Neck and back pain are common complaints for people that are sitting to work all day, or who lift heavier things repetitively as part of their job. While these certainly are common injuries with detrimental consequences, eye strain and headaches is another common complaint. In fact, the American Optometric Association has found that eye strain impacts nearly 70% of working Americans. The amount of time the collective workforce spends looking at computer screens each day has increased exponentially in recent years. Not only does eye strain (also known as visual strain) lead to headaches, it can also contribute to neck, upper back, and shoulder stiffness and pain, all of which can impact our efficiency and productivity on the job.
Common symptoms associated with visual strain include burning and stinging sensations, redness or “tired” eyes, headaches, blurry vision, difficulty focusing as well as neck and shoulder pain. Eye strain has been found to be related to certain factors in the work place such as:
· poor lighting in the work space,
· glare from computer screens and/or nearby lights,
· maintaining a fixed or close visual distance from screens for extended periods
· unsuitable work stations
· declining vision or inadequate prescription strength not yet diagnosed
Using task analysis skills and closely examining the fit between the worker, job, and unique work environment, occupational therapists can play a key role in addressing visual strain and headaches at work. Here are some great low cost solutions that you can try:
· Change the lighting at your work station, ensuring it is not too bright or dim
· Alter the contrast of your computer monitor
· Increase font size to reduce the need to squint
· If you find office lighting too bright but are unable to alter it, wear sunglasses
· Remove overhead florescent bulbs and replace with desk lamps
· Purchase an anti-glare screen or monitor cover
· Purchase light-reducing window dressings
· Use a larger monitor to increase options for size and document configuration
· Consult with an optometrist to see if your vision is changing as you age and to ensure your prescription (if you have one) is suitable for your work environment.
For more information see Entwistle Power’s FREE DOWNLOADABLE office ergonomics e-book or contact an Occupational Therapist for more information.