Healthy Computing: Eye-Neck Relaxation

Optimize your performance and prevent computer-related disorders with
Healthy Computing Email Tips. Each week we provide hints to help you stay
healthier while working.


Did you know that when you sit still and look around with only your eyes
that you are moving muscles in the back of your neck? Your eyes guide
your neck to move in the direction of visual focus. Using your eyes
throughout the day without taking large movement breaks may slowly build
up neck and shoulder tension as well as eye irritation. Notice how your
neck tightens and release neck tension when you practice EYE-NECK
RELAXATION.

HOW TO PRACTICE EYE-NECK RELAXATION*:

Sit comfortably erect in your chair so that your head and neck are free to
move. While looking straight ahead, place the tips of your ring, middle
and index fingers of both hands on the back of your neck on each side of
your spine, with the ring finger just below the base of your skull. Let
your fingers relax so that they can gently sense the movement of the
muscles.

While facing forward, move only your eyes to look to the extreme right and
then, to the extreme left. Continue looking from side to side a few
times, keeping your head still. As your eyes move, feel with your fingers
the movement of your neck muscles. Most likely you can feel the slight
tightening and relaxation of these muscles as your eyes shift back and
forth.

While you did this exercise, were you breathing? If you held your breath,
repeat the above while breathing diaphragmatically.

Use the above awareness exercise to remind yourself that neck tension and
breath holding tend to occur concurrently while looking at the monitor:
Waiting with bated breath! Take periodic vision breaks to reduce your
neck and shoulder tension. Practice some of the following during your
workday:

  • Relaxed blinking. Allow your eyelids to drop down and softly close your
    eyes every minute or so (e.g., while waiting for the computer, at the
    end of a column of numbers, while talking on the phone, etc.)

  • Drop you hands to your lap and gently shrug your shoulders or wiggle
    your head during a micro-break.

  • Slowly turn your head from side to side while keeping your eyes soft and
    feeling a softness in the muscles in the back of your head.

  • Breathe diaphragmatically, feeling heavier (like a sleeping pet or baby)
    for three or four breaths every 15 minutes.

*We thank Kees Lanser for teaching how to sense the neck tension while
looking.

Avatar Written by Erik Peper PhD

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