Many jobs can give you a headache, but working at a desk all day causes muscular tension that makes this figurative expression all too literal. Headaches, neck strain and shoulder tension arise from spending your days in the same posture. While ergonomic work stations can help, osteopathic treatment not only alleviates your current pain but helps prevent discomfort from recurring.

Headaches don’t start inside your head. Because your brain has no sensory nerve endings, it feels no pain. The tension headache that you perceive as centred behind your eyes or in a vise-like band at the nape of your neck has its roots in the muscles and tendons of your upper trunk. As you become absorbed in your work, you shift position less often, creating strain on the muscles holding you in place. When these tissues endure constant tension, they transfer that tension to other muscles, resulting in an aching neck or an uncomfortable tension headache. Osteopathic manual therapy help to ease the tension underlying the headache.

Imagine how much stress your neck and shoulders might feel if you were to wear a hat as heavy as a standard bowling ball. Every time you nodded or glanced down at your keyboard, your neck and shoulder muscles would have a real challenge pulling your head upright again. Your head is as heavy as that bowling ball, and although you may not notice its weight, your muscles do. Just holding your head upright takes constant effort from your muscles; when you tilt your head or nod, they work even harder. You may work an eight-hour day, but your neck and shoulder muscles work constantly. With osteopathic treatment, those tense, tired muscles get a break.

If muscles feel strain from a holding a neutral posture for too long, they feel greater strain when your posture is less than ideal. The heaviness of the human head inspired anatomists to nickname the first cervical vertebra the Atlas vertebra after the mythical man who held the world aloft. The soft tissues that attach to this crucial link between your head and your body must work harder against gravity to hold your head in a slightly bent position — the very position you adopt when you bow your head over your desk. Osteopathic treatment counteracts this tendency to bend to your work, relieving strain on tense muscles.

Your body is meant to do amazing things. Running, leaping and lifting feel natural, and while they can cause their own stresses, they can’t compare to the strain your shoulders feel at maintaining an unnatural position. Millions of years of evolution led the human race to walk upright, but the strain of sitting for hours at a desk is a novel task to which your body isn’t accustomed. That’s why occasional tension headaches, also called cervicogenic headaches, are so common that they afflict almost 90 percent of Australians each year. Even with good posture, the inclination to immobilise yourself as you become immersed in your work almost inevitably leads to shoulder and neck tension.

Osteopathy does more than correct the tension your upper body has already built from maintaining an unnatural position. It also enhances posture to minimise tension in the future, keeping your shoulders and neck from becoming so taut that they cause headaches. Greater freedom of movement helps prevent tension from building. If you ask your osteopathic specialist, you can also learn techniques for staving off headache pain between sessions.

Getting your head in your work doesn’t have to be literal. With osteopathic medicine, you’ll stay pain-free throughout your work day. Don’t let your job become a headache; set your tense muscles at ease and enjoy the time you put in at your desk.

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