How do you prevent headaches after work?
September 14, 2016 3:48 PM   Subscribe

My job involves a lot of public speaking, meetings, and collaboration with colleagues, and I often find that after work I have a headache. I say after work because I either do not have the pain while working or do not notice it while working. I am guessing that these must be cause by tension or stress, but how should I go about preventing them? Any suggestions would be most appreciated.
posted by mortaddams to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
First things first - lots of headaches are caused by dehydration and/or hunger. Make sure you are drinking lots of water throughout your day and eating sufficient calories. It can be easy to forget, especially the water part, when you are really busy.

Beyond that, I do get these headaches too on especially busy days where I do a lot of talking and listening, and it's definitely physically related to tension. My body is in a tense posture when I am actively listening. I also have a bit of sensory issues and get overstimulated by loud or frequent noises. I have started a habit of taking a warm bath every night to relax those tensed muscles, and also try to keep noises and conversation to a minimum in the evening as much as feasible.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:53 PM on September 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

Are you staying hydrated? I find that I get headaches especially when I haven't drank enough water during the day.
posted by hydra77 at 3:53 PM on September 14, 2016

Any chance you're raising your eyebrows a lot when you talk? Many people do it for emphasis- I've seen speakers who hold their brows up so their forehead is tight and wrinkled for hours. It will give you a headache for sure. Learning not to do it takes practice (videotape yourself to see if you are) but once you can speak with a relaxed face, your head will feel less tense and your talks will feel more grounded.

Also, make sure to drink lots of water- speaking dehydrates you and dehydration causes headaches. Try to graze on healthy high-protein low sugar snacks, too- I find that extroverted concentration like public speaking or meetings really burns through blood sugar and can cause sugar crashes (which often manifest as headaches).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:55 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nth-ing staying hydrated. Other things to consider are your posture during the workday. Do you clench your teeth? Do you lean over on one side or the other when sitting in a chair? Things like that could cause a headache when you stop doing them. (for me it's the teeth clenching -- I do that when I'm stressed, and at the end of the day when I stop doing it, I get a massive headache).
posted by OrangeDisk at 3:56 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

What's your posture like in these meetings and engagements? Are you holding tension in your shoulder or neck from stress or from speaking loudly? Clenching your jaw? Is your sitting posture with a straight back, or are you jutting your head forward or leaning to the side?

Pay attention over the next couple days and see. Then consciously begin to correct things - take a moment to roll your shoulders and neck to loosen them, sit and stand with better posture, get better arch supports (you'd be amazed at how much posture can lead to tension in the body elsewhere).
posted by ananci at 3:57 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think that I am staying hydrated, so I am guessing that it is something else.

I do grind my teeth at night, so I might be holding tension in my jaw. But I think I have that under control when awake.

The question about raising eyebrows is a good one. I have no idea if I do that.

My posture is not perfect. I tend to slouch and lean. I do have an ergonomic chair for my office as well as a kneeling chair. Are there any other ideas that you have for improving posture? Do the posture-fixing undergarments for men that you see in catalogs sometimes work??
posted by mortaddams at 4:05 PM on September 14, 2016

I also get headaches from a lack of blood sugar. Have you tried coconut water before? It has electrolytes and a little bit of sugar, so it hydrates you and keeps blood sugar happier.
posted by jillithd at 4:19 PM on September 14, 2016

Seriously nthing the water -- if your urine isn't clear, you're not actually drinking enough.
posted by palomar at 4:22 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you had your blood pressure checked recently? When I went on my high blood pressure meds, my daily headaches went away. Work stress is a big contributor to your blood pressure going up.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:55 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mulled wine.
posted by vrakatar at 4:58 PM on September 14, 2016

Just a heads-up, the grinding teeth at night and the headaches after work - if that were me, it would be stress-related.
posted by aniola at 5:53 PM on September 14, 2016


- incorporating lots more physical activity outside in the fresh air
- meditation
- baths with epsom salts (a multivitamin cured most of my headaches, and I am pretty sure it was electrolytes, including magnesium, that fixed it. There's even a name brand of magnesium powder called "CALM")
- chamomile tea and kale chips will actually help me with headaches sometimes if I catch them at the very beginning.
posted by aniola at 5:57 PM on September 14, 2016

When was the last time you had your eyes checked? I have had strong corrective lenses since childhood, and it took a long time and a lot of headaches for me to find out that I needed reading glasses for both print and the computer screen on top of that.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:13 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

As far as improving posture, I started taking pilates - the kind where you use machines, not just mat poses. It really helped me to understand where I held tension, where my muscles were weak as a consequence of years of poor posture, and gave me concrete exercises to help strengthen those muscles. It also made me more aware of my body in general, and now correct posture has (almost) become a habit. It's done wonders for my tension level to use my bones and muscles the way they were intended rather than slouching through my day trying to cope with pain.

I also get the fancy, expensive arch supports they sell at REI. $20, but SO worth it.

I think posture improving undergarments are not a great idea - they are really uncomfortable, and will cause you to use your muscles in incorrect ways. Learn to fix your posture through strengthening and conscious correction and you'll have far better, more lasting results.
posted by ananci at 7:46 PM on September 14, 2016

Anecdotal, but something I'll throw in is that good posture doesn't necessarily mean sitting up straight. My office has an ergonomics person come by regularly and I had a full assessment done last year. I told her "I know I'm supposed to sit up straight at my desk with my feet firmly on the ground, but I just feel way more comfortable when I'm leaning back pretty far in my chair in a slouchy position and my legs extended straight out under my desk." She said that is 100% okay for me as long as I am keeping my desk at the right height (in this case, much lower than usual) to ensure my forearms are completely horizontal, and resting my forearms on the desk when I type. My lower back problems have completely gone away since switching to this rather than trying to do what I thought was the "correct" way to sit at a desk.

So if you're doing a lot of sitting you don't necessarily need to sit with a rigid upright back if that's not comfortable for you - if anything that will make your headaches worse by creating more body tension.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:23 PM on September 14, 2016

I'm probably the only one, but just in case: Speakerphones. More than a couple of minutes in a conversation where any party is using a speakerphone, and I'll have a low-grade headache for the next several hours, guaranteed.

I'm not sure what the specific trigger is. Maybe some harmonics in the sound. Maybe the effort of straining to hear. Maybe just psychosomatic. But it's reproducible in an ABX test, and bloody annoying.

(And yes, your favorite brand of expensive über-boardroom phone does it to me, too. Pick up the handset, or send me an email.)
posted by sourcequench at 9:54 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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