How to Get Rid of Migraine at Work: Treatment and Prevention

Taking pain relievers, avoiding triggers, and having a strong support system can help a person get rid of a migraine episode at work – or at least reduce their migraine symptoms.

Migraine is a neurological condition that can cause moderate to severe pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light or sound.

Sometimes people can stop the progression of a migraine episode and continue to work. However, there may be days when it is necessary to come home.

Read on to learn more about stopping the progression of a migraine episode at work and for tips on managing and preventing the episodes.

One of the main symptoms of a migraine is a headache, and this can be the most debilitating symptom when trying to work out. For many people, the first line of defense against pain is medication.

People can try the following options.

Over-the-counter pain medications

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may stop the progression of a migraine episode in some people.

Examples of NSAIDs are:

For best results:

  • Choose an NSAID that has worked well in the past. Alternatively, a person may want to choose one that works quickly.
  • Take NSAIDs as soon as migraine symptoms start to appear, even if they are mild. For example, if a person has migraine with aura, they can take NSAIDs when the aura begins.
  • Do not take more than one NSAID at a time and follow the directions on the pack, unless directed by a doctor.

Some people should not take NSAIDs. Additionally, frequent use of NSAIDs may be associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure and peptic ulcers. For this reason, a person should check with a doctor that it is acceptable for them to take NSAIDs before use.


Triptans, or serotonin receptor agonists, are a type of prescription medication that helps relieve migraine pain. They increase serotonin in the brain, which helps reverse inflammation in nerves and blood vessels.

Triptons are available as oral swallowable tablets, oral dissolving tablets, nasal sprays, and injections.

Some common triptans include:

  • almotriptan (Axert)
  • eletriptan (Relpax)
  • frovatriptan (Frova)
  • naratriptan (Amerge)
  • rizatriptan (Maxalt)
  • sumatriptan (Imitrex)
  • sumatriptan / naproxen sodium (Treximet)
  • zolmitriptan (Zomig)

Triptans are not preventative drugs. They can help relieve pain when a person experiences a sudden migraine. People should use them as directed by a doctor.

Other methods

If a person is not taking pain relievers, they can try to reduce the discomfort in other ways. These options may not stop the migraine, but they can make the pain and sensitivity to light less severe.

For example, a person can try:

  • move to a quiet, dark room
  • applying a cold compress to the head, eyes, or neck
  • take a nap

In some people, migraine episodes also cause nausea and sometimes vomiting. There are several ways to relieve these symptoms.

People can try the following options.

Antinausea drugs

Doctors can prescribe medication for people who often experience nausea or vomiting when they have migraine episodes. In some people, these medications can also help relieve other symptoms of migraine.

Some anti-nausea medications can be taken with pain relievers or triptans. As with pain relievers, it is best to take them as soon as the first symptoms of migraine appear, as directed by a doctor.

Natural remedies

Some people find natural remedies helpful in relieving nausea. However, it should be noted that some of them have strong smells or flavors, which can be unpleasant during a migraine episode.

People may want to try:

  • consuming ginger tea or candy
  • drink mint tea
  • deep breathing
  • staying hydrated with sips of water

Learn more about home remedies for nausea here.

Sometimes it is not possible to get rid of the symptoms of migraine at work. In fact, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, over 90% of migraine sufferers are unable to work during a migraine. So if medications and other remedies don’t help you may need to go home.

In these situations, it can be helpful to have an advocate in the workplace. She’s someone who can recognize when symptoms become unmanageable and talk about a person’s needs when they’re not feeling well.

A lawyer could:

  • notify a supervisor of the situation
  • make sure the person is transported home
  • manage any tasks or responsibilities left behind
  • tidy up and close the person’s workspace
  • check in with them once they get home

Ask someone who is trustworthy and reliable and who understands migraine if they would be willing to do it.

Migraine is a chronic disease that can impact a person’s career over the course of their life. The United States alone is losing about 157 million workdays per year because of this.

So it makes sense to have a plan and work support system in place to help minimize the disruption that a migraine can cause.

First, a person may consider informing others in the workplace about their condition, if they feel comfortable doing so.

For example, they may want to disclose it to their:

  • immediate supervisor
  • human resources (HR) representative
  • colleagues in the same office or team

It is important that these people understand what it means to have a migraine. Migraine is not just a “bad headache”. Getting a doctor’s note explaining the condition might help.

Then the person can make a plan for the onset of migraine symptoms. This plan may include:

  • dim lights and computer screens
  • reduce office noise, such as music, conversations, or ringing phones
  • reduce strong odors, such as heavy perfumes, cleaning products, or food
  • delegate tasks to others
  • take a break in another room

Yes, migraine symptoms can cause some degree of disability. The degree of impairment it causes can vary from person to person depending on the severity or frequency of symptoms.

Legally, a person in the United States is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act if their condition “significantly limits one or more major life activities.” This includes work.

This means that a person who frequently has difficulty working because of a migraine may be entitled to workplace accommodations. Some may also have access to disability benefits.

Workplace arrangements

Not all migraine sufferers benefit from workplace accommodations, but making small changes can make a big difference in symptoms.

For example, an HR representative may be able to organize:

  • cabin doors or shields
  • headphones or earmuffs
  • carpet or other materials to reduce noise
  • less harsh or bright lighting or that reduces glare
  • flexible working hours
  • the possibility of working from home
  • tips to help with stress management

Disability benefits

In the United States, there are several types of disability benefits: Short Term Disability, Long Term Disability, and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).

Typically, short and long term disability benefits are available through a person’s health insurance. Employers often offer these benefits, but sometimes people buy separate short-term or long-term disability insurance plans. A person with migraine can check with their employer for more details.

SSDI, on the other hand, is administered by the Social Security Administration. Because SSDI is a federally funded program, most people are only eligible if they have worked long enough and recently enough and paid taxes in the Social Security system.

Learn more about applying for SSDI benefits due to migraine here.

With medical care, it may be possible to reduce the frequency of migraine episodes. A doctor or neurologist may develop a migraine prevention plan, which may involve avoiding triggers and taking preventative medications.

Not everyone can identify specific migraine triggers, but some common examples include lack of sleep, stress and anxiety, bright lights, strong smells, and certain foods and drinks.

Some medications that can help reduce episodes include:

Learn more about migraine prevention here.

Migraine rarely requires emergency medical attention. However, it is important to call 911 or the nearest emergency service number if someone develops any of the following symptoms:

In addition, pain relievers can sometimes cause serious side effects. Seek help immediately if any new or worrying symptoms develop after taking over-the-counter or prescription medications.

A person may be able to get rid of the symptoms of a migraine at work by using over the counter medications or prescription migraine medications. Using them as early as possible is important because it gives them the best chance to work effectively.

In addition to pain relievers, anti-nausea medications and nausea remedies can help. Finding a quiet, dark place to take a break can also ease the intensity of some of the symptoms.

Employers and coworkers need to understand migraine and how it affects a person’s work, as it is a very common chronic condition in the United States and often makes it difficult to work during episodes.

When symptoms improve, consider workplace accommodations and create a migraine plan to reduce its impact.

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