There are a number of known headache triggers lurking in the typical office environment. Poor posture and bright lights are known to be causes of a headache . Therefore it may be well worth looking at your own workspace, and its layout to avoid them. Muscular pains such as backache can also be troublesome at work and these can be caused by bad posture too.
Here’s what you need to help stay keep bright, alert and headache free throughout the day.
The correct posture is important in helping you prevent straining the muscles of your back, head and neck as muscle strain could lead to pain and tension headaches. Firstly, make sure that your chair supports your lower back. You should be able to achieve this support provided you have a chair that allows you to change the height, back position and tilt. Use a footrest, if it helps. Secondly, try to get your knees slightly lower than your hips.
The kindest position for your wrists is provided if your forearms are extended and parallel with the ground, so that your arms form an L-shape at the elbow joint. An armrest can help you maintain this position comfortably. Your wrists should be straight and roughly at the same level as the keyboard. Wrist rests are available, if you think one of these would help. Alternatively, try carefully changing the height of your desk if it allows for adjustment. Your back and legs are likely to be most comfortable if your feet are flat on the floor most of the time you are at your desk.
The diagram below illustrates the sort of position that people should try and adopt as far as possible to avoid physical stress or strain.
The computer screen:
It is important to have your monitor screen at the right height to help keep your neck and shoulders from being strained. You can ensure the monitor is at eye-level by adjusting the height of your screen and chair as the diagram outlines above. You may also strain your eyes, if it is wrongly adjusted by being too far or too close to you or at the wrong angle. It is possible for your screen to reflect glare from your office surroundings, which could in turn result in the straining of your eyes and face muscles.
A good way of identifying the source of the glare is to hold a mirror in front of the screen so that you can see a reflection of what is causing it. Then it will be a matter of moving the screen to avoid reflection from lighting or windows.
People can also forget that a computer screen is almost always adjustable for contrast and brightness, which may also need to be altered for more comfortable viewing.
Cleaning your computer screen:
This is, surprisingly, another way that may help reduce eye-strain and therefore help minimise the chance of a headache. The screen attracts dust particles and it is amazing how much darker it can cause the screen to become. Smudges or fingerprints may also increase glare reflected from the screen.
Another item that, if used a lot, may add to straining of the neck and head muscles. It is always a good idea to keep it within easy reach. More and more people are switching over to using a headset instead of the traditional hand-piece; it’s easier to hear and may also be more comfortable for your shoulders and neck.
If you need to wear glasses for long distance viewing, they may not always be the best suited for looking at a close computer screen all day. If you constantly have to peer over the top of your spectacles to read your computer monitor or paperwork, some form of bi-focal or vari-focal glasses or lenses could be more suitable. Your optician is best placed to give you advice and help here.
Adequate hydration is essential in the modern office environment, particularly with continuous air conditioning and forced-air heating, which can be a dehydrating combination. Dehydration can be a trigger factor for headache. It is easy to forget to drink plenty of water when you are busy working. Most offices nowadays provide a source of mineral water or filtered water for employees. Why not fill a big glass and put it within easy reach on your desk. Do not forget that drinks containing caffeine, especially coffee, are quite diuretic and may not be adding much to your net fluid intake.
There are other things that may be useful to keep on your desk, such as screen wipes and perhaps a box of tissues for when you have a cold. No doubt you will customise your office space to your own requirements.
Also, if you are taking regular doses of a medicine and you normally do so at work, it may be a good idea to set up some sort of daily reminder to do this. Any of the calendar applications either on your computer or your mobile phone should be able to provide an audible (or vibrating) reminder for you to do this. Otherwise, place a sticky-note somewhere to remind you.
If you’re still suffering with headaches and backaches:
Despite all your precautions you may find that your work environment occasionally contributes to a tension type headache... or perhaps a backache may trouble you after a long period at your desk. These can both be treated with an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Nurofen, which contains the active ingredient, ibuprofen. However, if you are regularly getting headaches or back pain that is worsening or accompanied by other symptoms that are worrying you, or if your symptoms do not improve over time, consider making an appointment to see your doctor. Always read the label.
Remember, a comfortable environment around your desk area, could help your working day be more organised, more satisfying and more enjoyable too.