I know there have been
some excellent articles lately about stress in the workplace, and I don’t want
to dilute any of this but as it’s National Migraine Week this week, I thought
this was a good time to bring this to the attention of employers too.
I don't normally
write about personal stuff but as a long-term sufferer I thought this was a
great opportunity to educate those who are affected by friends and colleagues
or employees who suffer from migraine. Also to promote some of the excellent
achievements from the National Migraine Centre in London who have a worldwide
reputation for treatment and research into migraine, and have certainly helped
Migraine affects 1 in 5 of the
population and every day in the UK 190,000 suffer a migraine attack. The World
Health Organisation ranks it as one of the 20 most disabling
conditions, however it is the least publicly funded neurological illness
relative to its economic impact (it costs the UK economy in the region of £7
My migraine hell
started in my early teens and I remember whilst at university some of my
fellow students reporting that they thought I was dying when they first saw me
with a migraine attack.
Mercifully when I'll
was working in Florida for 14 months I can only recall one migraine attack;
maybe I was just a little bit more relaxed while I was there. Frustratingly the
one attack I did have was when I was visiting friends and I certainly wasn't
fit to drive home and missed work the next day. My boss simply could not
comprehend that a ‘headache’ could prevent me from getting to work.
Then as I moved into
management positions initially my migraine attacks became more frequent.
Although I had a certain amount of empathy from the company I always felt that
there was an element of suspicion that my ailments weren’t genuine. A
consultation with the company doctor at the time confirmed this as “classical
migraine” and from then on in my colleagues were a little more understanding.
If you have friends
or family who suffer from migraine you're probably already aware of just how
debilitating it can be. But if you're an employer and it affects someone's
reliability and quality of their work you may not be quite so understanding.
Migraine is not simply a headache, and pumping yourself up with painkillers
does nothing to alleviate the symptoms, and in fact in many cases can make
things worse, especially nausea and sickness.
Talk to your
employee about any known triggers to a migraine attack. Quite often it might be
a combination of triggers that bring on an attack rather than just one. In my
own case there are a few things that I am wary of and in the past as an
employee it could sometimes be difficult to avoid without letting others down.
Of course the net result is you let them down any way if you then end up being
Here are a few
triggers that I'm aware of which can crop up in the workplace:
If any of your team suffer from migraine and have not
sought professional help, then do them (and yourself) a favour and refer them
to the migraine centre. More details below.
Extent of the Problem of Migraine
National Migraine Centre has for 32 years provided treatment to sufferers of migraine and cluster
headache as well as education to healthcare professionals. Patients can
self-refer and are asked to donate towards the cost of their appointment as the
Clinic receives no NHS funding. The clinic is based in London and open to those
from all over the UK, however hopes to setup outreach clinics in the future to
improve accessibility for sufferers around the country.
Migraine treatment has come a
long way in the last ten years, but recent developments show there is more that
can be done. The current approach is for treatment that targets the head
(as opposed to the whole body with drugs). These treatments include; Greater
Occipital nerve block injections, Botox injections (recently approved by NICE -
The National Institute for Health and
Clinical Excellence, and due to be offered by the NHS from mid
September), and handheld devices giving electrical or magnetic stimulation of
For information regarding the charity and its work:
Rebecca Sterry, National
Migraine Centre. 22 Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6DX.
Tel: 0207 251 7806/07716 426896 email@example.com
Registered Charity no 1115935.