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A Surprising Cause of Headaches

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man with headache

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A new study blames improper neck alignment during computer use.

You might be reading super healthy content—blogs on mindfulness, guides to yoga and vegetarian recipes come to mind—and of course, Spirituality & Health.com. But if you are craning your neck forward while you are reading your computer, you may be actually triggering a host of health woes, including headaches and fatigue.

In astudy published in the journal Biofeedback, researchers at San Francisco State University tested the effects of jutting one’s head forward to read a screen more closely. They found that the trapezius muscle tension increases when the neck is pushed forward, or as we lay people would say, “scrunched.” Compressing the neck this way can cause symptoms like feeling tired, having headaches, and not being able to concentrate, and over time, can injure vertebrae, say the researchers. San Francisco State University professor of holistic health Erik Peper explains why in the study. “When your posture is tall and erect, the muscles of your back can easily support the weight of your head and neck — as much as 12 pounds,” he writes. “But when your head juts forward at a 45-degree angle, your neck acts like a fulcrum, like a long lever lifting a heavy object. Now the muscle weight of your head and neck is the equivalent of about 45 pounds. It is not surprising people get stiff necks and shoulder and back pain.”

If you suffer from frequent headaches, be sure your neck is in alignment to see if this might be the cause. Peper suggests the following:

  • Purposefully scrunch your neck forward so that you can feel what the wrong position is. This builds body awareness.
  • The proper position is to align your head on top of your neck. Pretend a thread is pulling your head toward the ceiling.
  • Avoid having to strain to read in the first place by upping the font on the screen, wearing prescription or computer glasses, and place the screen at eye level.

Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 


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