Headaches – Can My Computer Cause Headaches?

Without a doubt the computer has revolutionised our lives. The trouble is that we now seem to spend hours in front of it staring at the screen – and because we are concentrating on what we are doing, we stop paying attention to the little signals our body is sending us.

Signals such as: – Aches in the neck, shoulders and back; dry eyes; difficulty in focusing on the screen properly and the beginnings of a headache.

Did you realise that when you sit at your computer for too long (over 15 minutes or so) that your neck muscles start to over-tighten? This leads to a lot of neck stress … and that could result in chronic headaches. These types of headache have the following signs:

o They tend to occur at the front of the head

o They are not present when you wake in the morning

o They are worse toward the end of the working day

o They are not accompanied by auras

o They tend not to occur at the weekend (unless you spend a lot of your spare time in front of the computer.

If you spend a lot of time in front of the computer then the muscles that control your neck start to tire. The main job of these muscles is to control the movement of the neck and to keep the head in a neutral position – in other words in a position where the stresses in the joints are at a minimum. But when we are working away at the computer our heads tend to be looking down a lot and this puts pressure on the joints in your neck. Then the muscles (at the back of the neck) start to overwork, eventually leading to a pulling on the back of your skull and … yes you guessed it, a headache!

Now of course it is not only sitting at the computer that can aggravate a headache. Amongst others are:

Reading with the head bent forward, sitting while slouching in a chair or on a sofa, sleeping with the head or neck in odd positions and any other activity that places the head in a position that is forward in relation to the body.

Also our eyes and brain react differently to the on-screen characters. Whereas our eyes can focus easily on printed material because the letters are black and have well defined edges, on the computer screen they struggle more. This is because letters on a screen have poorly defined edges and are brightest in the center whilst diminishing in intensity towards their edges. This makes it difficult for our eyes to remain focused thus resulting in fatigue and burning, red eyes.

So what can you do to help yourself?

1. I suggest you start by taking regular breaks. By regular I mean every 20-30 minutes.

2. You only have to stand up and look at something in the distance and this allows your eyes to re-focus and makes the eye muscles work.

3. While you are up, stretch out your neck, drop your shoulders back to their normal position, get a drink of water and just allow yourself 30 seconds or so away from that screen.

4. By the way, you might want to look at the position of the screen. It should be directly in front of you and your eyes should be level with the top edge of the monitor so that your head remains level at all times. Only your eyes should drop to look at the words on the screen.

5. Also, if you are able, make sure that you are not facing the window as this tends to make you squint at the screen.

6. Poor quality screens can cause you to stare at the screen more. If you can get yourself a flat-screen monitor your eyes will thank you.

7. When we are staring at a computer screen we do not blink as often as normal. Squeeze you eyes together for a few seconds to help to relax you poor eye muscles and ensures your eyeballs stay moist and free from irritation.

8. Make sure you have adequate lighting in your study / work area and eliminate computer screen glare.

9. You might want to think about consulting your optometrist for an an eye test.

This content is maintained by John Blachford. It may only be used with all links included.

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