Headaches, Neck Aches, Eye Strain from Computers

Headaches, Neck Aches, Eye Strain from Computers

The holidays are winding down and it’s once again time to put your nose to the grindstone. Back to the full-time schedule that has many of us slouched in front of a computer with rounded shoulders. It’s going to be weeks, even months, until the spring—and its holidays—offers us another reprieve from the long hours spent staring at screens analyzing numbers and words, which can result in bad posture and eye strain. For some, there can be easy answers. Sit up straight—practice at it—and maybe increase the font size to ease the strain on the eyes. For others, the answer can be more complicated.

Graphic designer Gary Shultz would squint, angle his head, shift positions in his chair at his computer —anything to help clear up the doubling vision or sliding images on the computer screen. Finally, he discovered that by closing one eye, things would come into focus. He’d seen an optometrist who told him his vision was fine and that he should try adjusting the blue light from the screens. His daughter, oddly enough, had similar issues; she would develop headaches after reading on the computer for more than a few minutes.

Gary persevered in his work, shutting the one eye and taking breaks when that got tiring. Through his work, he was fortunate enough to have met Dr. Sally Hoey, an optometrist and NeuroVisual Specialist. She caught him tilting his head at the computer screen and closing one eye and asked him if he ever got headaches from working on the computer. Gary was surprised she noticed the head tilt, and he affirmed the symptom of a headache. Dr. Hoey told Gary she thought she might be able to help. Gary was open to the idea but warned her that he’d already seen an optometrist. Dr. Hoey explained regular optometry exams are very different than NeuroVisual Evaluations, which include extensive testing for vision alignment. She examined Gary soon after that exchange and diagnosed him with Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD) resulting in a subtle vision misalignment. He had never heard of this before, but when he tried on his trial pair of glasses he knew they were the answer. Within moments, it felt as though his muscles were releasing tension. His head slowly straightened and a sigh of relief escaped him. He made an appointment for his daughter at the end of his exam and eagerly awaited his glasses.

Gary (and his daughter) now wear glasses with aligning lenses that correct the subtle vision misalignment. His posture improved, his headaches came less and less often, and his work, which revolves around images on the screen, has become enjoyable once more.

“I don’t need as many breaks or waste as much time trying to work with one eye,” he said.

Closing one eye to see clearly is a very common symptom of a BVD, as are the following:

  • A head tilt, which is the brain’s way of correcting a vertical misalignment
  • Frequent neck and shoulder aches, especially when a head tilt is present
  • Headaches after staring at digital screens
  • Double vision
  • Shadowy vision
  • Sliding words
  • Excellent ability to retain information by listening, but struggle with reading comprehension

Dr. Sally, who works at Vision Specialists of Michigan, advises those who work at computers or other digital screens to test for BVD by trying the 5 Minute Cover Test (video below) or by filling out an online questionnaire at IsItMyEyes.com.

“At least ten percent of the population has BVD causing a subtle vision misalignment,” she said. “People don’t realize their aches and pains are caused by their vision because they focus on the part of the body that actually hurts, which could be their head, shoulder, or neck. It’s not always double vision or vision-related.”

Another way to check for BVD? Driver’s license pictures often reveal head tilts, which is the #1 physical finding of a misalignment. And if you see a fellow colleague rubbing their eyes or head or neck from staring at a screen, or perhaps catch them tilting their head as they read, let them know the online questionnaire only takes ten minutes to fill out.


VSM 5 Minute Cover from Vision Specialists of Michigan on Vimeo.