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Neck pain: get your eyes checked!


Neck pain is a common complaint in modern society, often attributed to prolonged postures in front of computer screens, uncomfortable sleeping positions or daily stress. However, an often overlooked cause of neck pain may lie in visual problems. Understanding the interconnection between the eyes and the neck is essential to a comprehensive approach to health. This article explores the link between neck pain and eye health, highlighting the importance of getting your eyes checked.

Anatomy of vision

Vision is a complex process involving several parts of the eye and interactions with the brain. To help us better understand the anatomy of our vision, we're going to compare our eye to a camera that takes pictures.

The cornea is the transparent part at the front of the eye that lets light in like the front window of a camera.

The iris is the colored part of the eye, and the pupil is the hole in the center of the iris. It can become larger or smaller to let in more or less light, like the zoom on a camera.

The crystalline lens is located just behind the pupil, and acts like a lens in the camera. It can bend to help bring the image into focus.

The retina is like a camera screen, where light is transformed into an image. There are special cells on the retina that send signals to the brain to tell it what we're seeing.

Cones and rods are the two cell types on the retina. Cones are responsible for seeing color and detail, while rods help us see in the dark.

The optic nerve is the cable that sends all the images to the brain so that it can process them and we can see them.

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And our eye movements are controlled by six external eye muscles attached to the surface of each eyeball. These muscles work together to enable precise, coordinated eye movements to track objects and change fixation points.

Every element of this process is essential for clear, precise vision. Problems with any part of this system can lead to visual impairment.

Anatomical link between vision and the cervical spine

We've seen that our vision is only achieved through anatomical elements located at eye level, yet certain muscles in the cervical region may be affected in the event of vision problems.
The splenius muscles (cervicis and capitis) are located at the back of the neck and are responsible for rotating, tilting and extending the head. When the eyes have difficulty converging or focusing, people may unconsciously adjust their posture by tilting or turning the head to see more clearly.
The longus muscles (capitis and colli) are deep neck muscles that help flex the head and tilt it forward. Vision problems can lead to poor posture, such as tilting the head forward to see more clearly.
The trapezius is primarily a muscle of the back and shoulders, although it also has attachments in the neck. Poor posture caused by vision problems, such as tilting the head forwards or backwards, can lead to increased tension in the upper trapezius.
Finally, the sub-occipital muscles are the muscles at the base of the skull. They are particularly important for head and neck movements, and are closely connected to the nerves that innervate the eyes, in particular the optic nerve. Vision problems can lead to increased tension in these muscles, as they are often involved in the minimal postural adjustments required to achieve clear vision.

Although there are no specific oculomotor muscles at cervical level, the complex interaction between neck and eyes can influence the coordination of eye movements. 

The influence of convergence disorders on posture

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Convergence disorders, also known as binocular vision disorders, can impact the cervical region in a number of ways. Here are just a few of the ways these disorders can influence the cervical region.

As we saw earlier, when the eyes have difficulty in converging correctly on a point, the eye muscles can tire rapidly, leading to excessive tension in the neck muscles to compensate. This prolonged muscular tension can contribute to neck pain and poor posture.

Convergence disorders can lead to changes in posture to compensate for visual difficulties. For example, a person may tilt their head forwards or backwards to adjust their angle of vision. These postural adjustments can put additional pressure on the cervical spine, leading to pain and tension.

Convergence disorders may be associated with headaches and/or neck pain due to blurred or double vision.

Convergence disorders can disrupt the postural reflexes that maintain balance and body coordination. This can lead to reduced head and neck stability, which can increase the risk of neck injury and pain.

It's important to note that convergence disorders can be associated with other visual problems, such as strabismus, which can also influence the way a person uses their eye muscles and neck. The anatomical and neurological connections between these regions underline the importance of a holistic approach to assessing and treating neck and eye problems. Appropriate visual correction, such as glasses or contact lenses, can help relieve tension in these cervical muscles.

The importance of regular check-ups

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It is therefore essential to have your vision checked regularly by an eye care professional, such as an ophthalmologist. A thorough eye examination can detect non-apparent visual problems, such as refractive errors or impaired eye coordination. Proper correction can not only improve vision, but also relieve the associated neck strain. An annual check-up is recommended for children, and every 2 years for adults.

Collaboration between eye health professionals and practitioners specializing in the treatment of neck pain, such as osteopaths, is essential for a holistic approach. Eye disorders can contribute to neck pain, but neck tension can also affect vision. So it's also advisable to consult an osteopath after wearing new glasses or contact lenses. 

Small exercises for your cervico-ocular well-being

Here are 3 little tips that can help ease your mind a little before making future appointments with various health professionals.

1. Eyepause: regular eye-pause exercises by looking around you, staring at distant points, can help relax eye muscles, relieving neck tension.

2. Cervical stretching and mobility: stretching and moving your neck can help improve mobility and reduce tension.

3. Ergonomic layout: adjusting your work environment to promote healthy eye and neck posture is crucial. Correct positioning of the screen and consideration of lighting can reduce strain.

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Conclusion

In short, vision disorders can influence posture and movements of the head and neck, which can lead to excessive tension in the cervical muscles and contribute to neck pain. It is therefore important to take visual aspects into account when assessing and treating neck pain, to ensure a comprehensive and effective approach. If you experience persistent neck pain, we recommend that you consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and a suitable treatment plan.


Athina De Vogel
Osteopath D.O
2 rue Alexis de Tocqueville
78000 Versailles

Athina De Vogel osteopath versailles

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