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ealthy Computing Tips

Healthy Computing: Eye-Neck Relaxation

© Erik Peper PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Healthy Computing Tips by Erik Peper PhD. View all columns in series
Optimize your performance and prevent computer-related disorders with Healthy Computing Email Tips. Each week we provide hints to help you stay healthier while working.

Did you know that when you sit still and look around with only your eyes that you are moving muscles in the back of your neck? Your eyes guide your neck to move in the direction of visual focus. Using your eyes throughout the day without taking large movement breaks may slowly build up neck and shoulder tension as well as eye irritation. Notice how your neck tightens and release neck tension when you practice EYE-NECK RELAXATION.


Sit comfortably erect in your chair so that your head and neck are free to move. While looking straight ahead, place the tips of your ring, middle and index fingers of both hands on the back of your neck on each side of your spine, with the ring finger just below the base of your skull. Let your fingers relax so that they can gently sense the movement of the muscles.

While facing forward, move only your eyes to look to the extreme right and then, to the extreme left. Continue looking from side to side a few times, keeping your head still. As your eyes move, feel with your fingers the movement of your neck muscles. Most likely you can feel the slight tightening and relaxation of these muscles as your eyes shift back and forth.

While you did this exercise, were you breathing? If you held your breath, repeat the above while breathing diaphragmatically.

Use the above awareness exercise to remind yourself that neck tension and breath holding tend to occur concurrently while looking at the monitor: Waiting with bated breath! Take periodic vision breaks to reduce your neck and shoulder tension. Practice some of the following during your workday:

  • Relaxed blinking. Allow your eyelids to drop down and softly close your eyes every minute or so (e.g., while waiting for the computer, at the end of a column of numbers, while talking on the phone, etc.)
  • Drop you hands to your lap and gently shrug your shoulders or wiggle your head during a micro-break.
  • Slowly turn your head from side to side while keeping your eyes soft and feeling a softness in the muscles in the back of your head.
  • Breathe diaphragmatically, feeling heavier (like a sleeping pet or baby) for three or four breaths every 15 minutes.

*We thank Kees Lanser for teaching how to sense the neck tension while looking.

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About The Author
Erik Peper, Ph.D. is an international authority on biofeedback and self-regulation. He is Professor and Co-Director of the Institute for Holistic Healing Studies, Department of Health Education, at San Francisco State University. He is President of the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe (2005) and past President of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.......more
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