Neck and shoulder pain causing you eye strain?

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S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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22 January 2018

First of all, the neck, shoulders and head are all very closely situated anatomically which means that if ailment befalls one it is most likely to negatively impact on the closest areas first. Muscle tension in the upper back, neck and shoulders can lead to headaches or eye strain because the flow of blood to the eyes is restricted. There are a lot of reasons that you could be experiencing neck or shoulder pain, below I’ve listed a few of the most popular causes as well as some of the ways you can relieve the pain and prevent eye strain.

Lifting heavy objects, cradling the phone against your ear, straining, whiplash and even emotional tension can cause a knot at the base of the skull on either side of the cervical spine. This knot, in turn, can cause eye pain and headaches.

The cause: sitting at a computer for too long

With the rise of technology came the rise of office and desk related work and, unfortunately, the rise in frequency of desk-related aches and pains. Much of this strain comes from the positioning of things you are reading such as the monitor or documents. Lighting, glare, bending and reaching also come into play as well.

The solution: regular breaks and a better workstation set-up

The placement of your screen, documents, and devices largely determines your neck and shoulder posture.  Your neck and shoulders will be up/ down/ twisted or reaching based on where you position your equipment. 

There are a many ways that you can adjust your workstation set-up to make yourself more comfortable and help to prevent neck and shoulder pain which, in turn, will limit the amount of eye strain you experience.

Tip 1) Place documents nearby on a slight inclination. If your documents are flat on the desk and to the side of the keyboard this can cause you to twist and contort your neck, shoulders and head in a whole manner of odd ways. Placing documents nearby your computer monitor at an angle will help straighten the neck and prevent twisting.

Tip 2) Make sure your monitor is at eye level, and your keyboard is at a comfortable height. Sometimes we have to play about a little to get an arrangement that not only feels right with us but also what is good for our body. Try to aim to have your monitor at eye level and your key board at a level where your elbow is at a resting position on the table.

Tip 3) Adjust the brightness of your screen. Starring at a bright screen for 8 hours out of your day can take its toll on your eyes. Try adjusting the brightness setting on your monitor so that the contrast between the text and the background is not so great and also so that the harshness that is associated with bright white/blue light is reduced.

Tip 4) Regular breaks. It’s important to schedule in regular breaks if you are at a computer for long periods of time. Having frequent breaks will prevent your eyes from becoming tired, sore and dry. Why not give your body a stretch and go for a short walk before returning to your desk and the computer screen?

The cause: stress

Stress can manifest itself in the physical body in a multitude of ways and affect areas like our sleeping patterns, digestion, immune function – even our hormone levels! When we are stressed we often hold a lot of tension in the shoulders and over time this can cause stiffness and pain. This pain then has a knock on effect to the rest of our head and shoulder area, causing a stiff neck and eye strain. Check out my blog ‘are your emotions to blame for your joint pain?’ for more information on how stress can impact the physical body.

The solution: effective stress management

This is often easier said than done, there are many different factors that contribute to high stress levels but also many different ways that you can manage stress. Most people find that a combination of techniques works best but it’s important to find the right way for you as not all methods will be helpful to all people. Below I’ve mentioned a few easy ways to help you manage stress, you’ll find a more in depth exploration here.

Tip 1) Exercise. Exercise is a natural stress-reliever; it helps to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin which helps to lift our mood and also helps to burn off excess levels of stress hormones which are produced constantly when we are under pressure. Feel like you don’t have the time? Check out our blog for top tips on staying fit when you’re super busy for some easy ways to get active.

Tip 2) Breathing techniques. Breathing techniques can help relieve stress by bringing some of the physiological symptoms of stress i.e. fast heart rate and high blood pressure back down. Research has found that diaphragmatic breathing, that is breathing using the full torso and not just the top which is shallow breathing, can reduce amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.1

Tip 3) Herbal remedies. Life can sometimes get chaotic and it can become easy for us to become overwhelmed. That’s where our handy herbs can help you out; I’d suggest trying our AvenaCalm tincture that aims to relieve mild symptoms of stress and anxiety. Unlike most stress relief remedies, AvenaCalm is organically grown and freshly harvested and comes in the form of a herbal liquid tincture.

The cause: poor posture

It’s amazing how much our posture can impact on our bodies! Tension in the neck or shoulders can be felt down into the arms, cause headaches like tension headaches, and even cause eye strain. However, if you are experiencing a lot of severe neck pain, that doesn’t seem to improve or lessen with time, I’d always recommend that you get a doctor to check you over. This will allow them to rule out more complicated conditions such as slipped disc, calcified spurs etc. 

The solution: correct posture alignment

I suppose this goes without saying although I’ll reiterate as it is always good to draw our attention back to our posture as we can often slip back into bad habits!

Tip 1) Quit slumping! Slumping or hunching over your computer is a likely culprit for neck and shoulder pain. The head weighs a surprisingly hefty 11 pounds (or 5kg) so if you spend all day every day with your head hanging and your neck out of alignment it’s no wonder you’ll be experiencing neck pain – or even back pain! As I have said above try to have your computer screen at eye level which will prevent straining the neck. 

Another cause for slumping you may not have considered is those pesky mobile phones we’re so attached to! Craning your neck to look down at your phone will have an even worse effect on your neck than hunching at a computer. This is because your head will be at a greater decline. I’m not about to suggest that you stop using your beloved smartphone but, moderation is important – particularly if its overuse is beginning to affect your body and eye health!

Tip 2) Neck and shoulder stretches. Stretching out will help to ease off any existing muscle tension that has nested in your neck and shoulders. Try a few of the following exercises:

- Gently dip your head down to your chest and then gaze up at the ceiling, repeat several times being sure to go nice and slow.

- Gently turn your head to the left then the right, repeat several times being sure to go nice and slow.

- Gently circle your head by taking your chin down towards your chest and then rotate up towards the left ear, take the head back to look at the ceiling and then down the other side. Repeat several times and then rotate the other way going nice and slow.

- Shrug your shoulders forwards and then shrug them backwards.

- Swing your arms in a large circle backwards and then forwards – be careful of the shoulder joint in this one!

The cause: awkward sleeping position

Ever had a restless night and wound up with sore, tired, red, puffy eyes the following day? Symptoms of eye strain can be intensified by sleep deprivation. During sleep, the eyes are replenished and rehydrated with essential nutrients. Therefore, lack of sleep can result in persistent eye irritation and dryness. What’s more having an awkward sleeping position it also contribute to neck pain and lead on to cause eye strain. 

The solution: find the right sleeping position for you!

Good quality sleep is an essential part of our health; when we are sleeping our body carries out a number of important repair processes. At night, and with good quality sleep, tissues are repaired, our organs rest and finish cycles such as flushing out toxins, and our brain processes information that it has received throughout the day. Even our founder Alfred Vogel recognised the importance of sleep declaring it as ‘the remedy which we cannot do without.’ 

Tip 1) Get into a good night routine. Getting into the habit of winding down and relaxing more before heading to bed can help improve your sleep quality and prevent tired sore eyes the next day. Try detaching yourself from bright screens and settling down in bed earlier than you usually would.

Tip 2) Herbal sleeping aids. The great thing about using herbs to help you get to sleep and stay asleep is that they often don’t have the same drowsy side effects that are associated with sleeping pills. I’d recommend our herbal sleep aid Dormeasan that contains fresh extracts of Valerian and Hops to help you drift off to a natural sleep. 

Tip 3) Find a comfortable sleeping position. Finding a sleeping position that is right for you can help to prevent us from feeling neck kinks the next day. Check out Marianna’s blog to find what your perfect sleeping position should be.


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As the A. Vogel Muscles and Joints advisor, I recommend Atrogel® for the effective relief from aches and pains.

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Did you know?

Your head exerts up to 12lbs on the spine and when you lower your head (to read a text or check your facebook) this can increase to as much as 60lbs - the same weight as 5 bowling balls!

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