Chronic Neck and Back Pain Generated from Faulty Eye Movements?

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April 26, 2015

Yes, the brain and body are linked, but how could an eye movement change the tone of our neck or lower back muscles? The answer starts with stability and balance, when you move your eyes in a direction, you must stabilize the opposite sided musculature of the spine to brace for the sense of inertia that occurs. For instance, when we perform a saccade, or a quick eye movement to the left, the right suboccipital muscles at the base of your skull are activated. 

How does this translate to neck and back pain? The human system is miraculous in its ability to compensate for errors. If we have aberrancy in our eye movements, then our body will compensate by altering its function to support the brain. Said another way, if we are too slow looking to the left, then we will gather input from the cervicollic system (or quick neck movements that stabilize our head on our neck) to create support to our optokinetic system so that novel targets reach our retina at an appropriate speed. Or, if we have gaze instability(unable to keep our eyes stable on a target, which causes retinal slip), we will have chronic tightening or spasm in our neck and back to keep ourselves balanced and supported. This is because when we perform quick eye movements, we inhibit position velocity pause neurons and lose our sense of spatial awareness and balance for a short time. This is normal and expected, but if it is occurring all the time, or the eye movement is exceptionally slow (typically should be between 200-600 deg/sec), than we will have an extended amount of time where we don't know where we are in space. 

As for our spines, they must make up for vestibular, cerebellar, brain stem and cortical errors that result in faulty eye movements and require more muscle tightening as we cannot feel or understand our spatial perception so that we could easily fall over and injure ourselves. And guess where many Migraines and other forms of Headaches originate from? The small muscles at the base of your skull that can effect nerves and blood vessels in that region via compression and inflammatory response, along with central brain changes associated with the eye movement errors. 

Here's the exciting part, we can fix these errors and improve brain and eye function through Functional Neurological Rehabilitation, which along with Physical Therapy and Chiropractic care, will greatly improve spinal function by reducing the load or requirements of compensation throughout the system. At Portland Chiropractic Neurology, we treat these injuries with great success using a combination of all three treatment options. We are the only Chiropractic Neurology practice in the state of Maine, located right here in Portland.