Chronic neck pain commonly affects many Americans at some point in their lives. According to Harvard Medical School, approximately 80 percent of people experience regular neck pain during their lifetimes — and annually, 20 to 50 percent.
But can neck pain, long-term or infrequent, be linked to your eyes? Commonly overlooked as a reason, there is a clear-cut relationship between both. Thankfully, with some steps in place, you can effectively manage your symptoms and prevent them from returning.
Connecting Neck Pain and Vision Problems
Vision problems can contribute to neck pain in several ways:
When we overexert our eyes to see objects that are too far away, too close, or too small, it can cause us to hold our head and neck in an awkward position for an extended period. This can lead to muscle tension and stiffness — and consequently, neck pain. Similarly, when we spend long hours looking at a computer screen, our eyes may become fatigued, and we may begin to slouch or hunch our shoulders, which can also contribute to neck pain.
Binocular Vision Dysfunction (aka) Eye Misalignment
Another way that vision problems can contribute to neck pain is through misalignment of the eyes. If they aren’t properly aligned, your brain may work harder to process visual information, leading to tension and strain in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. This misalignment can also lead to double vision or blurred vision, causing strain on the eyes and leading to headaches and neck pain.
Astigmatism, farsightedness (hyperopia), or nearsightedness (myopia) can cause you to overcompensate — in an attempt to see more clearly — by holding your head in an awkward position, which can eventually lead to neck pain. For instance, if you are farsighted (or additionally suffer from age-related presbyopia), you may hold your head at an angle to see things clearly. This can cause your neck muscles to become strained and lead to pain. Similarly, if you have astigmatism, you may find yourself tilting your head to one side to compensate for the distortion in your vision.
Tense muscles in the upper back and neck area can carry over into the orbital area as a buildup of pain around the eyes. This muscle tension could be caused by stress, poor posture, lack of flexibility, and little to no stretching before or after exercise, among other reasons. In some cases, vision problems can cause a migraine or cervicogenic headache by forcing us to hold our head and neck in a strained position for an extended period.
Furthermore, pre-existing neck injuries or conditions, such as arthritis or a herniated disc can cause you to strain your neck muscles and exacerbate the pain and discomfort you feel.
Be Mindful of the Symptoms
If you suspect your neck pain may be related to vision problems, there are several symptoms to look out for. These may include:
- Headaches that are triggered by visual tasks, such as reading, writing or using a computer.
- Blurry vision or difficulty focusing, especially when looking at objects up close.
- Eye strain or fatigue, which may feel like a burning or aching sensation in the eyes.
- Sensitivity to light or glare, which may cause headaches or eye discomfort.
- Neck pain that is localized to one side or is accompanied by stiffness/limited range of motion.
- Pain that radiates from the neck to the head or shoulders.
Determine the Causes
Explore some steps to understand if your vision could be linked to neck and back pain:
- The 20-20-20 Rule: If you spend a lot of time looking at screens, such as computers, phones or tablets, take regular breaks to give your eyes a rest. The 20-20-20 rule involves looking away from the screen every 20 minutes and focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Practice good posture: Poor posture can put a strain on the muscles in your neck and shoulders, leading to pain and discomfort. Make sure to sit up straight and keep your shoulders relaxed when working or using electronic devices.
- Try stretching and exercise: Both can help relieve tension and strain in the neck muscles. Try gentle stretches and exercises, such as neck rotations, shoulder shrugs and chin tucks to help alleviate pain and improve range of motion.
- Visit an eye doctor: If you haven’t had an eye exam in a while, it’s a good idea to schedule one. Your eye doctor can check for any underlying vision problems that may be contributing to your neck pain.
Prevent and Alleviate Vision-Related Neck Pain
Healthy eyes go beyond having great vision. If changes in your eyesight or other optical-related issues are leading to physical ailments like neck or back pain, schedule an appointment today with Complete Eye Care of Medina. Utilizing some of the most advanced digital and screening technology in the country, our clinic takes a one-on-one approach to your eye health.