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How to Cope with Migraines at Work

A migraine is the last thing you need in the midst of a busy day at work. Once the sharp pain sets in, it can be unbearable, especially when it’s intensified by stress, fatigue, bright lights and loud noises that are common at the office.

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a throbbing headache that often happens to sufferers on a reoccurring basis.

It typically affects one side of the head and can be accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision. Migraines are worsened by physical activity, light or sound. The pain typically lasts from 4 hours up to 3 days.

Who gets migraines?

The National Headache Foundation estimates that 12% of the population experiences migraines, or approximately 40 million people in the U.S. Women are three times more likely to experience migraines than men.

What are the symptoms of migraines?

During a migraine, overactive nerves are activated and send pain signals to the brain. It’s not clear why these nerves are activated, but researchers believe there is a migraine “pain center” where these impulses come from. The result is swelling of the blood vessels near nerve endings, which results in pain.

The best way to manage migraines is to prevent them. Here are a few tips on how to stop them before they start while at work:

Stay hydrated and don’t skip meals

Drink water and eat regularly. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can trigger migraines. Cutting down on caffeine can also help prevent dehydration.

Take note of what you eat

Certain foods such as chocolate, processed meats, sweeteners and cheese have been linked to migraines. Try limiting how much of these foods you eat, or avoid them if possible. 

Get enough sleep

Sleeping for at least 7-8 hours a night is vital in balancing stress levels and functioning well throughout the day. 

Make time to destress through exercise and meditation

Relaxation through meditation can help alleviate the constant worries of work. Unwind with yoga, barre, or tai chi so you get some exercise while also relaxing the body.

Set up an ergonomic desk space

Reducing the amount of strain on your neck, shoulders and back can make a huge difference in relieving tension. Start by making small changes in the position of your chair or desk, making sure you’re seated comfortably, and checking the height of the computer screen you’re working on.

If you do experience a migraine at work, here are a few tips to help handle it:

Act fast when taking your medication

Once you feel the symptoms start, try to address them immediately. If your doctor has prescribed an over-the-counter pain reliever, take it as soon as possible. If you tend to have reoccurring episodes, keep a bottle of your medication on hand.

Take a break and breathe

Having mindful moments to yourself can help cut down on tension. 

Cool off with ice packs

Pressing ice packs against your temples can constrict the blood vessels, relieving the inflammation in your head. 

Find a quiet, dimly lit space

Avoid the bright lights that can further worsen your migraine by shutting the blinds or moving to a more peaceful area with lower lighting.

If a migraine ever gets to the point where you’re unable to work, take the rest of the day off to recover.

Kristine San Mateo

Kristine San Mateo

Kristine San Mateo is a writer who brings stories to life for wellness brands as well as sports teams, coffee, tourism and the automotive industry across the world. She currently resides in Nashville, TN.

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