Visual discomfort, muscle tension and stretching

There is a persistent problem when doing interactive and, in particular, fine oculo-motor tasks. These tasks include almost everything, from reading, driving, to social interaction, except watching a movie or staring at a blank wall during which you can just let the images wash over you without feeling the necessity to react in a specific oculo-motor way. Even when reading with audio support from audio books, it can get somewhat uncomfortable. After a while my body feels stress, discomfort, agitation. Muscle tense up and pain creeps in. Ultimately I start sweating and experiencing an elevated heart rate. My autonomic nervous system perceives danger or difficulty and subconsciously activates the fight or flight response. A common element that is often omitted when talking about the fight or flight response is the initial FREEZE response. Before you get to fight or flight, the organism spontaneously freezes in the hope of becoming invisible. I have even read that many rape victims are so bewildered and frightened, this initial freeze response is so pervasive that it sometimes inhibits one from fighting back or crying out for help.

In my case, being locked in a perpetually uncomfortable visual situation, unable to fight it off in the short run or cry for help (which is useless and will only get you into more trouble), I have had to exercise great powers of self-control. This is also the link between binocular vision problems and ADHD/ADD, if some of you were wondering. Younger children with less developed prefrontal cortices will not be able to exercise this level of constraint, resulting in these behaviors. Me, however, with my presumably fairly developed prefrontal cortex and executive control, have been outwardly calm while handling the visual symptoms and discomfort. This has lead to what I experience as a chronic freezing response.

When doing close range visio-motor activities, such as writing this blog entry or reading a book, I gradually tense up. This starts with my jaw, then my arms, my abdomen, hamstrings and so on. I have trouble sustaining a normal sitting posture and I noticed, aside from the invisible muscle tension, my knee even starts to twitch at times. It’s like gradual spontaneous planking of some sort due to visual struggles.

Nonetheless, I do enjoy my new-found reading time that I have been granted by a combination of improved oculo-motor range and skills and audio book support. I do not want to give that up again. To come at this problem from another angle, I have started to stretch my body regularly since New Year’s. It can offset some of the effects of the visual strain. I am not very pliant as it is so it will have good general effects too.

I was particularly inspired by this article:

“The benefits of flexibility are so great that training experts like Ian King call flexibility the “last frontier of human performance.” King also said:

 Flexibility, generally speaking, is the most important physical quality. The impact of the flexibility on all other physical qualities is greater than the one of any other single physical quality. Flexibility potentially improves strength, speed and endurance more than any of these qualities impact on the other. In addition, I believe of all physical qualities, this one has the greatest impact on injury prevention. Flexibility training also potentially has the greatest contribution to recovery of all the physical qualities.”

General flexibility will reinforce ongoing visual improvement and mitigate some of the visual symptoms and discomfort. Here’s to flexibility in the new year!


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