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Migraine & Job Productivity and Worries

Sick and Vulnerable, Workers Fear for Health and Their Jobs
This title of a front page article in Saturday’s New York Times says it all. But I’ll summarize anyway… With an illness that requires a lot of time off work, a person’s job security suddenly flies out the window. The worries then extend beyond the illness; potential loss of income, identity, insurance and normalcy are all in jeopardy.

Artin of Pain in the Head, a blog that Moogle’s Thoughts introduced me to in this week’s Carnival of Compassion, experienced some of these dilemmas yesterday. The post title, Enter Dementors, is fabulously descriptive.

How much does migraine affect work life?

“A diary study of migraine sufferers from the general population revealed that over a three-month period, 69 percent of employed migraine sufferers experienced reduced work effectiveness.1 When people work with migraine, their productivity is reduced by 41 percent. Further, about 40 percent of all migraine sufferers account for 75 percent of all productivity losses.

“The best estimates suggest that migraine costs U.S. employers $13 billion per year in lost productivity. Of that amount, the largest part is due to reduced productivity at work, not absenteeism. As a corollary, workplace programs for treating migraine might help cost-effectively reduce the burden of illness. Since the current cost of migraine treatment in the U.S. is $2 billion, the productivity gains might more than offset increased spending for better healthcare. In addition, human suffering might be reduced immeasurably.” (Migraine in the Workplace: Impact and Hope, from a 2004 ACHE newsletter)

If you’re still not convinced, read these summaries of findings from more than 20 studies on migraine and productivity.

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How Headache Affects Families

The National Headache Foundation has announced the results of their online survey to better understand how headaches affect a sufferer’s family and what role heredity plays in headache. Findings include:

  • 66% of sufferers have a family history of headache; in 63% of the cases it is the mother that has headache
  • 53% of respondents said that their families do not understand their headache condition
  • 63% of sufferers said that when they have a headache they are unable to attend to household chores such as cleaning, grocery shopping and cooking
  • 79% of family members have to cooking meals and 61% having to handle household cleaning during these periods
  • 63% of spouses or significant others take on extra household and child-rearing responsibilities during a sufferer’s headache
  • 68% of people with headache feel that their spouse or significant other support them when they have a headache
  • 83% of respondents feel guilty about not being able to spend time with their families
  • 66% state that they believe their families feel neglected when they have their headache attacks
  • 50% of headache sufferers feel that their spouse or significant other does not understand their headache issues and needs

From these findings and talking with other people with headache, it is clear that chronic pain can strain even the happiest of relationships. Learning to live with chronic pain can be frustrating, exhausting, exasperating and heartbreaking, for patients as well as their relational partners and families.

Coincidentally, I posted a review of Chronic Pain and the Family on Blogcritics yesterday. The book explores the issues facing couples (as well as children and extended family) who have to deal with one person’s illness. The author offers suggestions for each person in the couple to repair the relationship and shares many additional sources to help couples and families. She also explains the debility associated with chronic pain and the havoc it wreaks on people in pain.

An excerpt from the book is available from the publisher, Harvard University Press.

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Studies on Living with Chronic Pain

It’s important to have clinical studies to describe and quantify what it’s like to live with chronic pain, but sometimes I read the news and think, “Well, of course.” Two studies presented at the International Association for the Study of Pain’s 11th World Congress of Pain that elicited this response were Study Suggests it is Unsafe to Drive when Suffering from Chronic Pain and An Evaluation of the Impact of Chronic Pain on Quality of Life. Again, they are valuable studies, but people with chronic pain have known these things for years.

An interesting aspect of the second study is that headache is described as localized pain that doesn’t affect the whole body, thus doesn’t reduce quality of life as much as full body pain, like fibromyalgia. While I can’t compare the pain to fibromyalgia, I don’t think of headache as confined to the head. Or am I confusing headache with migraine?

Two other studies presented at the World Congress of Pain reviews the impact of prevalence of pain worldwide and the social, economic and governmental barriers to pain management in Europe. They are both summarized in 20% Around the World Suffer from Chronic Pain yet there are Still Barriers to Adequate Pain Relief. The worldwide and European trends addressed in these studies are fascinating.