4 Traps That Cause Your Team Headaches At Work And How To Fix Them
Headaches can range from mildly annoying to life-changingly painful and frustrating. They can be caused by a range of issues from hormonal changes, dehydration, even muscle tension to name a few. There are a few nasty reasons for headaches. Remember ‘Kindergarten Cop’, when Arnold Schwarzenager said, ”It’s Not A Tumour!” He’s almost always right but if headaches are ongoing it’s important to get your doctor to check out the cause.
Once we know the cause of a headache, then we are thinking of them in 2 ways.
FIRSTLY: From a pain pattern perspective.
Different headaches cause pain to specific parts of the head. Where the pain is can help us know what muscles and structures are involved as well as what activities could be making them worse.
SECONDLY: What brings on the pain
Commonly we ask people what brings on the pain and they often don’t know. The causes can be subtle.
I want to go through the top four activities or positions that bring on headaches at work (sometimes hours after you do them) that every sufferer should know to start regaining control. I will show you the pain patterns and what they mean another time. So here goes.
1) TALKING OVER LUNCH OR COFFEE
Sounds weird right? Well, think of having lunch at the coffee shop with a friend. You are sitting next to them on a typical small square table. They are on your right side. So this means you are looking at them, turning repeatedly to the right. Possibly holding that position for 20 minutes even up to an hour or more. That can sensitise trigger points (particularly in SCM, the muscle on the front of the neck to turn the head) that start to cause pain after lunch and even up to a few hours later. It’s easy not to see the cause-effect link.
Solution: Be aware of the trap and adjust your chair to look straight on to a friend. In groups, you might have to adjust your body position with the chair a couple of times over lunch as you talk with different people. In the clinic, I will always move to talk straight on to anyone with head pain. It makes me nervous to do anything else.
2) SITTING IN MEETINGS
Watching a screen or person on the lectern in a meeting can be a real trigger. The trap is you will sit at one side of the room and have to turn slightly to see the person or screen. Even a small turn for a couple of hours is deadly.
Solution: Sit directly in front when you can. Same thing, if you are off centre, turn your body or chair to face straight on.
Using the computer can put you into that ‘concentration’ type position with head poking forwards. My genius muscle mentor Janet Travell (she’s been gone a long time now) always used a picture of someone craning forward using binoculars as an example for an activity-triggering eye-headaches, (1960’s equivalent of computer work!!) Things have changed! Also take notice if you’re using two screens. Working evenly with both is usually ok, but if that changes and you end up using one screen a lot more than the other, that means you turn a lot causing headaches.
Solution: Be aware of posture in front of the computer. Straighten up just a bit and get screen height right. You don’t have to have perfect posture, just don’t slip into mega slump. Also if your workflow changes so you are mainly using one screen, shift that screen towards the midline. It will mean less turning and potentially less headaches.
Again, not something you think of to cause headaches at work, but particularly sleeping on your side can lead to issues. The ideal position is head in the midline. We call it the Goldilocks position (not too high, not too low). Usually one pillow is too low. The trap is that tight muscles that cause headaches actually like this position (chin to chest, foetal posture) because they are taken off stretch. Problem is they will then shorten and bingo…the headache continues. Anyone waking with a headache or getting them in the morning at work should pay close attention to sleep position.
Solution: Get the pillow height right so head is in the midline. We use folded towels underneath to get it spot on. You can also use a hand towel to roll and position under your chin. Keeps head off chest. If you need a hand to show you that just message.
I often ask people, what causes your headaches and they say “nothing”. Big take-home message is to be aware of the lag time. You can trigger them doing simple stuff that unless you are aware, is easy to miss. It means you’re at the mercy of the body…Not good. You want to see the connections, the links… steer, guide, support and lead around pain. Once you get the strategy of using the neck better to avoid headaches, then you can progress to easing tension and freeing stuff up proactively using your SSTM techniques to really get back your quality of life.
Physio – Director Work Injury Free
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