Eye Strain and Posture
Maria, a prolific blog writer, came to me because she was noticing that after a day on her computer she was experiencing eye strain, blurry vision and neck pain. She wasn’t sure if it was connected but she also noticed being run down by the end of the week; it was a lot harder to get motivated to do much of anything. Maria is generally a happy person, loves what she does but was feeling what many describe as feeling burned out. I suggested that maybe it had to do with her high level of exposure to her technology devices and that it was resulting in eye strain which, left unchecked, was leading to cognitive fatigue, physical fatigue and emotional fatigue – all explaining her symptoms. Maria is not alone in her experience.
According to researchers Andrews et al, 2015 , it was reported that adults between ages of 18 and 33 interact with their phones an astounding 85 times a day. They spend about five hours doing so. Interestingly, another study was done showing that usage on devices was largely unconscious. Most thought they were spending about half the time than was actually occurring! All this time on the devices leads to two major problems: eye strain and breakdown of posture.
According to The Vision Council 70 percent of US adults in one survey reported having some kind of digital eye strain (strained, dry, or red eyes; blurred vision; headaches; back pain; neck pain; or general fatigue) as a result of using digital devices for hours at a time. Looking closer at what eye strain does to the body, we see the ramifications are wide spread. If you are one of the 70% suffering from eye strain then you probably have been dealing with it for a long time. Consider how long you are using your devices. Over and above using technology at work, 83% of professional workers check their emails after work, 66% take their technology with them on vacation, and more than 50% report sending emails while having a meal with family or friends.
Eye Strain and the Brain
I explained to Maria that eye strain was developing from her focusing too long in one direction and ignoring exercising her eye muscles in other directions. The focused attention also meant that she was probably craning her head forward putting stress on the muscles of her neck. The combination of her eye strain and bad posture generated an enormous amount stress to her overall system resulting in fatigue. Fatigue from muscular imbalance and poor neurological feedback from her bad posture led to cognitive fatigue. Her brain was tired. This is a culprit for occupational errors and physical pains. Improved visual acuity and eye movement can help improve focused concentration within the workplace and prevent human error for improved production in job related tasks as well as better mood.
Eye Strain and Blue Light
Technology overload at work and while at home creates serious over exposure of blue light and more stress to posture. 90% of Americans report using a device within one hour of going to bed. 49% of Americans report checking their phones at least once overnight (Gradisar et al., 2013). Now, blue light is all around us. The spectrum of blue light in nature is perfectly balanced. However, when exposed excessively, especially at night, blue light emission affects sleeping patterns. Properly used blue light has a stimulatory effect; it wakes you up, makes you alert, boosts your mood, heightens your reaction times and affects your general well-being.
These are all good things during the day, but undesirable at night as it affects your circadian rhythm. Melatonin production happens naturally at night as it gets darker which ushers you into a restful sleep pattern. Light at night is part of the reason that so many people don’t get enough sleep. Yet many people continue to check their phones in bed before falling asleep. It goes without saying, lack of sleep takes a toll on the body.
Eye Strain and Tec Neck
Eye strain leads to mental fatigue. Mental fatigue leads to postural collapse called “Teck Neck”. Teck Neck is a medical diagnosis of forward head posture. It is due to looking down at a device for a prolonged period of time. Research done by Hansraj in 2015 evaluated the amount of pressure on the bones of the neck as it is bent forward at varying degrees. He concluded that as the head tilts forward by 15 degrees, as if looking forward at a cell phone, the weight of the head increases from 10-12 pounds to 27 pounds. This creates an increase in pressure on the margins of the spinal bones. According to analysis completed by spinal researcher Dr. Harrison, it will accelerate the development or progression of spinal arthritis and disc disease (SADD) due to altered and increased spinal loads.
What you can do
- Install blue-light-blocking software
- Wear Blue-blocking glasses (see Blueblockers Review)
- Avoid computer or device use before bed
- Implement hourly posture breaks
- Reduce glare by turning your computer brightness to equal environmental light
- Get a professional ergonomic assessment for workstation optimization
Maria was affected by her computer use. On the onset of her professional career this was a non-issue. After the prolonged use however, it became obvious that she needed to make changes. The changes needed to happen if she was going to continue being successful and happy in her online work. I gave her three modifications to make and 30 days with full implementation to assess her results. She made a few ergonomic modifications, wore amber glasses daily and prioritized hourly posture breaks. The combination of these things greatly reduced her neck pain and by her second month her energy returned. Maria realized her production and quality of work improved. She returned to a bright future of blogging.