2008-07-Headaches on the Job

Headaches on the Job Prevalent, Painful and Costly Employees suffering from headaches at work are less productive, more prone to miss days

Chicago, IL – July 9, 2008 – Experiencing headaches at work is not only painful for employees, but can be costly to employers, according to the National Headache Foundation (NHF). In a recent survey of headache sufferers, the NHF found that 99% of respondents experience headaches while on the job. Respondents say headaches lead to missed days of work, decreased productivity, inability to concentrate, and changes in mood or behavior.

While half of all survey respondents reported missing anywhere from 1-3 days of work per month because of their headaches, 66% of them do not report their headaches to their supervisors. When asked why, most respondents said they feel their supervisor wouldn’t be sympathetic or accommodating or they don’t want to be labeled as “needy” or “whiny.” Additionally, 86% of respondents said the issue of work-related headaches has never been addressed at their place of employment. Ninety-three percent said that information on work-related headache treatment or prevention is not available through their employer.

“Many who suffer from headaches at work feel their employers or co-workers won’t understand the severity of their condition,” said Dr. Nabih Ramadan, Board member, National Headache Foundation. “If you experience headaches on the job, talk with your healthcare provider about what triggers your pain to determine the best treatment options. You can also encourage your employer to learn more about headaches and their profound negative impact on workplace performance. “

When asked what triggers headaches at work, nearly 70% of the respondents attributed their pain to work-related stress. A larger majority also associated bright or florescent lighting, computer glare or eye strain with their headaches.

Additional NHF survey results:
• 92% of respondents said they work outside their home
• 90% of respondents said headaches have affected their performance at work
• 73% of respondents said they take an over-the-counter product when experiencing a headache at the workplace
NHF’s Tips to dealing with headaches at the workplace:
• Get help. Discuss the connection between your headaches and work with your healthcare provider. He or she can help you determine your treatment options.
• Track your headaches. Using a headache diary, track your headaches for three months. Download a free headache diary at www.headaches.org and bring your results to your healthcare professional to review and determine whether your headaches are associated with workplace triggers.
• Eliminate florescent lighting
• Use a non-glare computer screen
• Use loose telephone head set instead of phone receiver
• Take frequent breaks
• Utilize ergonomically designed work spaces


Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, which are most commonly experienced between the ages of 15 and 55. Seventy to eighty percent of sufferers have a family history of migraine. Less than half of all migraine sufferers have received a diagnosis of migraine from their healthcare professional. Migraine is often misdiagnosed as sinus or tension-type headache.


The National Headache Foundation, founded in 1970, is a non-profit organization which exists to enhance the healthcare of headache sufferers. It is a source of help to sufferers’ families, physicians who treat headache sufferers, allied healthcare professionals and to the public. The NHF accomplishes its mission by providing educational and informational resources, supporting headache research and advocating for the understanding of headache as a legitimate neurobiological disease. Interviews with headache specialists are available upon request.

For more information on headache causes and treatments, visit www.headaches.org or call 1-888-NHF-5552 (M-F. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT).


Suzanne E. Simons
Executive Director
National Headache Foundation
(312) 343-6479

Ketura Lipsi
Vox Medica
(215) 925-9901, ext. 1426

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