Migraine and work: a combination that is far from winning. The onset of headache episodes, during or after working hours, is a widespread disorder, responsible for the discomfort and a deterioration in the quality of life.
The causes of the so-called “office headache ” are various: from posture to ambient lighting, to stress and nutrition. Let’s see them in detail.
Those who spend many hours at a desk in front of the computer, or sitting in the car, are prone to muscle tension in the upper back and neck, which in turn can promote the onset of headaches after work. Prolonged muscle contracture triggers a tension-type headache. In these cases, the pain usually begins in the nape area, at the cervical spine, and then extends to the face and forehead.
Persistent stress is among the causes of headaches, in general, and after work. Contrasts and problems in the office, unfavorable events, tension at the result, can determine a state of anxiety that results in a continuous and involuntary muscle contraction of the muscle bands of the neck and head, giving rise to a headache attack.
Both an empty stomach and an excessive meal, which requires slow digestion, are friends of the headache. During work, it can happen that you take short lunch breaks, which force you to eat quickly, and that the choice of food is guided by comfort rather than by the nutritional characteristics of the food, or even skipping the meal. All this, and in particularly prolonged fasting with the consequent decrease in sugar, can cause the onset of headaches.
Furthermore, some foods are believed to be responsible for the onset of migraine attacks. Among these, alcoholic beverages, sausages, fermented and aged cheeses, chocolate, diet sodas – due to their aspartame content – and smoked fish contain chemicals that can cause headaches.
On the other hand, coffee, which has a vaso-constricting effect and stimulates the nervous system, is helpful in case of mild headaches.
Taking an insufficient amount of fluids can lead the body to be in a state of progressive dehydration, especially if the weather is hot and sweating is intense. The loss of fluids and minerals can trigger a headache attack, which can be accompanied by nausea and fatigue.
In particularly sensitive people, perfumes and air fresheners, as well as cleaning detergents, can trigger headaches. These products, in fact, contain chemicals that activate the nerve cells in the nose which, in turn, stimulate the area of the brain associated with the headache.
Workplaces are often lit with neon lights from above, which can create glare. This is some individuals can cause a headache attack during or after work. To prevent them from occurring, it is best to keep the computer away from light sources that can generate reflections and glare on the screen and use table lamps, if possible, in place of general lighting. The ideal solution is to position the computer so that natural light comes from one side of the station. Otherwise, it may be useful to wear glasses with polarized lenses capable of attenuating reflections and dazzling effects even indoors.
A poor air exchange causes high levels of carbon dioxide to accumulate in the environment, especially if the room is inhabited by several people. This can cause headaches at work, accompanied by fatigue and dizziness, and affect work performance.
To overcome this problem, it is advisable to air the rooms several times a day, for a few minutes, in order to facilitate the exchange of air. To this end, keeping the windows ajar: during the winter this can facilitate the dispersion of heat but does not solve the problem of air exchange efficiently.
The headaches after work can also manifest in the days of rest. During the weekend, in fact, when the tension accumulated during the working days is released, the collapse of the stress hormones causes the immediate release of neurotransmitters that induce the contraction and subsequently the dilation of blood vessels, causing headaches.
But the most important aspect in this process is given by the change in the daily routine, in the rhythms of sleep, in the diet, perhaps because we have allowed ourselves a more abundant dinner than usual or the intake of alcohol.
Finally, the different consumption of coffee, and therefore of caffeine, compared to working days should not be overlooked: if you are used to taking large quantities of coffee during the day, it is possible that at the weekend the loss of this habit can cause a sort of caffeine withdrawal crisis, where the body reacts with a headache attack.
Beyond work-related headaches, there are other causes responsible for headache attacks.
Environmental factors, such as wind, humidity, and sudden changes in temperature, can trigger a headache attack. The same goes for air and noise pollution, and for the sudden shift to a high altitude while hiking in the mountains.
Hormonal fluctuations are also very significant, which cause headaches to affect women to a greater extent than men; periods such as menstruation and pre-menopause see an increase in the frequency of attacks.
Vitamin deficiencies are among the possible factors associated with the onset of headaches. Insufficient intake of vitamins, in particular B vitamins and vitamin D, as well as mineral salts such as magnesium, can favor the onset of headache attacks. The diet, therefore, plays an important role also in this aspect of well-being and should be rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, to be consumed regularly.
A headache attack can be countered by taking a specific drug, such as an anti-inflammatory, always on the advice of a doctor or pharmacist. But the prolonged and frequent use of these drugs can make the headache chronic and cause the disorder itself. Better then to act also by adopting a lifestyle that prevents headaches.
For this purpose it is important: