How to Deal With a Migraine at Work

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As a migraine sufferer myself, I can attest to the frustrations they cause; especially when you’re trying to get through the workday. Some workplace environments are not conducive to productivity for chronic migraine suffers, such as jobs with continual commotion and loud noises. Not properly managing stress can play a factor in making the migraine symptoms even worse. Due to the specific work constraints of your job, you may not be able to go home or take the day off whenever you have a migraine. However, there are steps that you can take to help you deal with having a migraine when you cannot leave work for the day.

1. Nutritional Choices

When you have a migraine, it is important to stay hydrated and drink more water. If you are dehydrated, that can be one of the main triggers of a migraine headache. Your body needs water to function properly each day. Additionally, you should limit your caffeine intake as it is a diuretic and it can also be a migraine trigger for some people. When you have a migraine, make sure you make healthy nutritional choices and eat the right food. When you don’t eat and your blood sugar level is low, you increase your chances of getting and hanging on to the migraine. When you’re working, you can easily lose track of time and end up skipping your lunch break and even skip mid-morning or afternoon snacks.


Don’t allow missed meals to trigger migraines. Include foods in your daily diet -and especially when you are experiencing migraines -that are rich in magnesium, such as dark leafy greens, fish, avocados, broccoli, seeds, nuts, yogurt and bananas. Magnesium is important for the production of protein and the production of energy for your body and helps when nerves and blood vessels in the brain are inflamed, which are the reason that you get a migraine.

2. Modify Triggers

Another way to deal with a migraine when you can’t leave work is to modify the technical triggers in your office, workstation or cubicle area. If you don’t get headaches all the time, when you do get a migraine it may simply be food or stress related. However, if you are making proper nutrition choices and are not extremely stressed in the workplace, you should consider how to modify certain technology triggers in your workplace environment. For example, the bright light of your computer screen can cause your eyes to be strained and that can become a headache trigger. You can use an anti-glare screen on your computer monitor to protect your eyes. Bright fluorescent ceiling lights can also cause eye strain and lead to headaches. You could consider turning those ceiling lights off and using natural light from opening shades if you have an office with windows. You can use desk lamps with dim lighting or try working with the lights off for a bit and do work that does not require use of your computer.

Staring at your computer screen for long periods during the day can also cause eye strain which may trigger migraines. Schedule your day so you can break up the time when you’re working on the computer and when you can do other work away from staring at the screen. Constantly looking down at your keyboard or mobile devices can cause neck strain which triggers migraines. Try to raise your head more often and learn how to type without glancing too much at the keyboard. Make sure your computer monitor is set at the right level so you can look straight ahead without straining your neck. Finally, interruptions from constantly checking your mobile phones and devices throughout the day can cause stress, which then creates muscle tension and triggers migraine headaches. Stop checking your mobile devices so much during the day; especially when you’re experiencing migraines.

3. Decompress and Take a Break

When you have a migraine, it can be extremely difficult to work. Your head is throbbing, while your eyes are in pain and any type of noise or light causes more discomfort. You need to decompress and take a break. Go outside to get some fresh air and take a walk, but be sure to bring your sunglasses if it’s a sunny day. Close your office door, turn the lights off and take a power nap during your break or lunch hour. If you don’t have the privacy of napping in an office, ask your supervisor if you can sit in the dark in the conference room and close your eyes to decompress during your break. Step away from your computer screen to spend time organizing your office or brainstorming with a colleague regarding a work project.

If you get an hour lunch break, visit a local spa or nail salon where they take walk-ins for a massage or manicure or pedicure. Taking the time to relax and remove the stress from your workplace environment can help to relieve some of the pain of your migraine. You need to figure out what the stressors are and eliminate them from your day. For example, if there is a major conflict going on among your team members, remove yourself from the situation and get secluded in your office or work station. Don’t participate in the drama. If the pain is extreme, you may need to ask your boss to allow you to take an extended lunch break to go home for a longer nap if you live close to the office.

During the physical pain of experiencing a migraine it can be hard to focus and think clearly. Take a walk to the break room to escape the confines of your office and try to think about ways to rearrange your work schedule for the rest of the day in order to make it through while you have a migraine. You may need to reschedule any meetings you have during the day or ask one of your colleagues to take your place and let you know how the meeting progressed. Obviously, if the pain is so extreme that it is hindering your work completion, you may need to request to leave work early for the day. If you’re working on a big project, ask your supervisor if you can leave early and take work home with you to complete later on in the evening after you’ve had time to rest and nap.

Applying hot or cold compresses to your head or neck will aid in helping you to deal with the symptoms of the migraine. For example, using an ice pack and placing it on your head or neck will create a numbing effect and help to dull the extreme sensations of headache pain. Using a hot pack on your neck will aid in relaxing the tension in your muscles. As mentioned earlier, tense neck muscles and strain can trigger migraines, so relaxing the tension in those areas will help relieve the headache symptoms.

Having a migraine is no fun. You feel so unfocused, nauseous and unable to effectively function in the workplace. Even trying to complete small tasks like answering a phone, speaking with a colleague about a work project or typing an email can be difficult to manage. However, when you can’t leave work early, you need to find ways to deal with the migraine and somehow manage to survive the work day. Focus on drinking water, limiting your caffeine intake and making right nutritional choices. Find ways to limit migraine triggers like dimming your computer screen, shutting off fluorescent lights and adjusting your screen height. Finally try to relax and remove any physical, emotional or environmental stressors from your workplace setting.

Are you a migraine sufferer? How do you handle having migraines when you can’t leave work?