How To Avoid Headaches at Work

Work can be stressful enough, but add in an unexpected headache to the mix and you can kiss your productivity good by, not to mention feeling terrible.   Learning what is causing your headaches and arming yourself with simple strategies to combat them is key.

What’s Causing My Headache At Work?

There are many reasons that headaches come on, but here are some of the main culprits when they seem to come at work:

  • Stress/TensionHeadaches born out of stress and tension typically manifest as a diffuse mild or moderate pain often described as a tight band around your head.  There can also be a sensation of tightness or pressure around your temples, forehead or across the base of your skull.  Tension and stress headaches can also manifest as pain and tightness across the neck and shoulders.
  • Lighting: Working in an environment with light that is too bright, too dim, or flickering can cause eyestrain.  Often a headache that comes from poor lighting and eyestrain can be experienced as sore, tired, watery or dry eyes.  It can also show up as soreness in your neck, shoulders, back or pain around your eyes.  You may also experience an increased sensitivity to light and difficulty concentrating.
  • DehydrationDehydration can show up in a number of ways, which includes thirst, fatigue and weakness, loss of concentration as well as muscle pain and headaches.  Dehydration is a common trigger for headaches which can feel a lot like stress/tension headaches.
  • Poor PosturePoor postures like slouching, looking down for long periods of time, having your head turned to one side, arms reaching forward and even low riding in your chair (which bends your neck forward and causes you to reach forward with your arms) can throw your muscles out of balance and cause muscles to contract and put pressure on your spine and discs and, yep, you guessed it, cause tension headaches.  Symptoms can include mild to moderate pain, usually on both sides of your head or neck, but can also show up across the back of your shoulders, one side of your neck and / or shoulders as well as the base of your skull.
  • NoiseSome people are surprised that exposure to noise can cause headaches. In fact, too much noise or too much exposure to noise is a common trigger for tension headaches and migraines.   Headaches can come on from loud noises as well as lower level but continuous noise.  The symptoms are similar to those of a tension headache.

What Can I do to Get Rid of My Headache?

The remedy for your headache is largely based on the type of headache you are experiencing and what triggered it.  So, if light, poor posture, noise or dehydration brought about your pounding headache, the remedy is obvious.  But there are a few strategies that don’t involve medications which work for most headaches.

  1. Drink Water: can bring about relief from your headache usually within the hour.  In addition to water, you can also turn to fruits and vegetables with high water content such as watermelon, oranges, cucumbers and green peppers.  Avoid sugary drinks as sugar can trigger headaches.
  2. Deep Breathing: is a very effective way to improve your circulation and lower stress and anxiety.  It also oxygenates your blood and can help to relax tight muscles.  A super effective breathing technique is called square breathing.  Take a deep breath, fill your lungs and abdomen while counting to a slow four.  Then hold for four counts and release for 4 counts on the exhale.  Repeat for 10 breaths.
  3. Acupressure Points: There are several pressure points on the face, head and hands that are reported to be very effective in reducing or relieving headaches.  The 3 most common acupressure points include the pressure point in between your eyebrows (third eye), the sides of the base of your skull (gates of consciousness) and the muscle (web) in between your thumb and index finger.  Apply deep, firm pressure for 1 minute.
  4. Sit (stand) Up Straight: Whether you have a headache or not, making sure your set up promotes a healthy upright and balanced sitting and / or standing posture when working at your desk.  However, when you are experiencing a headache, one of the first things you should inspect is how you are sitting or standing and how you have your neck and head positioned.  The best guideline is to have your ears line up over your shoulders, your shoulders over you elbows, elbows over your hips and if standing, hips over the knees and knees over your ankles.
  5. Take A Break: If your headache is coming about from stress, noise, light, posture or just plain old overwork, take a break.  And that means getting up and away from your desk.  Try stretching, taking a walk, talking with a colleague, taking a nap, resting your eyes, listening to some music or whatever else gives you a mental and physical break.  Even if you don’t have a headache, taking a break at least once every hour is beneficial!

Additional Things To Think About

There are many things that can trigger a headache, but some additional areas to look into, especially if you suffer from frequent or chronic headaches, include food allergies and sensitivities, your eye health and underlying health issues.  If need be, talk to you health care practitioner to help uncover the cause and get remedies for help if needed.

Until the Next Time!

Vivienne & Andrew


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