Workplace Accommodations for Migraine

Real stories of people moving against migraine at work and school

Migraine affects every part of an individual’s life, from their relationships with loved ones to their experience on the job. Each year in the United States, 113 million workdays are lost due to migraine. Luckily, there are many simple ways to reduce the impact of migraine triggers at work and set all employees up for professional success. Every manager and office environment is different, so we asked our migraine support group members to share the best thing an employer has done to help manage migraine at work. This is what they had to say.

Addressing Harsh Lighting

Photophobia, or hypersensitivity to light, is common in people living with migraine. Changes in light levels and natural light can exacerbate the pain of a migraine, but bright fluorescent lights and computer screens are the most to blame in office settings. Move Against Migraine Member Sandie shared that her office put filters over the fluorescent lights to help reduce the intensity of the light.

Another member, Jane, requested to bring in her own desk lamp so she could turn off the fluorescent lights above her. “Not only did it help my photophobia but it let my co-workers know that I was struggling as well,” she shared. Jobs that require employees to be on the computer all day can also lay the groundwork for migraine triggers. To address the computer screen glare, members Simone and Dorene received screen filters to place over their monitors. Filtering out the blue-tinted light emitted by computer and smartphone screens could potentially provide relief.

Reducing Strong Sounds and Smells

Sensitivity to sound and smell are two other notorious side effects of migraine. Working on a loud assembly line or in a perfume shop is not ideal for those living with migraine, but there can be similar disturbances lurking in any office. Sue shared with our support group that an alarm close to her cubicle constantly went off, triggering her migraine. After reporting this alarm to her manager, the team worked to remove the alarm and also moved her to the last cubicle in the row. Her new position is also more secluded, shielding her from foot traffic as well as loud conversations. Missy and Sheri both moved against migraine by asking their office managers to remove the heavily scented air fresheners from the communal bathrooms.

Showing Kindness and Support

Many of our members shared touching stories about how they found allies in the workplace who not only helped accommodate their migraine but showed them compassion. For example, support group member Robin shared that her boss let her use his office for privacy when administering an Imitrex shot during work hours.

Stacy shared that her coworkers and boss’ support helps her get through the workday. “They are always telling me to focus on taking care of myself and not to worry about missing days at work.“ Similarly, Patrish shared that her principal would offer to take her home if she had a migraine attack, and would reassure her not to worry about her time out of office. “A kind person in authority can make a world of difference,” she said.

Nothing beats feeling supported on your migraine journey, whether it’s through simple accommodations or a reassuring email when you’re taking another sick day. The American Migraine Foundation encourages you to lean on our resources to help you start a conversation that will educate your colleagues about this disabling disease.