In the last week I’ve seen several posts on both Gizmodo and the BBC referring to headaches and pain you get from using your smartphone and sitting incorrectly. It was like a lightbulb went off. I’ve experienced a permanent low grade headache with violently painful stabbing pains for coming on four years and this fit me to a tee. I’ve spent many hours seeing doctors and tried multiple drugs and different treatments. None of it has made much difference. I’ve had multiple theorised and official diagnosis but none have fit me as well as what the BBC and Gizmodo describe.
The very simple version is that when we use our phones we usually hold them too low to be ergonomic. We crane our neck down to look at them and it puts pressure on the back of the neck which then causes pain. This can develop into a condition called occipital neuralgia where the occipital nerve gets pinched by the muscles in the neck and this causes pain on one or both sides of the head, behind the eye or if you move your neck. I wrote that it causes pain but that’s an extreme understatement. It causes agony. The best description for me I’ve been able to come up with is that it feels like someone has taken an icepick and shoved it in through my temple. It is bad enough that I still find myself checking the side of my head to see what has been stuck in there and half way expect to find the icepick sticking out.
So how can I treat it? Unfortunately for me there’s no magic bullet. Posture correction is the most important part of it – hold my phone directly in my eyeline, and sit better at the desk and take more breaks. Massage and osteopathy are also supposed to be helpful as are taking NSAIDs, better known as anti-inflamitories or ibuprofen. In extreme cases injections into the next of muscle relaxants, nerve blockers and anti convulsants.
Am I sure this is what I have? No not yet but it fits my symptoms perfectly and started about the time I switched to a job where I spent a lot more time at my desk and when I started using a smartphone a lot more. I’m trying to hold my smartphone better and paying much more attention to my posture but its more difficult than I thought it would be.