4 Ways to Relieve Migraine Tension at Work

The onset signs are impossible to ignore: throbbing pain in your head, a sudden feeling that working your job is impossible, sensitivity to light, nausea.

Even if you haven’t tipped into a full-blown migraine yet, you know that one is coming. You have a single choice – relieve the tension now or feel terrible all day long. Which one do you choose? If you’re like the 38 million other Americans who suffer from migraines, you probably want to relieve the tension as quickly as possible.

The question, then, is how?

Battling migraines can be notoriously difficult, and finding actionable ways to relieve migraine tension is critical to long-term wellness and comfort.

Fortunately, it is possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Migraines, by the Numbers

Right now, experts estimate that about 13% of the U.S. population suffers from migraines. About 2-3 million of those migraine sufferers are chronic. As if that weren’t enough, roughly 5 million people in the U.S. experience at least a single migraine each month, and more than 11 million people say their migraines cause moderate to severe disability.

Here’s are some additional migraine statistics to be aware of:

  • 18% of women and 6% of men suffer from migraines
  • Migraines occur most often in people between the ages of 35-55 and are most common in caucasians
  • 91% of people who suffer migraines say their condition causes them to miss work or not be able to function normally during bouts of migraine tension
  • About 70% of people who suffer from migraines have a family history of the condition
  • 69% of migraine sufferers have sought treatment for their migraine tension
  • 63% of migraine sufferers have at least a single migraine monthly
  • 24% of people with migraines have gone to the E.R. because the pain of the migraine was so severe
  • One study estimates migraine-caused loss of productivity in the U.S. is about $5.6 billion to $17.2 billion per year because of missed work
  • Migraines cause 36 million days of bed rest and 21.5 million days of restricted activity for workers annually

Relieving Migraine Tension at Work: 4 Tips to Cope

If you are struck by a migraine when you’re at work, here are a few tips to help you navigate the situation without going crazy in the process:

1. Consider Telling Someone

Having a migraine can make you feel very vulnerable. Despite this, you may want to tell someone anyway. The reason for this is simple: sharing the truth about your situation allows other people to help you.

Tell your boss or supervisor that you have a condition that causes migraines and that you’re working with your healthcare provider to resolve it as best you can. In many cases, a boss or supervisor that knows the truth will be able to help you maintain productivity and comfort throughout the day, rather than wondering why you’re wearing sunglasses in the office or missing the morning meeting.

While you certainly don’t have to tell your entire team that you suffer from  migraines confiding in a trusted person or two is a great way to equip yourself with an ally and ensure you get the care and space you need as you cope with migraine tension.

2. Take Your Meds

If you feel a migraine coming on, the key is to act as quickly as you can. Take your medication immediately, drink some caffeine, and do your best to avoid light, sound, and other stimulants. If you take an OTC medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, be sure to keep an extra stock of it in your desk. You may also want to keep some in on-the-go places, like your purse or car. Be sure that you also have ice on hand (keep some in the freezer at work), since applying a cold pack on your forehead or the nape of your neck can go a long way toward easing migraine pain.

From there, do everything you can to limit your migraine experience until it goes away. If you can stay in your office, dim the lights, and avoid conversation, that’s best. If not, you may refer back to point #1, inform your boss, and ask if you can take a break until the tension diminishes.

3. Avoid Triggers

One of the best ways to avoid migraines (and to encourage them to ebb off when they do happen) is to avoid migraine triggers. Migraines happen when the body reacts to “triggers,” either internal or external. These triggers cause your brain to release chemicals that irritate or inflame the blood vessels in the brain.

This, in turn, causes pain and discomfort. While it’s generally impossible to avoid all triggers, you can limit them as well as possible. By modifying your lifestyle and interaction in the office, you can do your best to stop migraines before they start.

If you do get a migraine, avoiding triggers can help prevent it from getting worse and make the duration much shorter.

4. Eat Healthy Meals

Working straight through lunch or just grabbing a burrito on your way to the office can bring on a migraine. Instead of depriving yourself of food, take regular food breaks and focus on drinking plenty of water.

Don’t forget that dehydration is a migraine trigger, and that it’s essential to keep a bottle of water at your desk to keep yourself happy and comfortable throughout the day. For best results, be sure to eat a nutritious, protein-packed breakfast before you go to work, such as eggs or yogurt. This will help fuel your body throughout the day and make it possible for you to avoid migraines all day.

To take this a step further, be sure you’re staying comfortable throughout the day. Your desk, chair, and phone should all be ergonomic and designed to fit your face and body. If anything is off-kilter or requires you to throw off your alignment to reach it, resolve the situation immediately. After all, being on the phone all day long is tough enough on your body, without your phone being the size of a child’s toy.

Bonus Tip: See a Chiropractor

Maintaining a regular chiropractic care practice can go a long way toward reducing the likelihood that you’ll experience migraines at work. While 90% of Americans suffer from headaches, migraine tension is a different kind of beast. Fortunately, chiropractic care can help. Here’s what the American Chiropractic Association has to say about it:

“Research shows that spinal manipulation – one of the primary treatments provided by doctors of chiropractic – may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. A 2014 report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) found that interventions commonly used in chiropractic care improved outcomes for the treatment of acute and chronic neck pain and increased benefit was shown in several instances where a multimodal approach to neck pain had been used1. Also, a 2011 JMPT study found that chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, improves migraine and cervicogenic headaches.”

Working at a desk and maintaining a somewhat sedentary lifestyle are both major triggers for migraine tension. As Americans have become more sedentary in recent years, migraine tension has become a more pronounced problem. Working at a desk increases joint irritation and muscle tension, and can cause the upper back, scalp, and head to ache.

The solution to this stiffness is simple: movement. Your chiropractor can develop a manual adjustment program that will help you maintain mobility in your neck, and avoid much of the pain and discomfort associated with migraine tension moving forward. Here are just a few of the actions a chiropractor may take when you come to them with a migraine tension headache:

  • The chiropractic doctor may perform spinal manipulation or offer a chiropractic adjustment, which can improve spinal function and alleviate stress on your system
  • The doctor may work with you to create lifestyle changes that can help reduce sedentary habits and keep your body limber and strong
  • The doctor may offer nutritional advice, including changing your diet and adding B complex vitamins
  • The doctor may work with you to change your postures and practice certain exercises and relaxation techniques. This can work to relieve ongoing joint irritation and reduce tension throughout the muscles in the neck and back

If you have additional questions regarding your migraine tension headaches, your chiropractor may be able to work with you to resolve those questions, provide answers, or create a healthier pattern, within which your headaches dissolve away before they begin. While migraine tension is painful, it doesn’t have to be the story of your life. Visiting your chiropractor and practicing a few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way toward relieving your tension and improving your quality of life.


Ready to book your first chiropractic appointment? Contact our team today!

Dr Sam is a National Board Certified Doctor of Chiropractic and a Longtime resident of Northeast Arkansas. He graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in 1995 and moved back to Jonesboro to serve the community in both his clinic and by becoming a community activist.

He is deeply involved in the Jonesboro Lions Club and with the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce Community Outreach Program.

Dr Sam specializes in helping his patients treat their headaches and low back pain through the use of Chiropractic care as well as home management.

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