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Headaches at Work: A Pain in the Neck

Headaches at Work: A Pain in the Neck

A woman is working in front of a computer and holding her head due to a headache

Almost everyone has had a headache at some point in their life, and likely also while at work. Most of the time they are temporary and can be resolved by drinking some water (dehydration), having a snack (low blood sugar), taking a break from the computer (movement) or taking an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (pain reduction). But some people suffer from headaches frequently and the cause is not always easily identifiable, and don’t respond to the above remedies.

Did you know? Between 15-20% of chronic or recurrent headaches can be attributed to musculoskeletal dysfunction, particularly related to cervical (neck) or temporomandibular joint (jaw) impairment. And that is where an Athletic Therapist (AT) can help you. 

Manual Therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for headaches which are neck or jaw related, particularly when manual techniques are combined with exercise (AT’s specialty!). And the addition of cervical manipulation (chiropractic adjustment) increases the chances of long-term relief. (Note: we have amazing chiropractors too)

Trigger points are a common culprit for headaches and can be addressed through manual therapy. These are areas of tissue that are extremely tight and cause a decrease of blood flow to an area leading to pain and altered function. Trigger points often cause referred pain, which is to say that if the point involved is in your neck you may feel it in your head. Trigger points follow predictable referral patterns which your practitioner can help identify. For example, if you get headaches behind your eyes the source may be at the back of your skull.

There is a group of small muscles at the base of your skull known as the sub-occipitals. These small muscles are closely related to sensory input from your eyes, as well as the movement of your head and neck. That is why people who spend a lot of time looking at screens or with repetitive eye movements (scrolling on your phone) can experience headaches related to these small muscles. 

Another culprit can be the sternocleidomastoid muscle (great name, say that 10 times fast) or SCM at the front of the neck and back of the skull. If you spend a significant portion of the day with a forward head posture, this muscle will become shortened and contribute further to poor head and neck positioning. 

If you suffer from frequent headaches and you feel like you have tried everything, it may be time to think about getting in touch with an Athletic Therapist to assess and develop a plan specific to you and your needs. Or we can offer in-house services and education to bring more awareness and knowledge about these issues to your workplace. 

Book a complimentary Athletic Therapy consult today to learn how we can help!

Or try the exercises below at home or the office next time you are experiencing a headache.

The ”Pain in the Neck” headache exercise starter pack includes: 

Neck CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations)

-Chin tucks

-Sternocleidomastoid stretch