Seeing Some Change

by Dave Authement

I recently had my annual eye appointment and was pleasantly surprised to find that my foveal vision had improved by half a diopter in my right eye. I say pleasantly surprised because I’ve been lazy and very sporadic in doing my eye drills. Yet with the little bit of work I have been doing (with an emphasis mostly on the right eye) I had a prescription improvement from -2.5 to -2. There is so much more going on with what our eyes do beyond what we think of as “vision.” When you think vision you think of the Snellen chart and 20/20. This is ONE small part of your visual system and the capabilities of your eyes, in terms of both their neurology and what’s happening biomechanically.

In regards to different visual capabilities, let’s look at just one “simple” skill. Can you move just your eyes without moving your head? Try just looking side to side first. I’m guessing it didn’t take long until your eyes felt pretty tired. We could repeat this process with up and down, diagonals, and circles. All of these different movements innervate the extraocular muscles leading to contractions and releases of the muscles, and the mechanoreceptors in those muscles then provide the brain with good sensory and motor information of their capabilities. It is no coincidence that this is one of the first things that babies learn to do. These eye movements allow them to look around and gather information about their surroundings long before they have even gained the ability to support and move their own head!

Assessing a forward bend
Assessing a forward bend
Reassessing a forward bend AFTER doing ONLY a vision drill
Reassessing a forward bend AFTER doing ONLY a vision drill
Why is this important? Well, in a nutshell, our Central Nervous System (CNS) only cares about one thing – survival. It bases its assessment of survival on the constant information it receives from many different systems in the body. When we don’t ever move our eyes a certain way (or another part of our body for that matter) the brain has little information about the possibility of using our eyes in this way. This lack of movement reduces our ability to see, to track things, etc., which means our CNS is not receiving enough information to evaluate our safety. This ultimately elevates the threat level of our nervous system.

Let’s go back to the beginning now with my eye appointment – the improvement of my vision (which occurred truly with very little work) is a systemic response to the lowering of my nervous system’s threat level. This lowering occurred simply by providing the CNS with more information through working to develop various visual skills. While there is also biomechanical work there that over time will create physiological changes to the tissues/structures, it is important to remember that form follows function. Our tissues’ state of tension (or lack thereof) is a direct representation of how safe our nervous system feels based on the information it has been provided. It is a constant feedback loop, and changes occur at the speed of the nervous system.

If you’d like to know more about looking at that state of your body from a neurological perspective and comparing/contrasting this perspective to a biomechanical one, I encourage you to attend the seminar I will be teaching on Tuesday November 18th. In this class we will discuss ways to quickly assess and reassess yourself to find out how what you are doing is affecting your CNS, ultimately leading you towards moving and feeling much better.

I’d like to leave you all now with a great article recently written by Katy Bowman on the eye musculature involved with our ability to focus at near/far distances. This article looks at the biomechanics of those muscles and is a great read!

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