Chronic Migraines Make Stressful Job Even Tougher

December 19, 2011

Holiday travel may give us all headaches, but the air traffic controllers we depend on literally have to fight chronic migraines.  It’s no secret that air traffic controllers have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Staring at a computer screen for hours on end, monitoring the flight paths of hundreds of aircraft and knowing that the safety of countless individuals rests in your hands is certainly more than enough to trigger chronic migraine headaches — especially when so many of us are flying in bad weather.

But now, manpower shortages and irregular schedules that leave many controllers sleep deprived, are making these guardians of the sky particularly vulnerable to migraine attacks.

Unfortunately, many air traffic controllers are hesitant to seek any kind of migraine treatment. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict policies forbidding the use of many prescription abortive and preventive medications — including Fiorinal and Topiramate. Fiorinal contains a barbiturate (a class of sedative) and Topiramate (Topamax), an anti-seizure medication that is sometimes used for migraine or cluster headaches, has significant side effects.

Even admitting that you suffer from chronic migraines can be detrimental to an air traffic controller’s career — permanently grounding them from duty.  As a result, many controllers try to tough it out — which isn’t a good solution for air traffic controllers or the flying public.

Fortunately, a few new migraine procedures are becoming available for people who have such restrictions.  Some plastic surgeons now offer a variation of a brow lift that removes the nerves associated with an individual’s migraine trigger points.  Other physicians have also begun the use of Botox and other types of injections for migraine treatment.  Neurostimulation is also an alternative that provides chronic migraine sufferers a long-lasting, reversible, drug-free migraine alternative.  With a neurostimulation procedure like Omega™, tiny wires are implanted under the skin to provide gentle stimulation to nerves, which has significantly relieved pain in many chronic migraine sufferers.

Hopefully, with medical advancements, chronic migraines will no longer be a burden to air traffic controllers… which will be a big benefit for all of us.

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