Thousands of People Suffer from Overlooked Illness that Causes Difficulty at Work

According to a new study, those who suffer from migraines or frequent tension headaches have lower job performance in three areas in particular. The researchers expect that the new information would help companies become more accommodating to those who suffer from headaches.

Consider your head hammering. And it gets much worse when you try to move, a door crashes, or the curtains are drawn. You’d prefer to crawl under your blanket in a dark and quiet room. This is how those who suffer from migraines or frequent tension headaches may feel. Untreated, a migraine episode can persist anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, and tension headaches can linger up to a week. It is estimated that roughly 770,000 people in Denmark suffer from migraine or frequent tension headaches.

For the first time, a new study from the University of Copenhagen illustrates explicitly how migraine or recurrent tension headaches influence the capacity to work. “It is notably the ability to recall, make quick judgments, and conduct intense physical labor that causes difficulty for persons with certain headache diseases,” explains Project Manager and research author Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen.

She expects that the study would assist to concentrate attention on the effects that headaches may have on working life. “Migraine is the main cause of functional disability in people under the age of 50. Furthermore, headaches have a detrimental impact on sick leave and productivity. As a result, workplaces would profit from opening their eyes to the untapped potential found here “Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen adds: “Indeed, we cannot afford not to take it seriously.”

According to the Danish working population, 24% of women and 10% of men suffer from migraines or frequent tension headaches. The ability to modify work during headache attacks is dependent on the nature of employment, according to Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen, who emphasizes that “there is also a large inequality in health in this context.”

Our findings suggest that treating depressive symptoms and pain in the musculoskeletal system may be an essential element in enhancing job ability among people with headache problems.

Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen

While people with academic jobs can often go home a little earlier, work from home, or choose to postpone the tasks that require the most concentration, others, such as cleaning staff or nursing staff in nursing homes, do not have the same options to adjust working hours or postpone the tasks to be solved. They may instead have to call in sick.

According to Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen, finding out which solutions may be useful requires creativity on the part of both the management and the employees: “It is about having a solid overview of the tasks that need to be handled, and then having a chat about the best approach to plan a work day. For example, there may be tasks that can be performed later in the day, or that can be solved at a leisurely pace or in a quiet space until the pain has gone.”

“I am going to lay down”

Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen believes that headache disorders such as migraine and frequent headaches are an overlooked epidemic.

“We’re stuck with the image of Maude from the Danish TV series Matador saying ‘I’m going to lay down’ whenever she’s upset,” she says, adding, “Most people have suffered headaches.” As a result, it may be difficult to comprehend how incapacitating migraine and frequent headaches can be for a coworker, friend, or family member. People continue to believe that swallowing a pill will suffice.”

Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen argues that there is a general lack of understanding regarding the significance of headache disorders. The same is true for taking too many pain relievers to relieve a headache, which might lead to more headaches.

“According to some research, headaches are the second most common reason for sick leave, trailing only infectious disorders. As a result, headache problems incur significant personal and socioeconomic expenses “Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen agrees.

Overlooked disease: Tens of thousands of people have problems at work

Associated with depressive symptoms and muscular pain

The researchers analyzed self-reported data from over 5,000 active Danes with various educational levels, ranging from persons with long academic degrees to unskilled labourers.

“It’s novel because we combine information regarding migraine and regular headaches with participants’ usage of medicines and their description of their capacity to cope with seven different, specific work needs,” explains Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen.

The participants also answered questions about their health, depressive symptoms and pain in muscles and joints. Here, the researchers found that depressive symptoms and pain in muscles and joints play an important role for the context between headache disorders and the ability to work.

“Our findings suggest that treating depressive symptoms and pain in the musculoskeletal system may be an essential element in enhancing job ability among people with headache problems,” says Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen.

Previous research has found that headaches, muscular and joint pain are associated with depressive symptoms. Mood changes may occur, and neck pain may be a warning sign of a migraine attack, just as repeated headache attacks may have a detrimental impact on mood.

Under- and overmedication

The researchers discover that headache sufferers who do not use painkillers at all and those who use painkillers on a daily basis have the lowest ability to work. “This raises the question of whether these two groups are being undertreated or overtreated,” says Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen.

According to Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen, it appears to imply that the group taking painkillers on a daily basis may not obtain a treatment that works as intended – and may even experience medication overuse headaches.

“On the other hand, when you look at the group who does not take medication at all, it seems to indicate that they are undermedicated. And maybe it has to do with the fact that they do not consider their illness to be severe enough to seek medical attention — but that is just our guess,” says Kirsten Nabe-Nielsen.

Migraine and tension headache are the two most prevalent types of headaches. Migraine is defined by episodes of moderate to severe throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Chronic migraine attacks occur more than 14 days per month.

Tension headaches are distinguished by mild to severe discomfort on both sides of the head. Usually, nausea and vomiting do not occur. A chronic headache occurs on more than 14 days out of the month.

Facts: Three recommendations

Based on the study, and seen in the light of other research, the researchers are making three recommendations:

  • People suffering from headaches should consult their doctor for guidance and possibly medical treatment.
  • Managers and employees should discuss the options for adapting work during attacks in order to reduce absenteeism, such as the ability to work in a quieter room or outside, the ability to perform less physically demanding tasks, or the ability to perform tasks that are not emotionally or cognitively demanding.
  • In order to improve the entire health-related quality of life among people with headache problems, we must include other pain disorders (e.g., neck-shoulder pain) and mental health.
Topic : News