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Migraine | Occupational health and wellbeing advice

Migraine

Some people have difficulty identifying when is a headache just a headache, or when a headache becomes a migraine. This is how I would describe the difference; headaches are not usually accompanied by any other symptoms – whereas migraine attacks usually occur on one side of the head with other symptoms such as disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. A simple difference is a migraine is generally more painful and lasts longer than an ordinary headache. 

When do I need to see my GP? Am I wasting their time? These are common reasons why people will choose not to see their GP. My advice is to always see your GP if you have concerns, or use a virtual GP service and symptom checker like Babylon Health, particularly if you are suffering from migraine symptoms. It’s important you see a GP to receive a proper diagnosis, who will talk to you about treatment options and how you can look after yourself.

People can worry about seeing their GP and knowing what to say – filling in a migraine diary can help you with this. Please follow this link for a blank diary template. https://www.migrainetrust.org/wpcontent/uploads/2019/07/FS05aMigraineDiaries.pdf

I’ve picked out the common triggers of migraine, and here are a few tips on reducing migraine attacks:

Migraine and stress can be linked. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and have regular exercise. Some people find mindfulness helps, and yoga or Pilates.

Having too little or too much sleep (surprising I know) can be linked to a migraine starting. Other people find that sleeping in or dozing in the mornings can have the same effect, so stop snoozing that alarm and try to set a realistic time for getting up in the morning. You could try putting your alarm clock the other side of the room…if you dare.  

You might have heard that drinking caffeine may contribute to the onset of a migraine attack….try switching to decaf tea or coffee…..you never know it might just taste the same!

Certain foods such as chocolate (yes chocolate), citrus fruit and foods containing tyramine can be a dietary trigger for migraine – using the migraine diary may help you to identify your personal triggers.

Not drinking enough water can lead to a migraine, try to stay hydrated by drinking 8 glasses (2 litres) of water per day. Try adding fruit to the water for some flavour. Keeping hydrated also has other health benefits too.

You may also be aware that alcohol drinks can contain ingredients that are associated with migraines – please drink sensibly and look out for key ingredients such as histamine.

Be sure to eat a good nutritious breakfast…….and try not to skip meals. Meal preparation and planning ahead can help with this. It really is important to eat a healthy balanced diet. You might find this blog useful for some yummy recipes: https://thedizzycook.com/

Migraine is unfortunately associated with female hormones, and you may experience a migraine at a certain time of the month. Speak to your GP if this is a concern for you, they may talk to you about the contraceptive pill, as this could also be a factor.

Environmental factors can also be a trigger such as sitting in front of a computer at home or work for long periods of time. Following these simple precautions such as taking regular screen breaks, using anti-glare screens and having good lighting can help. Having your eyes tested regularly at the opticians is also important, particularly if you are spending long periods of time in front of a computer screen.

We spend a lot of time at work, so I have included some tips on managing migraine at work. I understand that informing your employer of any health problems can be daunting….but sometimes having a general conversation with your workplace can help. Here are some tips to help you at work:   

  • Managing and being aware of stress can be helpful
  • Look after yourself with regular breaks and healthy lunches. Go for a short walk if you can at lunchtime.
  • Speak to your manager if you have any concerns about your environment
  • Be aware of your workstation – sitting comfortably is important!
  • Take regular short breaks away from your computer screen – this could be answering the telephone or looking away for a few seconds.

I hope you find this information helpful. If you take one thing away today, I hope it has encouraged you to seek medical advice. Please don’t be afraid to see your GP if you have any concerns. Seeing your GP for advice can be the first step in feeling better.

References:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/migraine/ (accessed 29/04/2020)

https://www.migrainetrust.org/ (accessed 29/04/2020)

https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/effects-on-the-body/can-alcohol-cause-migraines/ (accessed 29/04/2020)