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Woman trying to see computer

You’ve probably heard or noticed that working on a computer for a prolonged period of time can be hard on your eyes. You may notice symptoms such as burning, tightness, pain, watering, blurring, double vision, or headaches. These symptoms can vary from person to person, and are collectively referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome.

However, viewing your computer screen for prolonged periods of time can also contribute to back and neck pain for one simple reason: your body will follow your eyes. In other words, if you can’t see, you will move your body until you can, by bending forward, rounding your shoulders, or moving your head forward. All of these movements put your body into an unbalanced position, which leads to muscles that are tight and shortened, or stretched and lengthened, joints that don’t function well because the bones aren’t oriented properly, or compressed spinal discs.

Even a well-designed computer work area loses its effectiveness if you can’t see the monitor.

Consequently, it is very important to have your vision checked regularly – at least every two years – and to inform your eye doctor of the type of work that you do, the amount of time that you spend on the computer, and how your workstation is set up.

If you’re having trouble seeing your monitor clearly and already wear glasses for distance and/or reading, you may want to consider getting a pair just for work. While reading glasses work great for viewing text that is close to you, and other glasses help to see far away, “computer glasses” are specifically designed for monitor viewing.

There are four types of task-specific computer glasses available to help you see better and be more comfortable. Monofocal, or single-vision, glasses are used for the screen only. If you are looking at your monitor for prolonged stretches of time, this may be a good choice for you.

Bifocal computer glasses have two sections: an upper portion for computer use and the lower for reading. Trifocals add a third level at the top for distance. Bifocals and trifocals are also available as progressive lenses.

There is no “best case” in choosing, but rather a thorough consideration of your visual needs, your work and workstation factors, and your doctor’s input should be factored into this decision.

There are several other modifications you can make to relieve discomfort due to visual issues and get you back into a comfortable working position. First, check for glare and optimize your lighting. If your work area is near a window, the best position to reduce glare and eliminate reflection from the sun is to position your monitor perpendicular to the window.

Consider the lighting in the room. Ideally, the overhead light level should be low, with task lights provided to illuminate printed documents. If lighting from the ceiling is bright, this can cause glare on your monitor and may also lead to squinting to screen out this extra light. You will find that when you lower the overhead light, your eye muscles relax, reducing eye strain and your chance of related headaches. Sometimes simply removing some of the bulbs from an overhead light fixture can be helpful.

Position your monitor so that the top of the viewable area is no higher than eye level. Remembering that your body follows your eyes, so if the monitor is even a little too high, your head will tilt back to view it, leading to your head being unbalanced and your neck muscles having to work hard to correct this imbalance.

One last tip: use {Command +} (mac) or {Ctrl ]} (pc) to increase the font size in your documents and on web pages. You may need to look up how to do this in programs where these functions don’t work.

In summary, you can’t be comfortable if you can’t see, so follow these simple steps to work more comfortably.



Copyright © 2016 Mary A. Williams, Corporate Health Alliance/BACKCoach. All rights reserved. This article was originally published in the September, 2015, issue of Healthy Cells Magazine.