By Katerine Dixon
Cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache that is also common known as neck headaches. Most of the time, the headache is the aftermath of an injury to the neck or upper back area and can be sometimes difficult to treat. Since this headache is rare, it is sometimes being diagnosed incorrectly as other type of headaches such as migraines or tension related ones.
As cervicogenic headaches can be difficult to treat, the best way to get rid of them is to prevent them from happening in the first place.
“Prevention is one of the few known ways to reduce demand for health and aged care services” – Julie Bishop
Most prevention strategies may require certain changes to an individual’s everyday lifestyle or habits.
1. Dropping Excess Baggage
You may not be aware that the heavy backpack, purse or briefcase that you carry to work everyday may be an additional 15 or 20 extra pounds. This can be causing severe strain in your neck or back without you knowing. This is a lifestyle problem that can easily be part of the reasons for your chronic cervicogenic headache and efforts should be put in to get it fixed.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- If your cell phone is very heavy, consider replacing it with a newer and lighter model.
- If you like to wear jewelry, avoid wearing a heavy one around your neck.
- Weigh your briefcase or purse occasionally to have an idea of what you are carrying around everyday.
- Mothers should avoid using sling devices that go around the neck; these devices tend to cause neck pain after long use.
- Get rid of the coins and extra changes in your purse of briefcase. Instead of keeping coins, try changing them to dollar notes instead.
- Try repacking your purse or briefcase weekly; throw away all unnecessary items that could be adding all the unnecessary pounds.
2. Avoid Neck Craning
Holding long phone conversations with cell phones cradled between the neck and head is a bad habit that could lead to neck pain and headaches. Holding this position for a long time will make the neck and shoulder feel tensed. This problem can worsen if you are also suffering from other medical conditions such as arthritis or degenerative disk disease.
If your job requires you to be on the phone for long hours, then consider investing in a telephone headset. Whenever possible, try using emails or instant messengers instead of long phone calls; for business, these can be used as official written records as well.
When driving, use a wireless headset for your cell phone instead of neck craning.
3. Long Computer Usage
In today’s digital age, it is almost unavoidable for people to work in front of a computer. If you are constantly working at a computer for long hours, then you might be at risk of developing neck pain and headaches.
Below are some tips for a better computer usage experience.
- Use a document holder if you need to constantly refer to paper documents while working in front of a computer; position the holder at the same level as your monitor screen.
- Take at least 1 break every hour from working at the computer; if possible, do some light shoulder or neck exercises to reduce the tension.
- Check your sitting posture and position while working. If required, adjust the monitor, keyword or mouse for optimal posture; avoid positioning your mouse or keyword in a way that you have to lift your shoulders or elbows to use them.
4. Weight Lifting Posture
Improper way or posture used when lifting or carrying heavy things can lead to undesirable injuries to the back or neck. If possible, try to avoid lifting heavy things all the way up to your shoulders.
Try the following the next time when you need to carry heavy things:
- Always stand close to the item before attempting to lift it.
- Squat down to lift the item instead of leaning forward and over.
- While carrying the item, keep it close to your body; this will make it easier to carry.
5. Mothers with Babies or Small Children
Most mothers with young children have the potential risks of developing neck pain and headaches since they are constantly lifting and carrying them around. This may pose to be a major neck strain that could eventually cause cervicogenic related headaches.
Here are some prevention tips that mothers can follow:
- Place the diaper bag on rolling bags or carts instead of carrying the heavy diaper bag on the shoulder or neck.
- If you need to carry the bag on your body, then consider using separate bags instead of just one; this will help to distribute the weight.
- If possible, use a stroller or infant seat rather than carrying your baby everything with your hands.
- Avoid sling-type infant carriers that hang around the neck; use strollers or carry in your arms when needed and rotate this with your spouse.
6. Good Office Chair
Having an ergonomically friendly office chair is important since you will be sitting on it for most time during work. An uncomfortable chair will lead to bad sitting postures which can lead to neck pain which then leads to headaches.
Check if your office chair has the following:
- Adjustable in height
- With caster wheels, preferably 5-point casters for better stability
7. Driving Posture
Always check your sitting position in a vehicle to see if you are sitting in an ergonomically correct way. This is important if you need to commute long hours to work or if you are a long haul driver in occupation.
Some points to check are:
- Comfortable positions with hands on steering wheel; slight bend at both elbows.
- Back fully rested against the vehicle’s chair.
- Knees resting slightly above the hips level.
8. Sleeping Posture
It is generally not recommended to sleep in a soft bed with big soft pillows as they are not good for the back and spin. Although they can be very comfortable, they may lead to neck aches or back pain after long term use.
The spine is also not fully rested on a soft bed; try going for firmer bed and pillows instead. Firm pillows have better neck support and reduce the stress on the neck. Bad sleeping postures like sleeping on the stomach should also be avoided. Always sleep on your back or side. Sleeping with a pillow placed under your knees is also very helpful in taking the stress of the entire spine.