Why Does Your Office Give You Headaches? by Firstmed Budapest

  • 6 Oct 2022 12:52 PM
Why Does Your Office Give You Headaches? by Firstmed Budapest
You’ve just spent the last 5 hours working on a spreadsheet and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. But then you notice that the bright fluorescent lights are starting to give you a headache, and your back is hurting from sitting at your desk for so long. 

Why does office work give people headaches? 

Well, there are actually a few reasons why office work can be bad for your health—and it’s not just because of those fluorescent lights! Many people who work at a seated desk may find themselves experiencing some physical discomfort, and this all has to do with the way we work.

Bad posture can lead to severe pains

FirstMed’s physical therapist coordinator, Ágnes Hangay has helped hundreds of people who suffer from the consequences of keeping bad posture at their desks. She’s also seen how office work can lead to a whole host of problems, such as back pain and headaches.

We chatted with Ágnes about what she sees in her practice and how a physical therapist can help to avoid these issues.

“As a physical therapist, I often treat patients with office jobs. If you work in an office or spend most of the day in front of your computer, you need to pay extra attention to your body position.”

Most people who sit in front of the computer all day have a hard time sitting up straight for hours on end. It’s not uncommon to find yourself slouching or looking down at your computer screen while you’re working. This can lead to poor posture, which can cause serious health problems over time.

Good posture is essential for a healthy back, neck and shoulders – Hangay explains. When you slouch over your desk or computer screen, your shoulders are hunched forward, which makes you extend your neck and tilt your head forward.

This so-called forward head posture puts pressure on the spine which causes pain in the neck and upper back. The back muscles are also tensed when you have incorrect posture, which can contribute to back aches. Wrong posture also affects the muscles that support your head, causing headaches.

Easy ways to keep correct posture at your office

If you spend a lot of time at your desk and feel like your body is starting to ache, don’t despair! There are some simple things you can do at work that will help prevent bad posture and keep everything feeling good during the day. Ágnes Hangay suggests making some simple changes in your work routine, so you can avoid many of the aches and pains associated with working at a computer.

Using ergonomic furniture

Comfortable furniture is probably the easiest way to reduce pain and improve posture. Ergonomic chairs support the back and keep it in a natural position. By adjusting height and tilt, you can find the most comfortable setting for your body.

If your chair doesn’t fit your body shape, put a pillow wedge on the seat or behind your back. Accessories such as a footrest under the desk or a back cushion can improve comfort and give your spine more support when sitting in front of the computer all day long.

Recently, more and more of us are working from home. Ágnes Hangay emphasizes the importance of furnishing at least a little corner with ergonomic office furniture. If you work with a laptop, use an extra monitor or a laptop stand to keep it at the right height, so you can look straight ahead. It makes it easier for you to read or write something without straining your neck or back muscles too much!

How to place the monitor

A good rule of thumb is to keep the top of the screen at eye level, and about 70 centimeters (about arm-length) away from your eyes. In other words, if you can see both sides of the screen without moving your head too much (like when reading), then that’s right where it should be placed.

How to sit at your desk

To improve your posture, Hangay suggests following these guidelines:

  • Sit up straight. Straighten your back, and keep your head in line with it.

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and your back supported by the chair. Your knees should be at 90 degrees, with your arms close to your body.

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and not hunched and your head in line with the rest of your body, as if you were standing up straight.

  • Place your arms on the desk and keep them at a 90-degree angle from your body.

Take short breaks and keep moving

Even simple movements can help you prevent back pain or headaches. It’s easier than you can imagine! The best way is to practice good habits all day long: stand up and take frequent short breaks from sitting, stretching at least once every 60 minutes.

Get up from your desk at least every second hour and do something different for a few minutes. Even just standing up can help increase circulation in the lower limbs and improve blood flow to the brain while reducing pressure on nerves along your spine. This relieves stress on muscles and joints.

Make exercise a daily habit

 Even in the office, you can perform some simple exercises:

  • Stand up and walk: go to the kitchen for a coffee, stand up while you’re on the phone, or visit a colleague for discussions instead of calling. This will relax your muscles and stretch them out.
  • Use the stairs instead of an elevator at least once or twice a day to stay fit.
  • Take a walk outside at lunchtime whenever possible, even if it’s just for ten minutes or so! You’ll feel refreshed when you come back in – don’t skip this part of your day!

These tips will help keep you from getting stiff while sitting at your desk.

Improve your posture through core-strengthening exercises

The physical therapist recommends doing physical activities after work 3-4 times a week, for at least 30 minutes each. Good options for strengthening core muscles include swimming, walking or nordic walking, working out in the gym, pilates, yoga, dancing, or other sports that focus on core strength. This will increase muscle strength and core stability, which can help support better posture throughout the day.

When should you consult a professional?

Incorrect posture can lead to chronic pain in your muscles and joints. The most common complaints include frequent headaches, muscle stiffness, and pain radiating to the shoulder and upper arms. This may be due to poor posture at work, lack of breaks throughout working hours, or an incorrect chair height. If the pain does not stop after trying the practices detailed above, don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance.

What is the procedure of a medical examination?

If you are experiencing pain or stiffness in your neck and upper back, first consult your family doctor. Discuss your symptoms with him or her, and it may be recommended that you see a specialist. The specialist can be a neurologist who treats disorders of the nervous system.

An orthopedist might be consulted if there is an abnormality detected on x-rays or MRI scans. Or visit a rheumatologist for an opinion about your pain, which may be due to inflammation.

If your physician orders a medical examination, work closely with him/her to decide which treatment plan will suit you best. Your doctor can give a referral for physical therapy.

How can physical therapy prevent and treat headaches, musculoskeletal pains, low back pain and other problems caused by bad posture?

One of the best ways to prevent headaches, musculoskeletal pains and low back pain is to get physical therapy. Your doctor may prescribe you a full-body physical therapy program that includes exercises for the neck and shoulders, back muscles, hips, knees and ankles.

Ágnes Hangay explains that a physical therapist can assess your condition and prescribe an exercise routine to help you relieve muscle stiffness, improve balance, and increase core stability. These techniques are usually taught during one-on-one physical therapy sessions.

Afterwards, you can practice it at home in addition to stretches that can be done in the office. When it comes to sitting at a desk for long hours, this can be especially helpful since it’s something you may not be doing regularly.

Posture reeducation is a great way to prevent bad posture from forming, as well as relieve the pain associated with poor posture over time. Practitioners also use manual therapy: they put pressure on muscle tissue and do mobilization on joints with their hands to decrease back pain caused by muscle spasms, muscle tension, and joint dysfunction.

Physical therapy is beneficial in relieving pain, increasing muscle flexibility and strength, improving core stability (important for supporting the spine), and teaching you how to use your body properly.

Correct your posture, don’t wait until you have a problem

To sum up, FirstMed’s physical therapist, Ágnes Hangay suggests correcting your posture before pain or discomfort forces you to do so. If you are sitting at the computer all day, it’s important to keep a proper posture.

This will help prevent headaches, back pain, shoulder pain and other problems that may arise as a result of poor posture. Of course, we all make mistakes and forget sometimes, but correcting them as soon as possible will help prevent these problems from developing into something more serious or painful over time.

The same goes for any other musculoskeletal pains such as neck aches or shoulder aches that may appear during work or at home after long periods of time spent sitting at the desk in front of the computer.

Don’t just sit in your office all day; get up and move around. Stretch to keep your muscles limber, even if it’s only for a few minutes at first. After work, do some sort of physical activity—even something as simple as walking home from the subway can help counteract muscle stiffness caused by prolonged sitting!

If you’re experiencing pain at work despite all your efforts to avoid it, or just want to learn how to correct your body posture while working long hours, ask your doctor about physical therapy as an option. Learn more about FirstMed’s physical therapy practice here as potential solution to your pain problems or as a preventive measure.

Click here to virtually visit Firstmed

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