The Link Between Screen Time and Headaches

We’ve seen the decline of so many normal activities since the COVID-19 pandemic hit: eating out, having parties, celebrating weddings, even basic physical human contact. But one thing has increased dramatically — screen time. 

Between computers, tablets, smartphones, and television, studies show that the amount of time people spend looking at digital screens has increased as much as 100% in some populations. In a society where electronic devices dominate so much of our lives, this begs the question: What are the consequences? 

Dinash Yanamadula, MD, at Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, considers all aspects of life that may contribute to a patient’s health, and increased screen time is often a factor, especially when it comes to headaches. Here’s the connection.

How staring at a screen can give you headaches

Many things can cause headaches. Among other factors, they can be caused by tension, illness, hormones, caffeine, medications, and allergies. Eye strain can also make your head ache, which is what can happen if you spend hours on end staring at a computer or phone screen.

One of the main causes of eye strain is the lack of blinking. When you focus on a task, read and compose emails, text, or play video games, you may blink less. This can cause your eyes to become dry, irritated, and fatigued. Other factors that can affect your eyes include screen glare, lack of contrast, and a screen that’s too close or too far away.

Furthermore, your eyes rely on ocular muscles to focus, so when you stare at a smartphone or a computer screen, you call upon these muscles for extended periods of time. Like all muscles, they can eventually become fatigued. This can lead to headaches and other symptoms, such as the following:

If you have these symptoms, eye strain may be to blame.

How to tell if you have an eye strain headache

Each type of headache has unique symptoms. The telltale signs of an eye strain headache include:

If you have other symptoms as well, such as confusion, slurred speech, fever, severe pain, a stiff neck, numbness, or vomiting, seek medical attention right away, as these may be signs of a serious medical condition.

How to deal with eye strain headaches

A little time away from your screens can do wonders and is often all that’s needed to eliminate headache pain. If you need a little extra help, over-the-counter pain relievers — such as ibuprofen — can help as well. You should also talk to your optometrist about your eye strain headaches, as there is a chance you might need prescription glasses or readers. 

But the best thing you can do is use your screen time responsibly. Here are some tips to help you live in the digital age and still keep your eyes healthy:

Following these simple steps should significantly reduce your eye strain and the headaches that can go with it. 

However, if your headaches persist or you have accompanying low back pain or neck pain as well, come see Dr. Yanamadula for a thorough evaluation. He can determine the source of your pain and help you find the right treatment to resolve or mitigate the underlying causes. 

To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Princeton Pain & Spine Institute today.

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