Does Your Job Give You a Headache

If you crunch numbers for a living, chances are your head hurts so often you’ve rubbed your forehead raw, a new survey shows.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. — the maker of Exedrin — used the Internet to question 5,210 professionals in 10 fields to find out which occupation creates the most headaches. The survey results coincided with last week’s National Headache Awareness Week.

The Most Head-Splitting Job?
Accountants reached for relief more than anyone else, with 49 percent of those questioned saying they suffer weekday headaches. Right behind them were librarians, 43 percent of whom said their work made their heads hurt on a weekly basis. Not to be left out, 42 percent of bus and truck drivers claimed they get pain behind the temples, while 38 percent of construction workers reported pounding heads.

Lack of sleep and work-related stress were the two top triggers for headaches among all respondents. And 77 percent of those questioned say at least half of their headaches hit during the workday.

Even more troubling is how those headaches affect performance. Although 98 percent of those surveyed said they felt they were strong performers on the job, 47 percent said their work was hurt by headache pain.

The fact that accountants report the highest number of headaches doesn’t surprise those in the field.

“In today’s accounting world, there’s more pressure,” says Robert Uttenweiler, executive director of the Greater Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants. “There’s fewer people to do it properly. It’s detail work. There are fewer slow times during the year now. Business is much more complex than it used to be. It’s a real headache.”

When it comes to causes, each industry has its own reasons for head pain. Accountants reported that sloppy clients and tax time made for misery, while librarians pointed to clueless library users. Truck and bus drivers said traffic and bad weather made their jobs miserable, and construction workers placed blame on hot days, impossible deadlines and rude bosses.

But do not despair, says one headache expert.

“Medicine is not the only cure,” says Dr. Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago. “We do use medicines, but we also use other avenues.”

Some of those avenues include relaxation therapy, breathing techniques and biofeedback, Diamond says.

The latter is “simply a way to show somebody what happens when they get headaches or feel stressed,” Diamond explains. First, a machine shows a person what happens to their muscles and body temperature as they careen toward a headache. Then, doctors teach the person autogenic, or self-hypnosis, exercises that relax them so the headache is averted.

“It helps them to handle tense situations, instead of taking medicine,” Diamond says.

Statistics from the National Headache Foundation show that plenty of people could use whatever help they can get.

Each year, more than 45 million Americans suffer recurring headaches. Of those, 28 million have migraines annually. Business also suffers, losing $50 billion a year because of absenteeism and medical expenses. Headache and migraine sufferers call in sick an estimated 157 million workdays a year. And more than $4 billion is spent on over-the-counter medications that often don’t work, the foundation says.

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