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What are common causes of headaches at the computer?

A pounding headache.  Thump, thump, thump….  Who of us, stuck behind a computer for hours, has not experienced this?

headache
“Can’t Concentrate” by Sasha Wolff under licence CC by 2.0

Headaches and neck pain are very common in office workers and have a debilitating affect on our mood, concentration levels and productivity.

Since headaches are so common, it’s worthwhile understanding what can predispose us to developing a headache in the work place.  What are some of the common causes for developing headaches at work?

  1.  Glare on your computer screen

Glare can be a real problem in the office, especially when it causes you a headache.  To resolve glare, you need to first find the source of your glare.  Is your glare coming from the light above you or is your glare coming from a window?  To help reduce glare, you may need to move your computer screen and sometimes even your desk so that the glare is no longer a problem.  If that’s not an option, you can get anti-glare films to put onto your computer screen or even changing the angle of your screen to reduce the glare may help.  If the glare is from a window, consider blinds or curtains to help address the problem.  Speak to your co-workers, I’m sure that they will understand that headaches caused by glare are not fun and then they will be more willing to help you find a solution.

 

2.  A poking chin posture

A poking chin posture is a common cause of headaches for people working behind a computer.  A poking chin posture causes compression of the neck joints just below the skull, which in turn causes your headaches.  A poking chin posture is often as a result of a poor computer monitor position.  Ready my post on 4 monitor positions that cause neck pain or my post on how the how the position of your monitor causes neck pain to learn more about it.  Neck pain and headaches often go hand in hand.

 

3.  Working for too long without a break

Working for too long without a break is a common mistake that most people make.  We forget that we are not robots, and that our bodies require time out to function properly.  Read my post on work breaks to learn more.

 

4.  Tension in your neck muscles

Tension in your neck muscles will most certainly cause both neck pain and headaches.  This tension will be created as a result of stress or poor posture at your desk.  Read my post on stress and neck pain to learn more.

 

5.  Using the wrong spectacle prescription

Using the wrong spectacle prescription while working at a computer or reading will strain your eye muscles that commonly leads to headaches.  When last did you have your eyes checked?

 

6.  Not drinking enough water

When you are dehydrated, one of the symptoms is a headache.  You may be dehydrated because you don’t enjoy drinking water, or because you’ve been drinking too much coffee and tea which stimulates your body to eliminate water.  However, if you drink too much water, and eliminate too many salts from your body in the process, you may also develop a headache.  Moderation is key.

 

7.  Hunger

When you don’t eat properly, you affect the finely tuned equilibrium that your body is constantly seeking and designed to seek.  When you don’t eat properly, you affect the sugar levels in your blood and low blood sugar levels trigger a system of responses that can lead you to experiencing a headache.  Do you often suffer from headaches and do you also eat badly?  Have you had your blood sugar levels tested?  Maybe it’s time to go see your GP and maybe a nutritionist to help you look after yourself better.

 

Overall, working for long hours without a break can cause many of the problems mentioned above.  Too many people tend to neglect themselves at work, without realising that doing so negatively affects their work and their health.  Are you one of them?

 

References:

Johnston V., Souvlis T., Jimmieson N.L., Jull G. 2007. “Associations between individual and workplace risk factors for self-reported neck pain and disability among female office workers.” Applied Ergonomics 39: 171-182.

Grimby-Ekman A., Andersson E.M., Hagberg M. 2009. “Analysing musculoskeletal neck pain, measured as present pain and periods of pain, with three different regression models: a cohort study.” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 10 (73). doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-10-73.

Helland M., H. G. (2008). Musculoskeletal, visual and psychosocial stress in VDU operators after moving to an ergonomically designed office landscape. Applied Ergonomics, 39, 284-295.

Malinska M., B. J. (2010). The Influence of Occupational and Non- Occupational Factors on the Prevalence of Musculoskeletal Complaints in Users of Portable Computers. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics (JOSE), 16(3), 337–343.

Wahlstrom J., H. M. (2004, June). Perceived muscular tension, job strain, physical exposure and associations with neck pain amongst BDU users: a prospective cohort study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 61(6), 523-528.

Wahlstrom J., L. A. (2003, October). Perceived muscular tension, emotional stress, psychological demands and physical load during VDU work. International Archives of Occupational and Envronmental Health, 76(8), 584-590.

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