Learn about the link between posture and headache and how to improve your posture at work to reduce pain.
With all the time we spend at work—whether at a desk, in front of a computer or on our feet—our posture on the job makes a big impact on our bodies. Not maintaining straight posture strains the muscles of the upper back, shoulders and neck, which can contribute to neck pain and headaches.
Improving your posture is one way to reduce head pain and migraine attacks. Where do you start?
For those who work in an office environment, leaning over a computer or sitting with poor posture can cause head pain and headache. This could be due to an unsupportive chair, but not everyone is comfortable asking for a new chair. With a few small changes, people in the white-collar workplace can improve their posture—without requesting a new desk or chair.
- Consider your body alignment and weight distribution. Hunching can cause “forward head posture.” To combat this, align your head so your ears are over your shoulders and your chin is level to the ground. Release your jaw, drop your shoulders back and down, and sit tall with your weight evenly distributed over your hips. When seated, your feet should rest on the floor with your knees slightly below hip level.
- Position your computer monitor so the top third is at eye level. Raising the monitor on a stack of books or a stand allows you to have a direct line of vision. This position reduces neck strain and slouching.
- An inexpensive lumbar back support can help prevent lower back pain and gently support your overall posture. A firm pillow or rolled-up towel can also do the trick.
- If your feet are not comfortably resting on the floor, add some type of footrest under your desk. This positions your hips and back to support your whole body up to your neck and head.
- Take regular breaks to stretch and walk around your space. A break helps clear your mind, gives your eyes a break and improves Stretching allows your muscles to move and not remain in one position for too long.
Sitting in front of a computer affects posture, but beyond that, extensive screen time and the light from those screens can also trigger or worsen headache and migraine. Screen night setting, regular breaks and working offline will decrease that time. If you’re unable to move away from screen time, be sure to maintain good posture and use blue-light filtering glasses to help reduce exposure to the blue light that comes from screens.
If you decide to talk to your employer and request migraine accommodations, let them know that office equipment like standing desks and ergonomic chairs help promote good posture, reducing head pain. Inform them of standing desk benefits for those with migraine, headache or other conditions. If these solutions don’t work, talk to a manager or HR about the GPAC program. Establishing an education program will create greater awareness and offer more ways to make your workplace migraine-friendly.
Manual Labor and Active Jobs
Environments where workers are on their feet have unique triggers for headache and migraine. If you don’t work in an office, that doesn’t mean your posture and migraine aren’t affected by your workplace. People who work in factories, warehouses, grocery stores, construction, hotels and other industries can also have challenges maintaining good posture.
Leaning over a machine or packing boxes for hours can cause poor posture. This may develop into neck and shoulder pain which can lead to headache. Manual labor, such as lifting, moving and carrying heavy or bulky items with poor posture can cause a person to “throw out their back” or strain muscles. Even with optimal posture, some repetitive movements can tense the neck muscles over time.
You can take steps to promote good posture and reduce the strain on your body that can lead to headache and migraine.
- Follow workplace best practices. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established standards for working conditions to protect workers’ health and safety. This means you are entitled to a safe working environment with safe tools and equipment. OSHA also keeps records of work-related illnesses and injuries—if you think your employer isn’t following these standards, you can make a case to record your injury with OSHA.
- Be aware of your posture as you stand and move. Maintain a balanced, neutral position. Bend at the knees, rather than lean over, to lift and move items. This will help prevent back, shoulder, and neck strain.
- An anti-fatigue mat can help relieve pressure or discomfort if you stand for long periods.
- Take frequent breaks to stretch and rest, as you are able. Your body is working hard, especially if you’re making repetitive movements. Short breaks will give your muscles time to recover and work their best.
If you don’t believe you have enough workplace accommodations for your migraine, talk to your union representative. If you don’t have a union representative, speak with your supervisor. You can always contact GPAC to learn more about bringing in a workplace migraine education program.
Correcting your posture is a great first step that may have a big impact on how you feel and perform at work. Small changes to your workspace and short stretch breaks help you maintain good posture throughout your workday. Good posture allows you to do your job well and not get injured or trigger a migraine that would take you away from work.