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Headaches At Work: 9 Common Causes And Their Solutions

5 min read
Last Updated on 16 August, 2022

Have you ever experienced a throbbing headache at work that ruined your motivation and focus?

Headaches are a fairly common occurrence in workplaces around the world. In a workplace environment, employees have to deal with stress and demanding workloads that may contribute to headaches or migraines. Experiencing a headache is very unpleasant, and it can harm the performance of employees and cause them to miss work.

The Definition of a Headache and its types

Headaches are one of the most common health problems that people experience. In simple words, we can describe a headache as a dull or sharp pain in any part of the head.

There are many types of headaches. Some of the common ones are -

  • Migraine
  • Tension headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Thunderclap headache
  • Medication overuse headache

What causes headaches at work and how to prevent them?

We all get headaches at work from time to time, and while some of us might get it more frequently, some experience it relatively less. Many factors can trigger a headache in the workplace.

From workplace stress to poor posture, below are six headache triggers that may be the cause of your head pain. Also, for each trigger, there is a solution that you can use to prevent headaches.

1. Work Stress

Workplace stress is one of the main reasons for health problems, such as headaches among employees. It can negatively affect your quality of life, both physically and mentally.

Heavy stress may cause the release of certain chemicals in the brain that can cause pain and inflammation. If stress-induced headaches are not prevented, they can be a chronic problem.

The Fix - To prevent stress in the workplace, you must understand what causes it at first. After identifying the stressors, you can take steps to combat them. There are many ways to combat stress, such as meditating, eating healthily, exercising, and so on.

2. Poor Nutrition

Our nutritional habits play a significant role in our health and daily lives, and we must maintain proper nutrition. However, for employees working long and tedious hours, proper nutrition may not be easy, causing health problems like headaches.

For instance, skipping meals can lower blood sugar levels, which can cause headaches and migraines. Eating foods that are high in sodium can also cause headaches.

The Fix - Avoid eating unhealthy junk foods at work, especially ones with high sugar and sodium. Try to prepare and cook your lunch on your own with healthy ingredients. Also, do not skip meals and eat healthy snacks at work to keep hunger pangs away.

3. Lack of sleep

Irregular sleep patterns and Insufficient sleep can be the cause of your headaches at work. Poor quality sleep can cause fatigue and an inability to concentrate during work hours. Lack of sleep can also increase the pain and the frequency of headaches.

The Fix - Ensure that you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Stop using mobile phones and laptops at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Also, avoid drinking caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or any medication that can affect your sleep.

4. Dehydration

We all know how essential adequate hydration is for our bodies to function optimally and prevent health problems. However, you might not always find the time to consume enough water during work due to demanding tasks and projects.

Not drinking enough water can cause headaches by constricting the blood vessels and preventing the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

The Fix - Always make sure to drink at least 2-3 liters of water daily at work. To ensure the same, keep a water bottle at your desk and drink small amounts throughout the day. Also, cut down on sugary drinks and replace them with water instead.

5. Computer Screens

Thanks to advances in technology, most of our work is done on the computer today. As such, employees spend hours in front of their desktops and laptops. Prolonged exposure to computer screens, however, can cause eyestrain and severe headaches among employees.

There may be many factors for computer screen induced headaches, such as improper computer color and brightness levels, screen glare, etc.

The Fix - To avoid headaches due to computer screen exposure, avoid sitting on your computer for too long. Take frequent breaks in between to get some fresh air and sunlight. Work in a properly lit area and take steps to reduce computer screen glare.

6. Exposure to odors and fragrances

You may be exposed to many smells in the workplace, such as cleaning products, perfumes, foods, printer ink, and so on. Even very little exposure to such strong odors can act as headache and migraine triggers, especially if your workplace is not well ventilated.

The Fix - If there is a strong smell in your workplace, open the windows and doors to let fresh air circulate inside. Use fragrance-free room fresheners to neutralize unwanted odors without leaving behind any strong and toxic smells.

7. Bad posture

If you sit most of the time, you should maintain proper posture, as bad posture can be the cause of your headache at work. Poor posture strains your muscles, causing tension in your neck and upper back area and giving rise to tension headaches.

The Fix - Always sit upright and use an ergonomic chair with excellent lumbar support. Also, avoid sitting or standing in one position for long periods. Take a break to stretch your muscles and get some fresh air.

8. Caffeine Withdrawal

If you regularly drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, you might have headaches on the day you don’t consume caffeine. The reason for this is because caffeine narrows the blood vessels in your brain, and when you don’t consume it, your blood vessels widen, causing a surge of blood to your brain. This resulting surge of blood can trigger a headache at work.

The Fix - If you are dependant on caffeine, try to reduce the amount you consume and replace caffeinated drinks with water or green tea. If you experience a severe headache due to caffeine withdrawal, many over-the-counter pain relievers can help to numb your pain.

9. Office lighting

Office lighting conditions may also be to blame for headaches and migraines. Fluorescent lights, for instance, flicker, which can cause headaches in many people. Also, for people prone to migraines, the flickering of such lights can trigger and worsen their migraine attacks. Moreover, fluorescent lighting can cause eyestrain, which can further cause headaches.

The Fix - If you can, avoid working under direct bright lights in your workplace. If the former is not possible, reposition yourself in a way to reduce the glare of the lights. You can also use a small desktop lamp when working on your computer or files.

Final Words

Headaches can seriously affect your productivity at work and the quality of your life. Try to identify and determine the cause of your headaches and take necessary action accordingly. Get sufficient sleep, take breaks, meditate, eat healthily, and drink plenty of water to make sure you are healthy.

Following the steps mentioned above may help prevent and cure your headaches at work. However, if you still experience headaches, seek medical advice immediately.

Besides working as a content marketer at Vantage Circle, Shah Alif Ahmed is also an internationally certified nutrition specialist, competitive bodybuilder and a musician. For any queries reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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