After a long day sat at a desk staring at a computer screen, I often find myself with a headache.
After one particularly bad episode, I decided to investigate, and it turns out there are multiple factors related to office work that could be causing my headaches.
Here are the highlights from a particularly helpful article from About.com that explains a number of reasons why a desk job might be causing your headaches or migraines:
Eyestrain is one of the most common headache triggers in high-frequency computer users.
There are a few things we can do to help alleviate headaches triggered by eyestrain:
- If you’re working for more than 45 minutes, get up and take a 10-15 minute break. Use that time to do activities that don’t require focusing on a monitor, like going for a walk, looking out of a window or looking down a long hallway.
- If you’re referring to text on paper while working at the computer, don’t put the paper down next to your keyboard. Prop the page up next to your monitor so that there is less distance for your eyes to travel and less opportunity for eyestrain.
- Try turning the overhead lights down the next time you’re working at the computer.
- If your work-setting doesn’t allow for you to easily adjust the room lighting or where you sit, try adjusting the brightness and contrast settings on your computer monitor.
- If you’re working on an older-style CRT monitor a glare filter that attaches to the front of your screen may also help.
Patterns and images
Interestingly, there’s no strong evidence that the actual images on a computer screen trigger headache. While some patterns on the screen (e.g., bright lights on a dark background, flashing shapes, or specific line patterns) may trigger headaches in a small percentage of people the typical patterns we look at on the screen are not usually responsible. However, if you feel that screen patterns seem to be triggering your headaches ask your doctor immediately.
Do you find yourself hunched over or leaning into your computer screen when a headache comes on? If so, your bad posture might be the cause of your headache. Poor cervical neck curvature is a common observation in computer-users who complain of headache. Chiropractors and osteopathic practitioners suggest that manipulating neck tension in patients with abnormal neck posture can greatly improve headache pain.
You can also do things on your own to maintain proper posture:
- Check the position of your shoulders while typing and try to relax.
- Adjust your monitor angle and height so that you are not over-engaging your neck muscles to see.
- Position your keyboard and work equipment so that they’re at a comfortable distance.
Computer Vision Syndrome
In many cases, people who spend several hours a day working on a computer not only complain of headaches from eyestrain but also blurry vision, dry eyes, shoulder pain and neck pain. A combination of these symptoms could lead to a diagnosis of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
CVS is a condition that is not only physically discomforting but can also have a significant impact on your computer-related productivity. Just imagine, if you’re having constant headaches while working at the computer, you’re more likely to make errors, need more frequent breaks, and could be placing yourself at risk of long-term musculoskeletal injury.
The most common treatment for CVS is prescription eyewear. An optometrist can provide you with corrective lenses that are optimal for your computer situation. The right lenses can help your eyes focus at the plane of the computer screen and provide some relief of headache symptoms.
Before you blame your headaches entirely on working at the computer keep in mind that other things in your environment that coincide with computer use may actually be triggering your headaches.
- Is the material that you are producing on the computer stress-inducing?
- Are you more likely to consume caffeine while at the computer?
- Is your diet irregular when you’re doing computer work?
- Are you less active and taking infrequent breaks from your work when typing?
Any of these environmental stimuli can trigger headaches on their own – so taking the time to assess what’s going on around you might yield additional clues.