Muscle tenderness over the surface of the skull (pericranium) is widely reported to be prevalent not only in sufferers of tension-type headache and cervicogenic headache but also in migraine sufferers.1
Neck pain has a lifetime prevalence of 45-71% and increases for those with headaches.2,3 Neck pain leads to high rate of work disability and lower work productivity.4
Head and neck pain in the workplace
A study published in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine examined the effects of a ‘relaxation exercise program’ on muscular tenderness of the head and neck in a workplace community with headache and neck pain.3
A total of 384 workers volunteered and were divided equally into two groups: a study group and control group. The relaxation program involved relaxation exercises performed once or twice a day, and a postural exercise that was performed every 2-3 hours at work over 6 months.3
The results demonstrated that:
“The administration of a workplace relaxation exercise intervention significantly decreased pericranial/cervical muscle tenderness in the working community, in association with head-neck pain benefit.”3
Additionally, a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health reported that when exercise was performed intermittently during working hours there was a 40% reduction in the frequency per month of headaches, head pain, and neck pain.5
Movement perfomed intermittently during working hours can reduce head and neck dicomfort or pain, but also have a long-term effect. Along with an approximate 50% reduction in the use of medication for pain relief.5
This suggests that relaxation exercises and postural exercises during working hours can significantly decrease head and neck muscular tenderness.
Although, the study performed a brief break during work every 2-3 hours, a brief break every 45 minutes would be more beneficial for your spinal health.
Maintain your stance with your back, heels, hips, and nape of the neck against a wall, and perform these movements:6
- Roll your shoulders in controlled motion forward off the wall then back onto the wall; repeat 10x
- Stretch your head forward, then contract your head back against the wall; repeat 10x
- Interlock your fingers behind your neck to simultaneously stretch your head upwards, and backward against counter pressure from your hands. Relax forward after 2–3 s; repeat 10x
- At home, find a quiet room and sit comfortably in an armchair. Allow your mandible (lower jaw) drop down for ~10–15 min. Apply warm pads around your shoulders and cheeks; repeat 1-2x/day
These postural and relaxation exercises at the workplace involve postural stimulation and improved control of your head/neck muscles.
If you know that you will sit or stand at your desk for a long duration, make sure that you maintain a position that will require less muscular strain/stress:
- Maintain shoulders backward and pulled down away from your ears (do not hang your shoulders forward)
- Chin up (do not constantly look down)
- Chest out and proud! Allows for optimal lung expansion
- Most importantly…have CONSTANT MOVEMENT and some time to chill and relax!
1. Mongini F, Ciccone G, Deregibus A, Ferrero L, Mongini T. (2004). Muscle tenderness in different headache types and its relation to anxiety and depression. Pain;112(1-2):59-64.
2. Fejer R, Kyvik KO, Hartvigsen J. (2006). The prevalence of neck pain in the world population: a systematic critical review of the literature. Eur Spine J ;15(6):834-48.
3. Rota E, Evangelista A, Ceccarelli M, Ferrero L, Milani C, Ugolini A, Mongini F (2016). Efficacy of a workplace relaxation exercise program on muscle tenderness in a working community with headache and neck pain: a longitudinal, controlled study. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med; 1-23.
4. Borg K, Hensing G, Alexanderson K. (2001). Predictive factors for disability pension – an 11-year follow up of young persons on sick leave due to neck, shoulder, or back diagnoses. Scand J Public Health;29(2):104-12.
5. Mongini F, Ciccone G, Rota E, Ferrero L, Ugolini A, Evangelista A, et al. Effectiveness of an educational and physical programme in reducing headache, neck and shoulder pain: a workplace controlled trial. Cephalalgia 2008;28:541-52.
6. Rota E, Evangelista A, Ciccone G, Ferrero L, Ugolini A, Milani C, Ceccarelli M, Galassi C, Mongini F (2011). Effectiveness of an educational and physical program in reducing accompanying symptoms in subjects with head and neck pain: a workplace controlled trial. J Headache Pain; 12(3): 339–345.