Courtney Allan


How technology can aggravate your brain

How technology can aggravate your brain

It’s rare to come across someone who hasn’t experienced a headache in their lifetime. However, those who experience chronic headaches are often left unheard, despite it impacting at least 10 per cent of the population.

Dr Richard Sullivan, who is a Melbourne-based pain medicine specialist who regularly sees patients for headache conditions, said such patients often see him "when they suffer headaches for more days than they don't."

He spoke to The Canberra Times about how technology is impacting migraines. 

According to Sullivan, it’s debatable whether or not technology has a large impact on headaches.

"The issue of whether technology itself is responsible for increasing headache prevalence, in my opinion, remains a debatable point. At this stage we don't have any strong evidence that changes in IT directly increase chronic headaches. But from the anecdotal perspective from those working in clinical practice, we do seem to see more and more people coming in complaining of headaches and its impact on their health and wellbeing is a growing concern," said Dr Sullivan.

"There is a continuum from mild, moderate to the more severe headaches like migraine. Chronic headache can be caused by other medical problems. 

"Cervicogenic headache for example is caused by problems in the neck, and the aspects of a modern lifestyle where we are generally more sedentary, our recreational activities are focused around passive forms of entertainment and we have largely desk-based jobs with a greater reliance on the use of technology, we have seen an increase in people with neck and shoulder problems - and that might be an associated cause of the observed increase in chronic headaches."

However, there are lifestyle changes you can make in order to reduce your headaches. Dr Sullivan’s tips include:

  • ensure your workstation is set up ergonomically
  • take regular breaks from your work - change tasks, stretch, go for a walk
  • ensure adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise (ideally between 100-200 mins per week)
"These relatively simple things make the biggest difference in terms of the impact of pain in people's lives," said Dr Sullivan.

Chronic headaches are more commonplace, but due to a better understanding of the issue, they are taken more seriously within the medical world. 

"Now that we have a better understanding of the causes of chronic headache, and the treatment options have been refined and improved, a lot of sufferers have come forward wanting treatment for a problem that's been affecting them for a long time. So we've seen a potential increase in the presentation of chronic headaches that relate simply to the fact that we're talking more about it, and taking things more seriously," said Dr Sullivan.