Headaches are one of the most common ailments and frequently lead to people taking time off work or not being able to perform optimally in the work place.
Not all headaches are the same – they can vary in location, severity, duration, their triggers, associated symptoms and more. In addition they can affect anyone regardless of age, race, and gender.
Even although there are many situations and factors in the workplace that can cause headaches the triggers can begin long before the work day starts.
One of the best ways to address headaches at work is to avoid them.
Being able to identify your headache triggers, by keeping a log or diary will enable you to prevent and maybe even overcome your headaches.
- Sleep – Disrupted sleep, getting less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours sleep, a bad bed or pillow and even oversleeping.
- Commute– Some people are prone to motion sickness, combined with altered light patterns (such as driving into the sun) and the stress of traffic.
- Skipping meals – hunger has the ability to set off headaches, possibly because skipping meals can lower your blood sugar.
- Caffeine and certain foods– Common dietary triggers include caffeine, chocolate, cheeses, alcohol, cured meats, and artificial sweeteners, however, these can vary considerably from person to person. Caffeine may cause headaches in some but in others caffeine withdrawal can also bring on head pain.
- Stress– Tight deadlines, work overload, inadequate resources, an unfriendly office environment, poor planning can all add to stress in the work environment.
- Grinding or clenching your teeth – Whether it is while you are sleeping, working or driving these can cause muscular tension in the jaw, head and neck and result in headaches.
- Eye strain– Sitting in front of a computer all day can lead to a headache from eye strain. Your eyes work harder to read a computer screen than a printed page, and glare compounds the problem.
- Poor Posture – Strained posture when sitting or standing can cause neck and lower back tension as well as result in fatigue, both of which can trigger headaches.
- Dehydration – Staying properly hydrated is vital for normal bodily functions.
- Strong odours -Perfume, cigarette smoke, and cleaning solutions are common offenders. There may also be pollutants in the air conditioning, toxic particles, dangerous bacteria, and mould circulating, especially in buildings that aren’t well maintained.
- Noise– Noise in the workplace can cause headaches.
- Fluorescent lights – May double the occurrence of headache when compared with natural lighting.
- Lack of Exercise – Exercise is a stress reliever so an absence of it may predispose one to headaches.
Everyone’s triggers are different, however, try these simple steps throughout the day to see what works for you and help ward off possible headache triggers.
- In a good bed with a comfortable pillow.
- Keep a regular routine with sufficient hours of sleep.
- Avoid screen time for two hours before bed time.
- Try and avoid peak traffic times.
- Leave sufficient time for the trip to work.
- Ensure your car seat is set correctly.
- Plan and pack your meals the night before.
4. Caffeine and certain foods
- Identify your sensitivities and adjust your intake accordingly.
- Prioritise and plan ahead.
- Get things done well in advance of deadlines.
6. Grinding or clenching
- Visit your dentist to see whether you need a splint or bite plate when you sleep at night.
- At the office be aware of the tension in your jaw.
7. Eye Strain
- Have your eyes tested.
- Ensure your screen is positioned correctly.
- Limit screen glare by looking away from the screen every 20 minutes.
- Pay attention to your office furniture as well as your position in it.
- Good posture is maintained with your shoulders in a straight line over your hips, your ears directly over your shoulders and no head tilt.
- Ensure your work station is set up correctly.
- Avoid tucking the phone between your shoulder and ear, or use a headset or earbuds if you are often on the phone while typing.
- Get up and stretch regularly.
- Keep a water bottle with you at all times.
- Use your regular breaks to top it up.
10. Strong Odours
- Get fresh air by opening a window near you or take your break outside.
- Wear noise-cancelling earphones or earplugs.
- Try get as much natural light as possible or change the position of your desk so that it is not directly underneath the lights.
- Build some relaxation activity into your day.
- Progressive relaxation, for example, involves flexing and relaxing different muscle groups while focusing on your breathing, and can help to decrease your stress at work.
If you are diligent about controlling your triggers and are still struggling with headaches it is advisable to consult a medical care provider for proper evaluation and treatment.
REMEMBER – there are certain triggers that are outside of your control such as hormonal and weather changes, BUT if you plan adequately and control what you can you are giving yourself a fighting chance.
If you have (headaches) and you’re not sure what to do about them, please call us on (02) 6257 9400. If you would like some more information about the spine and nervous system and how it relates to your health, please check out the other articles on our Facebook page or go to our website: www.spinecentre.com.au.
Also, make sure you read the other interesting articles we post on headaches this month.