Monday 20th – Friday 24th September is Headache Awareness Week.
It’s estimated that 7 in 10 people have at least one headache each year. – Healthline (2017).
What is a headache?
A headache is a very common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. Headaches can sometimes be mild, but in many cases, they can cause severe pain that makes it difficult to concentrate at work and perform other daily activities.
There are many types of headaches, including:
- Tension Headaches: Which occur most frequently in women over age 20. These headaches are often described as feeling like a tight band around the head. They are caused by a tightening of the muscles in the neck and scalp. Poor posture and stress are contributing factors.
- Cluster headaches: are non-throbbing headaches that cause excruciating, burning pain on one side of the head or behind the eye.
- Migraine headaches: Migraine headaches are severe headaches that can cause throbbing, pounding pain, usually on one side of the head.
- Rebound headaches: Rebound headaches are those that occur after a person stops taking medications they used regularly to treat headaches.
- Thunderclap headaches: Thunderclap headaches are abrupt, severe headaches that often come on very quickly. They will usually appear without warning and last up to five minutes.
- Diet: insufficient food, missing meals, delayed meals, eating too little and dehydration;
- Specific foods: including chocolate, citrus fruits, dairy products and pork products;
- Environmental triggers: bright lights, computer overuse, loud sounds, pollution, strong smells (eg. perfume, smoke-filled rooms);
- Hormonal (women): menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, menopause;
- Some medications;
- Physical and emotional: lack of sleep, stiff and painful muscles, eye or dental problems, blows to the head, arguments, excitement stress or muscle tension;
How to deal with a headache in the workplace:
Usually a headache does not require time off work. Headache sufferers can help themselves by practicing the following:
- Regular breaks especially if work repetitive or using computers
- Relaxation techniques to rid the body of tension and stress
- Making their work environment as comfortable as possible
- Varying position to avoid stiffness and tension
- Communicating and keeping work informed so a colleague could stand in the event of a headache
- Explaining their headaches to colleagues so they understand the necessity of time off from work
If you are experiencing persistent headaches or finding it hard to relieve your headaches, visit your GP to discuss.
Sources: Headache Australia (2021) and Healthline (2017).