June 30, 2023

June Highlights National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

By Guest Blogger Wendy Neri, Content Editor, Migraine World Summit

June marks National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month (MHAM), putting the spotlight on one of the most common and debilitating neurological conditions affecting about one billion people worldwide — nearly 40 million people in the U.S. alone.

Migraine is not just a headache; it is a complex neurological disease that affects individuals in various ways, from person to person and even from one attack to another. Headache is just one of about 40 other symptoms associated with migraines. Symptoms can impact the entire body, and may include sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and touch; nausea/vomiting; dizziness and vertigo; and brain fog. Migraine also has a huge impact on mental health, leading to anxiety, depression and even suicide ideation.

Migraine attacks can last hours to several days, and symptoms can significantly impair quality of life and make work difficult, if not impossible. Migraine ranks as the second-leading cause of disability worldwide and affects one in every six employees in the U.S.

Chronic migraine, defined as experiencing 15 or more headache days per month, is a qualifiable condition for obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, getting approved for SSDI benefits is not an easy task and many conditions do not meet the required severity criteria. While migraine isn’t listed as one of the qualifying neurological diseases recognized by the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments, symptoms could still equal one of the other existing Listings or be found severe enough to rule out any gainful employment. Thankfully, the approval process has improved in recent years, thanks to the efforts of advocacy groups such as the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy.

Nevertheless, many individuals with migraine wish to work and contribute to their communities. Fortunately, several advocacy organizations provide valuable resources for both employees with migraine and their employers. Migraine at Work, an initiative of the World Health Education Foundation, offers information, educational programs, and other resources to help people living with migraines thrive in the workplace.

Taking into account both absenteeism and presenteeism (90% of people cannot work or function properly during an attack), migraine costs businesses about $78 billion a year. However, specific accommodations can be requested and implemented, such as flexible scheduling, remote work options, removal of fluorescent lights and establishment of fragrance-free environments. These accommodations benefit both employees and employers, resulting in a win-win situation. Migraine at Work provides guidance on how to request and implement these relatively simple and inexpensive changes that support individuals with migraine.

Education and empowerment are crucial in advocating for oneself while living with migraine. One of the most invaluable resources for this is the Migraine World Summit, an annual virtual event that brings together the world’s leading experts on migraine and other headache disorders. In addition to exploring the latest scientific research, newest treatments, lifestyle factors, and more, the Summit features many talks on managing migraine in the workplace.

Other resources for migraine education and advocacy include Migraine Again, the National Headache Foundation, and The Headache & Migraine Policy Forum.

Equipping yourself with knowledge is the first step toward developing a treatment plan that allows you to live and work the way you were meant to, despite the disease.

Editor’s note: Allsup helps individuals with migraine and headaches apply for SSDI and return to work.