but very real complex neurological condition which can have lasting and devastating effects on a person’s life if not managed well.
You might be surprised by how many people will be willing to make that small change and help. You might also be surprised at how many others in the office might be hiding the fact that they too suffer. Inevitably, once the discussion is opened up, many people will say that if not they, at least one relation suffers from migraine. That is when you can begin to change things…
When people learn more about migraine and its symptoms, and realise the effect on a sufferer, their family and friends, they begin to appreciate that something as small as not wearing their favourite perfume/aftershave to the office is not going to kill them but might save a colleague from needless stress.
If you’re in a situation similar to this, then please contact us, either directly or through your occupational health department. We are happy to go to offices, construction sites, hospitals or any kind of workplace (even the International Space Station) to educate people about migraine. We can do a stand-alone event like a talk and presentation, or have a stand as part of a staff health and wellness day. We can have an information stand in the canteen and people can drop by when or if they want to; you tell us what you want and we’ll do our best to help.
For many people one of the biggest triggers is stress, but there are many other triggers found in the workplace, including:
- Long periods in front of a computer screen
- Delayed or irregular meal patterns
- Poor posture at a desk
- Lack of exercise
- Loud noise or bright lights
- Strong Smells
- Air Conditioning or lack of Air Conditioning
How do I know if an Employee/colleague is suffering from a Migraine?
There is no specific test for migraine, a diagnosis depends on careful history taking.
It is described as an ‘invisible illness’ as there are no obvious external signs of discomfort, and sufferers are well between attacks. Some people may be able to identify a pattern and their triggers, but others find attacks can strike at any time with very little warning. The unpredictable nature of migraine can lead to anxiety for an employee.
Some people are more severely affected than others and unless you know the person well, these changes may not be immediately noticeable. Some people may appear very pale, be unable to concentrate or focus, and be unable to articulate as clearly as usual, or will slur their speech.
The individual nature of migraine is something to bear in mind as not all sufferers are affected in the same way.
Migraine Corporate Outreach
The MAI Corporate Outreach service is an educational programme on migraine management directed primarily at employees with migraine.
Lasting about one hour, it can be a stand-alone event or part of a staff health and wellness day. It aims to give migraineurs the know-how to manage their migraine in general with a special emphasis on the workplace.
By the end of the session, participants should have acquired the tools to help reduce the frequency of attacks and lower the effect of migraine in their work.
We can also provide information and training to employers – our aim being to raise their awareness of the condition so that they can learn how to adapt the workplace to facilitate sufferer
The programme, which includes a presentation and a Q & A session covers;
- Types of migraine and their symptoms
- Identifying an eliminating trigger factors
- How to manage migraine
- Complementary treatments for migraine
- Reasonable adjustments and helpful hints for dealing with migraine in the workplace
- Supports available from the MAI
- Specialist medical services available for migraineurs
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
It is well recognised that work affect social cohesion and quality of life. Creating a healthy working environment can be a facilitator rather than a barrier to a person living with migraine.