Monthly Archives: February 2015

31 Are Your Glasses a Pain in the Neck?

Eyeglasses resting on an open bookAs you age vision often changes. The first indication I had of this was several years ago. I began to notice that I was having a harder and harder time reading the small printed instructions that are on the back of medicine bottles and cans of various sorts. Sound familiar? Moving the bottle or can farther and farther away helped but one’s arm is only so long. Soon after I started to notice that I was also having a bit of an issue with focusing comfortably on the text in my book as I read. I now am the proud owner of a pair of prescription reading glasses that have made my life much easier and my eyes much happier.

As we age, needing glasses in the first place or changes to your existing prescription happen to a lot of us. Many of us end up needing bifocals or progressives. Moving from a single lens to bifocals or progressives presents challenges that require some adjustment that I find many of my students are unaware of.

Because you need to look out of the bottom part of bifocals or progressives to see what you are reading, what you are reading will need to be placed a bit lower than you probably held it when you didn’t have the bifocals or progressives.

The mistake I see many people making is that the reading material is held to high. It might have been a good height when they had single lenses or none at all but the new glasses require a change in habit.

What happens is that without thinking you tend to rotate your head back and down, raising your chin so that you can look through the bottom part of the lens. This puts tremendous compression on your neck and spine and I have found is often causing neck pain and headaches in a lot of folks.

You need to adjust your reading material instead of compromising your head-spine relationship.

This is true as well for computer screens. The normal ergonomic advice is to have the top of your computer monitor at the level of your eyes—so that you have to look down a bit to see the middle part of the screen. If you are looking through the lower part of your glasses to see the screen it will probably need to be lowered. Try it and see how it goes.

If you tend to use a computer a reasonable amount (which is most of us) and need glasses to see the screen, it is a worthwhile investment to get a pair computer glasses. These glasses are single-vision lenses with a focal length designed for computer work. This will eliminate the need to look through the bottom portion of the lens.

Check out this video for ergonomic tips on computer monitor placement with bifocals or trifocals.

Picture Credit: Image of book and glasses courtesy of hyena realty at


30 Vision and Posture (Part 2)

The detrimental effects of typical smartphone and tablet use on posture is not a problem of our modern age. It is just an extension of the problem of the flat work surface.

picture of women hunched forward over an i-pad

Our bodies are not designed to read things that are flat on the table.

Plopping a paper document flat down on your desk in front of you to read has the same effect on your posture as placing your smartphone or tablet flat on a table. Same thing with reading a print magazine or newspaper laid flat out on the table as you graze over your lunch or held flat in your lap as you relax in the sauna at the gym.

Because the joint at the top of the spine (way up high between your ears) only allows the head to look down so far you end up bending the spine at the base of the neck, dropping your head forward or bending your whole spine (as I am doing reading on my ipad above).

Many years ago it was not uncommon for people to work at standing sloped work surfaces. At some point our current standard desk that accommodates right angled sitting and has a flat surface took over.

I am not debating the pros and cons of sitting vs standing desks. I’ll save that for later.

What I want to focus on is that the angle of the work surface is important regardless of whether you choose to sit or stand.

The optimal angle for reading is 60 degrees off the horizontal give or take. For writing, 10 to 20 degrees off the horizontal. You don’t need a lot of expensive ergonomic equipment in your home or office. However, some simple tools can go a long way to help your posture.

I have previously talked about a book stand, such as the bookchair below, which accommodates not only a tablet but also print magazines or books.

A bookchair like this can hold a book or a tablet in a much easier position to read comfortably.

A bookchair like this can hold a book or a tablet in a much easier position to read comfortably.

Reading an i-pad that is supported by a book stand at a good angle for viewing

Ah much better! Notice I have also given my entire back support with a big firm square pillow

I have recently also invested in a good quality slant board desk primarily for writing. It is adjustable and designed to hold reading materials but also comfortable for writing by hand.

Both a bookchair and a slant board can help transform a standard flat work surface into a more posture friendly work surface. If you invest in one or both make sure they are adjustable. See the Resources Page for some suggestions.