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How to get ahead at work – without the headaches

Long days at your desk can lead to back and neck pain, but there are simple ways to avoid this and be productive without headaches and other forms of pain.

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Working from home often means having to create a workstation from scratch – and if it’s not properly thought out, it could be doing you harm. Not to mention that long hours of sitting is a known risk factor for many complications.

If your workstation is not ergonomically in tune with your body, you could find yourself stretching and straining to achieve basic tasks. The resulting discomfort and frustration can erode your effectiveness and make you unhappy – not what you want.

Headaches are a very common complaint amongst people who work at a desk or with computers and they come in many different types:

  1. Tension headaches

A tension headache feels like your head is being squeezed, and they’re something that many people suffer from. Common causes are stress, poor posture and muscle tension, especially in the back, neck or shoulders.

  1. Neck headaches

Also known as cervicogenic headaches, these are caused by underlying neck issues.
The area of your body where your neck meets your head contains many pain-sensitive structures that respond to underlying issues. A neck headache may feel like a tension headache or migraine, and it’s not always easy to tell them apart.

  1. Cluster headaches

These can be painful enough to wake you up, with intense pain behind, in or around your eye on either side of your head. These types of headache are not yet fully understood, but they may be related to the functioning of your body’s internal biological clock. Unlike the other kinds of headaches we’re looking at here, cluster headaches probably aren’t caused by stress, different foods or hormonal changes.

  1. Migraines

Migraines can be extremely debilitating: the combination of severe throbbing or pulsing pain, plus nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound can also be accompanied by ‘aura’ or disturbances that affect your vision, hearing, speech or touch.

There are multiple possible causes of migraines, including both genetic and environmental factors. Other possible causes include specific foods, stress, lack of sleep, sudden bright lights and certain prescription medications. These can vary from person to person.

How physiotherapy can help?

Expert knowledge of body posture and movement can help with diagnosing, managing and preventing common types of headache.
Once the type and cause of your headache has been determined, your physiotherapist can design and implement a specific treatment plan to address the issue. This could include manipulation, functional and rehabilitation exercises, postural assessment and correction, relaxation therapy, massage and mobilisation.
Your physiotherapist can also give you lifestyle advice aimed at reducing your risk of developing headaches. This could focus on your posture, work and sleep habits, exercises and relaxation techniques.

When to see a doctor:

If you experience any of the following – known as ‘red flags’ – you should see your doctor as soon as possible, as you may require special tests or treatment: 

  • New onset headaches during pregnancy
  • New onset headaches if you have a history of cancer, HIV infection or head trauma
  • Headaches that become progressively worse, or if pain relief isn’t helping
  • Headaches that come with vision changes, weakness in your limbs, or any other nervous system signs (if you already suffer from migraines, any new or unusual symptom could be a red flag).


Credit: Photo by Mikael Blomkvist from Pexels

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