Top tips to help working migraine sufferers released for Migraine Awareness Week

07 Sep 2020

Published in: Member News

Paycare has developed some helpful hints for employers and those working from home to minimise their risk of experiencing migraines, as part of Migraine Awareness Week (September 6th to 12th)

Over six million individuals are estimated to suffer from migraines in the UK, and it’s a condition that seriously impacts lives on a daily basis. Which is why each year the Migraine Trust launches a week-long campaign to both raise awareness of this condition and reduce the stigma that’s still very much associated with it.

Migraines are the 3rd most common disease in the world affecting 1 in 7 people. In the UK, it’s estimated that over 190,000 migraine attacks occur every single day with three quarters of sufferers having an average of one attack every month. Sufferers can experience a number of symptoms during these attacks including debilitating headaches and disturbed vision, nausea and sickness, and a sensitivity to light.

All of these greatly affect an individual’s ability to function normally, not only impacting on their personal wellness, their social lives and their loved ones - but also affecting their productivity and ‘presence’ at work.

There is plenty that employers can do to adapt the working environment so it’s less likely to trigger a migraine – and with more people than ever working from home, these strategies can also be replicated in other environments, wherever and however you work. So, what can be done to support those suffering from this condition and help create a migraine-friendly workplace and positive home space? Here are just a few top tips…

1. Look at Your Lighting

Sensitivity to light is one of the most commonly reported migraine symptoms, with lighting, sunlight, and computer/smart phone screens prominent triggers. Whether in the office or at home, try to avoid the use of fluorescent lighting (blue light wavelengths are said to worsen headache pain) and instead introduce warm white LEDs.

If close work is required, look at positioning the light source behind the desk so that it shines directly onto the screen or printed page to make it easier to read. Also think about the position of computer monitors – for the best visibility, they should be directly in front of the user about an arm’s length away with the top of the screen either at (or just below) eye level.

2. Protect The Eyes

Eye strain from prolonged periods staring at a screen can cause a migraine, so don’t forget the importance of regular breaks and giving precious eyes a little rest. Try to introduce the 20:20:20 rule into the working day – every 20 minutes avert your eyes from what you’re doing and look at something 20 feet away for around 20 seconds.

This is a great habit to get into – and can be done either from your seat, or can also be a great excuse to have a little walk around the office (or home) and get that step count up! And do keep in mind that regular eye tests are vital to ensure optimum eye health and avoid unnecessary strain (remember that examinations and the purchase of glasses/contact lenses are all part of your Paycare plan).

3. Keep Moving

Many migraine sufferers have reported being prone to attacks following strenuous exercise (most likely due to the increase in blood pressure). But in fact regular, moderate exercise can be a hugely effective way to minimise the risk of a migraine. When you exercise, the body releases endorphins which are natural painkillers and which can help reduce both the intensity and frequency of an attack.

A lack of physical movement can also cause the muscles in backs and necks to tense-up which can result in stress-related chemicals to build in our bodies – both key contributors to headaches. So, do try and factor in a little exercise each day - even 30 minutes can have a big impact. And do remember to choose an activity that you enjoy – whether that’s a brisk walk around the block or a dance around the kitchen (or office) while the kettle’s on – it will mean it’s less of a chore to endure and more of a treat to look forward to!

4. Perfect that Posture

Sitting in front of a computer screen day after day can result in poor posture, causing tension in our back, neck and shoulders. This tension can be a trigger for a number of migraine symptoms and so it’s really important that we look after our upper bodies by focusing on our sitting and standing positions. This may mean making a diary note to get up and walk around on a regular basis throughout the day, or placing a little object or picture on our desks as a reminder to sit up tall.

It’s also valuable to make sure that work stations are personalised – ensuring that chairs are at the right height, that sitting positions are correct (feet flat on the floor with hips slightly above knees), and that appropriate tools and equipment are available (e.g. an ergonomic mouse and/or back rest).

5. Keep Stress at Bay

Stress is a particularly common trigger for migraines, and can be caused by many factors. It could be concerns over workloads or the challenges of juggling work and home responsibilities. For those working from home, it could be the inability to properly ‘switch off’ and relax. Or it could be as simple as a lack of quality sleep or not having quite the right nutrients in your diet.

To help reduce the effects of stress and reduce the likelihood of an attack, do integrate a strict routine so that you have clear delineation between ‘work’ and ‘home’. Try and include wind-down time into your evenings so that you’re primed for a great night’s sleep, or try some relaxation techniques such as meditation. And do seek support from those around you – whether that’s your employer, colleagues, friends or family.

If you’d prefer to speak to somebody confidentially, do consider speaking to a trained counsellor via an EAP (available to all of our Bundle Members and Policyholders with plans that cover).

For anyone suffering from migraines who may have concerns about their condition, don’t forget that Paycare Policyholders get exclusive access to our dedicated MyPocketGP service – providing you with medical advice and guidance from fully qualified GPs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (and from wherever you are).

Submitted by Jennie from Paycare
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