The need to “see clearly" on face validity alone may be assumed to lead to immobilization of neck/scapular area muscles and resulting muscle stiffness due to increased musculoskeletal load and less load variation. Visual system variables as a musculoskeletal risk factor have been relatively neglected in the literature.
The aim of this project is consequently to elucidate the joint occurrence of eye-neck/scapular area symptoms and their possible association with work-related load factors among professional computer users. A sense of strain, weakness or eye fatigue (i.e., asthenopia) in combination with musculoskeletal symptoms from the neck and scapular area has indeed been associated with occupational near work since the 1980-ies. Even though the literature supports the notion that eye-strain and neck/scapular area symptoms are common and coexisting complaints among employees in modern offices, the two symptom categories are often analyzed in isolation within disparate disciplines of applied or clinical science. Accordingly, the evidence for linkages between eye-strain and neck/shoulder complaints so far is limited.
According to our research hypothesis, an increase in visual loads over time, due to deficient optical/physiological aspects of the near work, causes not only eye symptoms, but also give rise to a parallel increase in musculoskeletal load and symptoms in musculoskeletal effectors due to what might be hard-wired sensorimotor reflexes and/or a generally very tight functional coupling from and between the eye-neck/scapular area effectors (from here on referred to as the gaze hypothesis).
One scientific challenge in this context is to adequately identify sources to this type of “visual stress", and to control for covariates, when attempting to verify the gaze hypothesis.
Dr. Allan Toomingas, Karolinska Institutet
Professor Mats Hagberg, University of Göteborg
Karl-Erik Westergren, University of Gävle
Ewa Wigaeus Tornqvist