Optical Headache… Not So Easy on the Eyes?

It’s 9:30 pm, you’re sitting on the couch at home just looking at your phone or TV, and it’s been at least a couple hours since you’ve looked at anything aside from a screen, and you’ve had a headache for the past hour or two. We call this an optical headache, often caused by eye strain. Screen time, especially with cell phones, continues to rise as more people use phones for work and play. CNN has a story stating that the average American has about 10 hours a day of screen time, and that’s expected to increase. When you do the math, 10 hours a day means that we’re spending more than half of our day that we’re awake looking at a screen. That’s a lot of time!

Before we get too far, understand that this article assumes that you regularly see an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) and that you have the necessary corrective eyewear.

People are familiar with the concept of eye strain, particularly when it comes to screens. Staring at one point for hours on end is a great way to wear down the muscles in and around your eye. Imagine trying to hold your arms in front of you for 8 hours without rest – it’s pretty similar to stress to those eye muscles.  Unfortunately, a lot of our jobs are set up in a way that makes it difficult to avoid screens for long periods of time. But a muscle is a muscle, so those eye muscles can be strengthened just the same.

Try this exercise to help reduce your optical headache:

Pencil push-ups are an exercise that can be used to build up the endurance of the muscles in the eye.  Take a pen, pencil, or a similarly thin object and hold it at arm’s length away from you. Focus on the tip of the pen and slowly bring it towards your nose (don’t poke your eye out, please). Once you start to see double, hold the pen in place and make an effort to bring the pen back in focus. Try to “hold” this position for 30 seconds, working up to 2 minutes. This can be performed for 2-4 reps at one time, taking short rest breaks as necessary. Your goal is to be able to bring the pen closer to your nose before you see double.

To emphasize again, the information in this article assumes that you are regularly seeing an eye doctor and that you have your correct prescription. If you don’t, go see an eye doctor first. Your eye doctor may be able to help with your headaches. If you have the prescription that works for you, try some pencil push-ups and see if you start to have fewer or less painful headaches from screen time.

Got questions?  Feel limited in what you’re able to do?  The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to be limitless.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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