Headaches & neck pain

Many of us spend long hours sitting in front of a computer screen, and even with a correctly adjusted standing desk may still suffer from headaches and neck pain, especially also around the shoulders and upper back.  We may also suffer from eye strain, tight shoulder muscles and even occasional (or regular) migraine headaches.  

Of course human beings are designed for exercise and free movement, and our forebears and ancestors probably in general had more active lives.  100 years ago most of us would have worked with our hands, have had manual jobs, with fewer clerical workers, and almost everyone would have walked everywhere!  What extraordinary changes have occurred within barely three or four generations -  far more rapidly than any evolutionary process is able to adapt to.

With increasing automation and software in the workplace, most people spend at least part (if not all) of their working lives looking at screens (as you are also doing reading this) and even manual workers often have documentation to record on tablets, and so perpetuate the 'head forward posture' that they may also have to engage in all day, driving or using machines and equipment.

And I shall make no comment regarding the younger generation who have a propensity for long hours of screen time, rather than engaging in active sport as perhaps their parents did.

Of course, Osteopathy and Acupuncture (and massage therapy) can all be very helpful to relieve the muscle tension in the neck and shoulder region that contributes to headaches. 

My own clinical experience as an practicing osteopath (and former personal trainer) is that any tightness in the back muscles and any restriction in the vertebral column can exacerbate headaches and migraines.  This is not surprising when one considers that the spinal cord (both central and autonomic nervous systems) are also part of the 'brain' in that they comprise the greater part of the nervous system.  In other words, the nervous system is not just the bit inside the cranium (brain) but the entire cord, and this is housed in the vertebral column.  We evolved originally (both evolutionary and embryologically) from simple vertebrates and the notocord developed the cranial bulge at the top end.  What I'm saying here is that headaches often come from the neck and back, and not just from inside the head.

Is it any surprise that long hours of screen time and computer work may predispose us to more frequent or more intense headaches and neck pain than one would wish for?

Of course, in addition to osteopathic (or acupuncture) treatment for an acute episode, the solution for many of us is to hopefully spend less time at screens, and get out as much as possible for as much exercise as possible.  All exercise is good, in that this is what the human animal evolved to do and has adapted for.

If you go to the gym regularly, one of my favourite (cardiovascular) machines is the diagonal (epiptical) or cross-trainer.  If you can not hunch your shoulders up to your ears, and maintain a relaxed and upright posture using this machine -  then it can be excellent in helping to loosen up the upper back and shoulder muscles.   But I sometimes despair when I notice people using this machine, with their shoulders up to their ears, in a driven head-forward posture, hunching forward - to supposedly achieve maximum cardiovascular effort!  What's the point of that (apart from cardiovascular fitness) when all the potential to use the arm levers to help loosen up and relax the upper spine is not being achieved.

The way to use this machine is to try to stay upright, and let your shoulder blades stay in position, back and down, and not creep up forwards and up -  as they might do at the office working at a screen all day long!

What many people call 'exercise' (team games, cardio-vascular fitness, etc) I would call 'recreation'.

Although all exercise is good -   exercise is also a 'science'.  There are many 'intelligent' forms of exercise -  and especially for the 'older' person, or aging athlete, perhaps you might want to visit my pages:

And if you suffer from headaches, migraines, eye-strain, and/or upper back pain -  and want something to help reverse a chronic 'head-forward posture' and hunching forward in your upper spine -  perhaps you might want to look at these video-clips:

Show video: Upper back & shoulders stretch to reverse desk 'hunching forward' posture

Show video: Tai Chi

You might also want to visit my Yoga and stretching page.

Here is another short video for techniques (heat application) movements and stretches for tight upper back and shoulder muscles:

Show video: How to get rid of muscle knots in your neck, traps, shoulders, and back


Disclaimer: whilst every effort has been made to demonstrate these movements (as shown in the video clips) in as safe a way as possible, no responsibility can be taken for any injury caused, or aggravated, by doing, or attempting to do, any of these movements or exercises. A major reason for presenting the video clips in this Chapter is to present as safe a series of exercises as possible. However, please use your own judgement, and only do, or attempt to do something that you feel OK with, without any pain or stiffness.
No responsibility can be taken for any injury you may sustain from attempting to perform any of these exercises.
Some links are from other sites, and caution and self-responsibility at all times, is also advised.

Ideally, always try to find a local class, with a competent and qualified teacher. This also ensures ‘safety’ as someone can keep an eye on you, to ensure you are doing everything properly, safely, and getting the best from your practice.




03 980 2425
021 043 6282

03 980 2425
021 043 6282

christchurch   osteopathy   acupuncture

mike inman   osteopath


Please try to book online.
Phone only when essential.
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03 980 2425

021 043 6282