Preventing headaches

There's no miracle answer to preventing headaches but simple strategies can make them much less likely to occur. The main things to tackle are:
  • Learn to recognise your headaches and what triggers them, so that you can avoid the triggers
  • Complete a 'headache diary' to try to link events, foods or other factors to symptoms
  • Find out more about migraines and work especially if your headaches are severe or in association with other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting
  • Be sure you are fit and prepared for work each day, well rested and having eaten a good breakfast
  • Get your eyes tested - headaches may be a sign of eye problems or needing a new prescription for your glasses
  • Make your work environment as comfortable, and stress free, as possible
  • Find ways to keep on top of the demands and stresses of the job - learn negotiating skills and stress management techniques
  • Take swift and effective action when a headache starts (see below): if you have regular headaches make sure that you keep with you a supply of the medication that usually helps
Making your work environment comfortable

It's worth checking noise levels and temperature, and discussing problems with your employer. Make sure your workstation is ergonomically designed and arranged to suit you and your needs. More information on this at: www.spine-health.com.

You should check the height of your desk and chair so you are at eye level with VDU or computer screen. Also make sure there are adequate shelves or cupboards to reduce clutter on your desk ('desk-top' stress).

You should also make sure the font, contrast, brightness and glare on your screen are controlled, there is no flickering and that your keyboard is comfortable. Ask for a mobile telephone headset if you need to use the phone for several hours a day.

If there are strong chemicals in the environment (from industrial solvents to simply a colleague's strong perfume) make sure people are aware that it may be causing you problems, that levels are monitored and there is good ventilation.

You can alsominimise your risk of headaches by avoiding sitting in one position for too long, so vary your posture frequently and take regular breaks to de-stress - learn simple techniques such as meditation or massage. Also spend some time organising your projects and paperwork, rather than just struggling to carry them out, and learn skills that will help you improve relationships at work.

When you have a headache at work
  • Take a short break, get out into the fresh air if possible, and sit quietly for 15 minutes
  • Take simple pain killers (paracetamol, ibuprofen etc) as soon as possible
  • Try massaging your temples, or other de-stressing activities
  • Use the progressive muscle relaxation technique to defuse the headache - see under 'help relieve headaches with this simple exercise
  • Make sure you're well hydrated - drink 1-2 cups of water. If hungry eat something which provides a ready source of energy
  • Change what you are doing to something that doesn't involve a computer screen or VDU
  • If these don't work, tell your boss and then put your head down somewhere quiet, with a cool pack over your eyes, and try to get a short nap