Fight Back Against Tension Headaches

COVID-19 has forced many of us into self-quarantine and begin working from home in order to avoid getting sick. While working from home, you may feel more stressed than usual. You’re likely working and teaching your children in your living space. You may be worried about your job or economic pressures. Or dealing with increased childcare and homeschooling. You may even feel more stress from a lack of social interaction.

This is a challenging time. These new stressors and changes in our lifestyles can lead to tension headaches. Tension headaches can be triggered by our new stressors and unusual lifestyles such as stress and anxiety, prolonged computer use, and poor workstation poster. A chiropractic adjustment can help to reduce the tension in your shoulders and neck that may be causing the problem.

However, if you are like many are being as cautious as possible, here are a few ways to manage your headaches from home. One of the largest lifestyle changes we are seeing is the increase in screen time many professionals need to maintain their careers. We understand it is important, but don’t forget to take a break not only for your eyes but for your mind and body too! During your break from your screen do some light stretching to help easy any neck or back pain you may be experiencing.

Inspect your workstation, does it encourage proper poster? Above are some photos of Dr. Donkin demonstrating poor and proper posture at a standing workstation. The final tip is to make sure you take time to be outside and getting fresh air. Whether that is taking a quick 15-minute walk on your lunch break or working from your deck/patio, fresh air can help reduce stress! If you are still struggling with neck and back pain and you feel comfortable with visiting our office, we want to assure you we are here to help! We are taking all of the necessary precautions to keep our patients and our team safe. 

Making Masks Work For Youwatch Dr. Donkin
discuss adapting to our “normal now” routine.

Make Your Home Workstation Work

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many people are finding themselves working from home–with very little notice to prepare. Some without a dedicated home office are using coffee tables, recliners, kitchen tables and counters, and any number of other surfaces and locations as makeshift workspaces. All can potentially lead to aches and pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).  

Scott Donkin, DC, DACBOH, and Scott Bautch, DC, DACBOH, CCSP, CCST, of the ACA Council on Occupational Health, are accustomed to making recommendations for their patient’s traditional workspaces, but they also understand that in times of unexpected change you must find ways to adapt quickly. Many of the workers forced to go remote are working on laptops, according to the doctors. Here are their top three suggestions for making a home workstation work with your laptop:

Pick a Spot

If you do not have a regular desk at home, working at a kitchen table is generally much better than sitting on a couch with your laptop on your lap.

Adjust Your Seat 

For those without an ergonomic chair, use a seat wedge to help maintain better posture. Sitting on the wedge makes you tilt your thighs forward and down, which causes you to arch your back and sit up straighter. You can purchase seat wedges online, or you can make your own by folding a bed pillow in half to form a wedge.

Adjust Your Monitor

The kitchen table is often too low for the laptop screen, so place large coffee table books or reams of copy paper underneath to raise the laptop in a stable way so that you do not have to raise your hands uncomfortably up, or bend your head uncomfortably down. Consider getting a wireless keyboard, which enables you to raise the laptop screen higher—to eye level—and place the keyboard on the table top, which will encourage better posture.

Create a DIY Sit/Stand Station

The popularity of standing desks has increased significantly over the past several years. You can create your own standing desk at home by simply working at a raised kitchen counter, for example, but be sure that the height of the counter does not cause you to bend your elbows too much. You should be able to comfortably reach your keyboard with elbows bent at about a 90-degree angle. While you’re at it, consider using a wireless keyboard and boosting the height of your laptop screen to eye level with books, reams of paper, or a stand, which in turn will prevent neck strain caused by looking too far down at the screen (see photo).

As it turns out, every seated workstation, even a makeshift one, can be a sit/stand station, according to Drs. Donkin and Bautch. All you need to do is simply stand up every 20 minutes or so and take a break that includes some stretching and movement. Here is an example: 

  1. Stand up and move your legs up and down like you are walking in place.
  2. Look at an object that is more than 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.
  3. Gently shake your hands wrists and elbows for a few seconds while you are also gently rolling your shoulders up, back, and down.
  4. Take a slow, deep breath in to improve your posture and smile, then slowly exhale.
  5. Sit down, refreshed, in a good posture. You are ready to get back to work!

For more information on musculoskeletal health and injury prevention tips, visit the ACA’s consumer website,

Give Your Countertops Double Duty

Make Your Countertops Work Double Duty 

Are you sick of sitting at the kitchen table or your home office? If you are looking for a standing desk option, kitchen countertops are a great option! Working well from a counter depends on the height of the counter and the person.  Here are three images of laptop computer positions at the front desk counter at Donkin Chiropractic. This countertop is 44 inches, which is also the distance of my elbow to the floor when I am standing upright. 

The image with no reams of paper shows a good keyboard height for my arms but not for my neck and head.

The image with two reams of paper shows an adequate compromise of elbow angle and head/neck angle when working on a laptop at a desk or another table or desk.

The image with five reams of paper shows what can happen to make a much healthier working posture if a person has a wireless or extra keyboard to use with the laptop. 

A counter can be used as a standing desk if the counter height and your height allow you to have good posture while you are working with on your laptop at home.  Coffee table books can be used, but make sure they are as big as the laptop to create a stable base.

Adapting To Our “Normal Now”

Unmask Neck Pain

Unintended Consequences of Wearing Masks—

and What You Can Do to Ease the Discomfort

LINCOLN, NE. (April 30, 2020)—As if working from home or feeling the pressure revolving around mitigating the spread of COVID-19 isn’t enough, we now must deal with the pain of wearing masks. While admittedly protective, the wearing of these masks can become a real pain in the neck that can easily be prevented.

“Many of my patients who work in essential healthcare and personal services wear masks for a significant part of their day,” said Dr. Scott Donkin, a chiropractor in Lincoln, Nebraska. “They suffer from increased neck pain, headaches, shoulder/arm/hand pain as well as midback pain.”

Most patients now come into his office wearing masks and gloves while he and his staff wear them throughout their patient encounters. He saw a pattern that he himself experienced—neck and upper back pain with stiffness that increased through the workday. He initially directly attributed this discomfort to the increased stress associated with the COVID-19 phenomenon.

“But I realized there was another explanation—I was seeing a new and compromising health concern,” said Dr. Donkin.

When he saw a patient completing a required form in his office while masked and gloved and noticed how far she had to flex her neck forward in order to apply pen to paper and see the form properly, he then talked with other patients who wore protective masks for a significant part of the day to perform tasks like computing or writing in a workplace where others were present or examining patients in a healthcare setting. He asked them to simulate their body, neck, and head positions.

“Voila!” he said. “I found an additional culprit contributing to their pains.”

Protective masks—while necessary at this point in time—can add to the already heightened tension of the COVID-19 era because they can cause wearers to force their heads and necks farther forward or side-to-side to view their tasks.

Now that stores such as Walmart and other retailers are requiring their employees to wear masks all day while performing their duties, he is concerned that more people will suffer these unintended consequences from wearing masks.

“I have observed that people wearing protective masks tuck their chins in more than when they were not wearing masks. Extra chin tucking with additional forward head/neck flexion, tilting, or twisting are—in my opinion and observation—causing needless pain and suffering. They simply add fuel to an already raging inflammatory fire,” Dr. Donkin said.

He is an ergonomic consultant to the office furniture industry and for other consumer products such as standing desks and pillows.

Dr. Donkin offered these solutions for mask wearers:

Awareness wins half of this battle—

  • Wearing a protective mask often limits the lower field of vision as well as other visual fields causing a compensatory shift in body position/posture required to accomplish your tasks.
  • Be aware of your head, neck, shoulder, arm, and body positions while wearing your mask.

Action wins the other half of this battle—

  • Take a close look at the mask you are wearing to identify obstructions in your visual field that could be making you compensate by unnaturally shifting your head, neck, or body posture.
  • Position your mask for maximum protection while optimizing your posture and movements.
  • Fit your mask closely to the contour of the bridge of your nose as well as to your cheeks. This will minimize reduction in your visual field.
  • If you have identified that your mask increases head/neck flexion, tilting, or twisting, then take frequent “unwinding” breaks to lean back, move, and stretch in the opposite direction to relieve cumulative tension or pressure. Find out the rules and regulations for wearing masks in your workplace so you can use appropriate “unmasking time” safely and well.
  • Not all masks are created equal. Try different types that might make it easier for you to breathe because some people report difficulty (as long as they provide protection). And if the elastic on some masks is irritating, try a different mask configuration.

Awareness combined with action will maximize the purpose of wearing masks while minimizing their unintended side effects.

“Many of my patients who wear masks frequently comment about the difficulty they have breathing through it,” Dr. Donkin said. “I have noticed that restricted breathing can also be a source of anxiety especially with those who already have anxious tendencies. I have seen this subtle phenomenon add to the tension my patients express in their necks, shoulders, and midback.”

These patients are not alone. His recommendation is to take frequent breathers whenever you can remove the mask even if only for a few moments.

Then, before you put on your mask, take a few slow, deep breaths and do this when you take off the mask for the day.

“These simple practices have helped many of my patients get more benefit from their treatments as well as get through the COVID-19 era in a healthier way,” Dr. Donkin said. “I hope we can all unmask neck pain.”

This general information is not intended to replace appropriate treatment for any condition. Consult with your healthcare professional for help with your unique circumstances.

About: Scott Donkin, DC, DACBOH, has been in chiropractic practice for 38 years in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is the author of popular books (SittingSmarts and Sitting on the Job) and articles on health and related subjects. He is an ergonomic consultant to the office furniture industry and a go-to expert for local and national media