Headaches and SITTING 

Prolonged sitting can often result in not only neck pain, but a headache by the end of the day. In this blog we are exploring why sitting can contribute to the development of headaches and what you can do to help.

What type of headaches are we taking about?

There are a myriad of signs and symptoms that headache sufferers experience. In this blog we are referring to this type of headache:

  • Pain experienced around the base of the skull and upper neck
  • Temporal headaches
  • Headaches that follow on from neck pain, this can include migraine type headaches

2 types of postural headaches:

The following two causes of headaches are what we most commonly see in our office. Many people that suffer, often refer to these headaches as ‘normal’. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’  headache and what they are referring this expected consequence, after sitting for hours on end. Read on to find out if your headaches and sitting are possibly linked.

1. Suboccipital headaches

When sitting for prolonged periods of time, then a person’s posture will tend to change. What is commonly observed is the following:

  • Forward head posture, where the head is sitting in front of the shoulders
  • Rounding of the shoulders
  • Hunched shoulders
  • Extension of the skull on the neck (chin jutting out)

This posture leads to a cascade of events, including:

  • Tension building up in the muscles around the upper back, primarily the trapezius muscle and levator scapulae
  • Pulling of these muscles on the base of the skull
  • Locking of the joints at the top of the neck that meet the skull
  • Nerve and muscle irritation, referring pain into the back of the skull and head

2. Neck headaches (Cervicogenic)

We are designed to move throughout the day and when we sit for long periods of time – we are not moving enough. Muscles can tense up and cause jamming of joints, which both can result in referred pain to the neck and head, including the temporal areas.

Sitting in front of a computer can cause tension from:

  • Not getting up often enough
  • Sitting with poor posture, head forward, shoulders rounded, low back not supported
  • Poor desk ergonomics
  • Structural loss of normal neck forward curve (neck curve is reduced at all times, not just when sitting)

Tips to help yourself:

Try improving the following by taking on one or two of the suggestions at a time:

  • Get your desk set up ergonomic
  • Take regular breaks every 30-40 minutes
  • Do some shoulder rolls and pectoral stretches mid morning and mid afternoon
  • Have someone take a photo of you sitting so you can assess your own posture. Are you sitting with ideal posture, can you improve anything?

What happens if none of these suggestions help?

If you have improved your posture and time spent in front of computers and other electronic devices, including phones and laptops then the problem may be a neck curve issue.

A loss of curve causes increase strain on neck joints and muscles and can result in neck pain and headaches.

What can be done to help neck curve issues: Seek help from a chiropractor who is trained in CBP, Chiropractic BioPhysics if your neck curve is not ideal. They have the knowledge of how to assess and help an altered neck curve.


In 2021, research was done on looking at how improving the neck curve would impact headaches that stem from the neck. What we refer to as cervicogenic headaches (CGH). The 2 year randomised control study looked at the results at 10 weeks, but also followed up after 1 and 2 years.

Results: Two groups with chronic headaches were given rehabilitation. One group had the cervical Dennerroll, an orthopaedic curve corrective appliance added. The results were similar between the groups after 10 weeks, however “At 1-year and 2-year follow-up, the addition of the denneroll orthotic device revealed positive influence on CGH management outcomes.” (1)

If you are after a CBP practitioner then go to the official CBP website https://idealspine.com/

When is a headache serious/medical emergency?

There are times when headaches could be a sign of something sinister. Chiropractors are trained to understand this. See medical attention if your headache:

  • Sudden onset and unusual in nature, such as severe stabbing or shooting pains
  • Associated with other neurological symptoms and signs, such as slurred speech, muscle weakness on one side of body
  • Follows on from a recent medical diagnosis, such as diabetes, cancer

(1) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844021005727


Lisa Smycz, chiropractor 

If you would like to know more about what ideal posture looks like, then CLICK HERE.  

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