Headaches, TMJ and neck pain are never fun to have — especially at work. One thing that has been linked to this type of pain in the workspace is poor ergonomics. In a study conducted in 2010, a team of researchers found that screen-based activities were consistently associated with recurrent headaches in adolescents. They also suggest that the type of screen time (e.g. computer, TV, smartphone, tablet) is not as much a factor as is the duration and ergonomic aspects of the activity.
If you suspect that ergonomics are a factor for your pain at work, here’s a list of things to check for at your desk.
1. Center Up
Is your screen to the left or right of you? If so, you need change the position of yourself or the screen so that you are directly in front of it. That way you don’t have to use your neck muscles on a continuous basis keep your head turned to the screen. Neck pain and fatigue has been linked to headaches.
2. Screen Height
Is your screen too high or too low? If so, you are placing extra strain on your neck muscles as they try to hold your head up or down for extended periods. Change the height of your screen so that the top of your screen is level with your eyes. You can accomplish this by raising or lowering your height-adjustable monitor, using a height adjustable monitor stand or a few books to raise your monitor, using an external keyboard with your laptop so that you can raise the screen of your laptop, or using a stand for your phone or tablet.
3. Screen Distance
It depends on the person, but a general rule of thumb for computer use is having the screen an arms’ length away from you. Of course this is going to depend on your eyes and if you wear glasses or not. What you want to do is not have the screen so close that you strain your eyes, but not have it too far away so that you’re leaning in to see the screen. Leaning in towards your screen puts extra pressure on your neck and in turn can cause headaches.
4. Check Your Posture
Proper posture is always important so make sure you are sitting up straight or slightly reclined, back resting on the backrest of your chair, and elbows at 90 degrees of flexion when you are using your keyboard. If your keyboard is too high, you will activate one of the neck muscles, the trapezius. Continuous trapezius activation is associated with neck and upper shoulder pain and in turn headaches.
5. How Often Are Your Breaks?
It’s important to take standing breaks and breaks away from the screen. Stand or walk for 1-2 minutes every hour to alleviate body cramping. Look to a far distance every 30 minutes to give your eyes a break from focusing on the same spot for long periods of time.
There should not be too much light when using a screen. Overhead lights and sun from the windows can cause glare which can cause eye discomfort which can cause headaches. It’s also important not to work in a dark room with a screen. The contrast between the dark room and light screen is tough on your eyes. Also having too much or too little light emitting from your computer can be a problem. Play with the brightness settings on your monitor to increase or decrease light from your screen.
7. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
Many of us spend a good deal of our time staring at screens from laptops, computers, smartphones, gaming systems and television. This can put a lot of strain on our eyes and cause eye fatigue. When using your screens give your eyes a break.
Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.
About Pasadena Pain Management
Pasadena Pain Management offers pain management treatment for TMJ/TMD, migraine, headaches and neck pain in Pasadena, CA. Our office is conveniently located with extended hours to meet your needs. At Pasadena Pain Management, we offer the exclusive TruDenta treatment therapy — a highly specialized form of care that involves cutting-edge dental technology, without needles or injections. Patient satisfaction is our top priority and we strive to provide the exceptional, affordable pain management care and personal touch that lead to lasting relationships. A smiling patient is our greatest reward and we look forward to keeping our patients happy and pain free.