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Desks, Headaches and What You Can Do

Whether you experience them frequently or once in a blue moon, headaches have the ability to throw our whole day into turmoil. This can be particularly problematic if you experience headaches at work. While the occasional sore head is to be expected, if you experience frequent headaches at work, but not outside, it is likely to do with how you sit at your desk.

How Can My Desk Cause Headaches?

You may not think your desk has anything to do with your sore head, but in reality, there are many ways sitting at a desk all day can cause headaches. Stress is one such factor. Of course, we can be stressed anywhere, not just at a desk. But if you immerse yourself completely in work from 9-5, you’re going to burn out. Our minds are not designed to work for such extended periods of time, so if you are experiencing frequent headaches, your workload is the first thing to look at.

Posture is another factor that can lead to headaches. If your screen is below eye level, you will hunch over to look at it. Spending hours with your head tilted forward places great strain on your neck and shoulders, which can work its way up to become a headache. Posture can also affect muscle tightness in these areas, leading to further discomfort.

Eyesight is another and possibly the most noticeable factor that can contribute to headaches. It should come as no surprise that staring at computers all day is not good for your eyes, but why is this exactly? Well, for starters, the light coming from the screen is not natural, and so our eyes are not designed to absorb that kind of light for so long. Secondly, your proximity to the screen means that your eyes will always be focused on nearby objects, and will not dilate. This is akin to holding a heaving object all day; eventually, the muscles get tired.

Finally, you need to remember that you are what you eat (and drink). Food and drinks that are high in sugar, fat, or caffeine can cause headaches if overconsumed. It’s easy to overlook how much we snack or drink in work, so don’t forget to watch your intake.

What Can I Do?

How you tackle your office headaches will of course depend on what is causing them. Having read the above causes, you can probably figure out what’s causing yours. That being said, it could also be a combination of factors, so following the advice below isn’t a bad idea.

If you are too stressed at work, you need to consider breaking up your day more. You might not like the idea of your superiors seeing you take a short break every few hours, but all research conducted into this area shows that this technique improves productivity and quality of work. The most popular study quoted found that working 52 minutes and resting for 17 improves performance by 13%.

Making sure you have good posture can feel a little unnatural at first, but after a few days, you will get used to proper form. The most important factor is to make sure your screen is at eye level, to avoid head tilting. Aligning your ears, shoulders, and hips will help keep your back straight, while keeping your heels directly under your knees is the best way to hold your legs.

Focusing on something far away is a good way to work out your eyes, and can be done without even leaving your desk. But getting up and walking around is a very helpful way to tackle headaches for several reasons. Firstly, it helps break your day up. Additionally, it moves your muscles around, which helps avoid bad posture. Lastly, as well as letting the eyes adjust, it exposes them to natural, less-harsh light. Walking around outside, or even just observing nature, can do wonders for your eyes.

Finally, you can never rule out that the pain in your body could be a result of what you’re putting into it. You may think all those coffees are keeping you going, but you could be wrong. In college, I suffered severe headaches that eventually led to nosebleeds. The cause? The caffeine from the 3 litres of coke I drank a day were causing neurons to fire for no reason, essentially making my brain think it was in pain. When the coke went, so did the headaches.

These are just some of the most common reasons people experience headaches at work. If you are experiencing the pain primarily in work, then there’s a good chance one of these is to blame. But if you are experiencing frequent headaches regardless of where you are, you may want to see your doctor to find out why or visit a physiotherapist for treatment.