The Modern Back Ache – Headaches – 5 Tips to Avoid Them

Head acheIn years gone by, when the vast majority of work was manual, back aches were a real problem for a large percentage of the population. Modern techniques, and a shift towards non-manual work for large portions of the workforce means that back ache isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. That’s not to say it isn’t an issue, in fact looking after your back is incredibly important. However, in place of back ache, a new scourge is sweeping its way across employees all over the world, particularly those who sit in front of computers most of the day.

Of course, I’m talking about headaches. As a chronic sufferer with head aches, I’ve noticed there are a number of things which tend to bring them on. Fortunately, there are a number of precautions I can take to help prevent them, and a number of steps I can take to help them dissipate if I do suffer. So, from a lifelong sufferer, these are my top five tips to help keep your head, ache free.

  1. Eyesight – For me, this is the biggest factor when it comes to keeping my head clear. I’ve had poor eye sight for some time, I’m not terrible but to get any work done I need to wear glasses. One thing that has been blatantly obvious is, if I have to strain my eyes to do any work, I WILL get a headache. No question about it. There are a couple of things to remember, this isn’t just about going out and getting some glasses, but making sure you keep your prescription up to date. Wearing glasses that don’t match your eye sight is just as bad as not wearing them at all. And while I’m on the subject of correcting your vision, beware contact lenses. Personally, and chats I’ve had with other people back this up, wearing contact lenses for extended periods can lead to head aches and just general discomfort.
  2. Contrast – A lot of people will warn against having brightness turned up on your monitor. While this makes sense I think the more obvious step is to reduce the amount of contrast in your working environment. If you are in a dark room, you don’t want a really bright screen else it will be glaring and your eyes will have trouble adjusting quickly every time you look away from your monitor. This constant readjusting (which equates to muscles in your eyes moving from fully extended to fully contracted regularly and quickly) is going to tire your eyes and lead to headaches aplenty. And it’s not just bright screens in dark work areas, a dark screen in a bright work area has the same effect. My personal preference is to have the brightness of my monitor as low as possible while still being able to comfortably read it. A good way to find a comfortable level is to hold a piece of paper up next to your monitor. The whites on the monitor should be similar in colour and shade to the paper. Of course, make sure your lighting is at a level where you can comfortably read from the paper first!  You also want to make sure the level of contrast on your screen provides a comfortable space to read and write in.
  3. Take a Break – Obvious, I know, but the effect can’t be understated. You also need to make sure you take the right type of break. I’ve seen many office workers go to take a break to alleviate a headache and find that it hasn’t helped at all. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons I can think of. Some people head off to the canteen/kitchen to get a drink, usually coffee (this is an office after all). When you do this you are remaining within the same environment, so the air is the same, the noise is the same and the lighting is the same. All three of these factors can, and do, contribute to headaches, and you are not taking a break from any of them. Coffee is also a stimulant, and if your headache was caused through over working your brain, this isn’t going to help you out. Another group of people who make strange use of their breaks are smokers. While many are forced to at least go outside to take a smoking break, being in an environment with smoke in the air, their eyes and throats isn’t going to alleviate any headache. I would recommend getting a cool drink of water and heading outside for some fresh air. Works like a charm.
  4. Environment – I find it too much of a coincidence to ignore that I’m often uncomfortable at the same time I get a headache. There are a couple of major factors that seem to lead to me being uncomfortable, and probably highest on the list is heat. I’m a very warm person, but I prefer to be cool. Feeling too hot, or feeling like it’s stuffy usually leads to a headache. I also find that having to position my head, neck or back strangely will quickly lead to a head ache. So comfort is key. Once again, taking a break is a great way to help with this.
  5. Find Something that Works – Finally, what should you do if you still get a headache? I think this is something that’s highly personal and being someone who has a lot of headaches, it took me a while, but I found what works for me. Ibuprofen seems to work better than anything else, so I make sure I have some handy at all times (in the house, office and car). I always try not to take them though, and I think this is important. I always try to correct the problem that’s causing the headache first, otherwise your headache will only be alleviated for the period the pain killers last for.  There are so many remedies out there for head aches, ranging from tablets to gels and even head bands, so it really is worth experimenting a bit to find out what works for you. And when you find it, stock up.  Another tactic is to try and change single aspects of your environment to see if it helps reduce the frequency, or intensity of your headaches.  This is a common tactic in other aspects of your life, and is effectively removing all possibilities until you find the determining factor. If, or when, you find the thing that causes your headaches, eliminate it.

So those are my five tips to help with head aches, from a chronic headache sufferer. What do you do to prevent head aches, or any other health related problem us modern workers face? Photo credit