How to fix posture? Start with vision.
Over the past 20 years computers have proliferated. For millions of people, computer use is a necessary and regular component of every work day and also a necessary component of life at home. It is the same for students, especially those in university or college. For along time we have known about musculoskeletal complaints arising from computer use like tingling or numb fingers, back stiffness and backache. But recently vision and ocular problems have become the most frequently complained-of computer-related health problems. This has lead to a dramatic increase in computer vision syndrome. In one study, 61% of computer users suffered from lower back, shoulder and neck pain and 71% of them suffered from eyestrain.
Computer Vision Syndrome and neck and back pain
One of the symptoms of computer vision syndrome is neck and back pain. This is caused by computer-users leaning-in to the computer screen or “sticking their neck out” to get closer to the text. They do this because their vision is not up to the task of comfortably and clearly viewing the screen with the proper posture. The problem with the computer-user’s vision might be an uncorrected vision problem like myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism or presbyopia. It could also be that the user’s vision is corrected by lenses that are not designed for computer use. The culprit could even be an eye movement disorder that is limiting the eyes’ ability to move together in unison, to converge and diverge at a point and track it in order to maintain focus at various distances (known as a binocular vision disorder). This visual skill comes into play when the eyes point to a line of text on a screen or book and track it and/or moving between the book and screen, for example. All of the above problems can contribute computer-related strain in the neck, back and shoulder in addition to eye strain and ocular fatigue.
While computer vision causes many ocular surface and eye movement problems that may manifest themselves as tearing, gritting, dryness, redness or blurring, it is also associated with neck stiffness, shoulder pain, headache and backache, which come with poor posture.
Vision tells the body where it is and to adjust posture
The visual system is one of our body’s sensory systems that gives the body information about its external environment and the relative position of parts of the body which enables the body to adjust posture according to its needs. In short, vision is important for the development of postural reflexes.
When someone is blind, for example, they can lose contact with the outside world and develop motor patterns that lead to posture problems.
The vision-posture connection
The case of a blind person is a dramatic example of how vision influences posture. However, the principle it illustrates holds true for sighted people who do not have optimal vision for computer use. In fact, your vision dictates your posture and should be the first thing you optimize to create a comfortable, ergonomic workspace . The Speaking of Safety blog quotes Emma Christensen, a corporate ergonomist with WorkSafeBC’s Safety, Health and Wellness department who helps staff customize their work stations for computer and efficiency:
“We tell people that your vision dictates your whole posture. People really do need to take care of their eyes and get regular eye exams,” Emma says. “It doesn’t matter if you have a fancy office chair or height-adjustable desk. If you can’t see, you’re going to lean forward and have bad posture.”https://speakingofsafety.ca/how-vision-affect-posture
Two treatments for computer vision syndrome are vision therapy and specially designed computer lenses
Where a binocular vision disorder is the underlying cause of the vision problem, vision therapy might be prescribed to get the eyes working together efficiently as a team. Vision therapy can address eye movement problems that are contributing to poor vision at the computer.
If eye movement is working properly, the right lenses make a big difference in reducing the symptoms of computer vision syndrome, including the poor posture that goes with it. For patients with presbyopia who are using ordinary progressive lenses to work at the computer but who have computer vision syndrome symptoms, specially designed computer lenses might be the answer. The images below illustrate the difference between ordinary progressive lenses and computer lenses.
Ordinary progressive lenses have a wide viewing area in the distance and an smaller but still adequate viewing area at near. However, to give you clear vision at distance and at hear, the intermediate distance is sacrificed, which is where the computer screen is located.
To solve this problem, computer progressive lens designs prioritize the intermediate distance, where the computer screen is, while still giving you a very usable near viewing distance:
Even for patients that are not presbyopic, and therefore do not need progressive lenses, special computer lenses that have extra magnification is a big benefit because it effectively brings the screen closer to the eye, eliminating the need to “stick your neck out” to get closer to the screen while working on the computer. This solution works extremely well for people with hyperopia, myopia or astigmatism and is quite cost effective because lenses for these patients are much less expensive than progressive lenses and adding extra magnification is relatively inexpensive.
Collin MJ, Brown B, Bowman KJ. Australia: 1988. Visual discomfort and VDTs. National Occupational Health and Safety Commission; pp. 1–37.
10,000 Malaysians injured annually thanks to computer use. Kuala Lumpur: Bernama.http://www.lowyat.net/ v2/latest/10-000-malaysians-injured-annually-thanks-to-computer-use.html 5February2006
Understanding and Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome Malays Fam Physician. 2008; 3(3): 128–130.Published online 2008 Dec 31.