Neck pain and tension headache are something that too many office workers are quite too familiar with. Every now and then you roll your shoulders, stretch your aching neck and your fingers find themselves rubbing temples. Sounds familiar? As a reward from all the conscientious effort and diligent focus on your work you get stiff shoulders, neck pain and a headache. But how to ease and prevent neck pain and tension headache?
1. The importance of ergonomics in preventing neck pain
The very first thing is to check if your office ergonomics is as it should be. Make sure that the computer screen is at the optimal level, meaning you should be watching the screen a little downwards without needing to bend your head. If you’re using a laptop and don’t have a separate screen, make sure you have a laptop stand so that you can lift the screen higher. Check also that your arms rest relaxed next to your body – despite sitting or standing – so that you don’t strain your shoulders. Just taking care of these things you can significantly prevent and reduce neck pain and tension headache.
2. Head’s right position, less headaches
When the ergonomics are taken care of, the next thing is to pay attention to the position of your head. You can’t always notice if your head is pushed forward or bent down, so ask you co-worker to check from the side if your head is positioned right in the middle of your shoulder line as an extension to your spine. If your head is in a bent down and/or pushed forward position it causes a severe strain (up to 60lbs!) on your neck vertebrae. Prolonged strain on your neck and head’s unergonomic position causes neck pain and stiffness that often leads to tension headache.
If your head often is in a pushed forward position, try this: go stand your back against a wall. Make sure the back of your head is also against the wall. Bend your chin as close to your chest as you can while keeping your head against the wall. You can feel the stretch on the upper part of your neck. Keep the position for 10 seconds, repeat for a few times daily. This relaxes the base of your scull and reduces headaches caused by neck pain.
3. Ease neck pain and tension headache by taking breaks
You’ve probably heard somewhere that “movement is medicine”. The same goes for neck pain. It is very important to take small breaks from your work just from the point of view of focus and mental coping. From physical point of view however the key is to move during those breaks. It’s not good enough if you take a break but you stay still and just shift from staring a computer screen into staring your phone. The point is that your body gets the movement it needs. When working on a Gymba board, the lower parts of your body gets movement nicely, but even if your using the Gymba board, remember to pay attention to your neck and shoulders and make sure they get enough movement as well.
4. Ease neck pain – stretch vs. movement
If your shoulders are tense, neck is aching and you have tension headaches, I recommend you try small movements and exercises instead of stretching. In fact, In fact, neck pain is mainly caused by the fact that the neck muscles have been stretched while the head is in a bent forward position. So stretching your neck doesn’t really get the results you’d need. When the muscles are tense there are waste products accumulated and the best medicine once again is movement. Try these two exercises:
- Put your chin against your chest and cross your hands above your head. But instead of stretching push your head upwards while your hands resist. Hold it for a few seconds and release. Repeat from 5 to 10 times.
- Put your palm on the side of your head. Push your head against the hand, resist it with your hand. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat from 5 to 10 times on both sides.
These exercises increase the blood circulation and get the waste products moving easing neck pain and as a result reduces tension headaches.
5. Muscle strengthening as a prevention of neck pain
The best way to prevent neck pain and tension headache is to strengthen the muscles. Do exercises that strengthen the neck and shoulder area and increase the mobility of the thoracic spine. However, you don’t need a gym membership for these. You can just as easily do these kinds of exercises at home using for example a resistance band. Also using sticks on your hands when you walk, is a very good movement for your neck and shoulder line.
As a conclusion you could say that the main thing in easing and preventing neck pain and tension headache is to make sure that your neck and shoulders get enough movement!