As we sat at the dinner table reading cards and opening gifts a pair of family reading glasses were passed around; we also have several pairs at the front desk in the clinic. Many of us know if we are near sighted or far sighted. We might have a pair of glasses for reading and another pair for driving. but do you actually know how the muscles of the eye work? Yes, there are some parts of the eye that loose the ability to contract and relax as we age; however is it possible that range of motion for the muscles of the eye can work the same as walking to keep our hearts and hips healthy?
I have had several patients over the years recovering from concussion. They are usually refereed to a vestibular physiotherapist and return with eye exercises that help with dizziness and balance. These amazing patients inspired my to learn more and share some of the exercises related to the eyes.
We must remember the previous post and revisit “the brain as a bully” to fully understand how the eyes and proprioception works. Basically, the brain will turn the body into a pretzel to keep the eyes level on the horizon. Now there are lots of factors that can alter how the eyes are sitting in the skull. the bones of the head the teeth, the jaw, the spine, the hips even a difference in our feet can cause the eyes to shift slightly. I like to start at the top and work my way down.
There are essentially 8 muscles that help us to move the eye; and a few more that help with contraction.
So here are some delicious exercises for the muscles of the eye. If any of these exercises make you dizzy or nauseated you should stop or do less.
- Start with the range of motion for each eye; up, down, left, right, and then the diagonals. See if there is a direction that is comfortable then find one that is a little more difficult or uncomfortable. Don’t panic this is only a stretch.
- I often find myself educating my patients on the range of motion of the eye, teaching them how the eye moves and how it is connected facially to the small suboccipital muscles at the back of the head, especially if they arrive with a headache. These little gems are guilty of causing that nagging headache that feels like a band around the head. To feel the connection place your index fingers at the base of your skull and move your eyes from left to right. Can you feel a small flicker?
- Eric Franklineye exercises are some of my favorites. His Dynamic Imagery gets the brain thinking about the body. Can you imagine space around the eyeball? can you feel it floating in that space? What about light? can you feel the light entering into the back of the eyeball rather than the front? can you feel the light coming into the back of your skull? How does this make your neck feel?
- This eye exercise is one of my favorites from “5 minute fixes to improve your riding” by Wendy Murdoch. Let your eyes rest in the socket. Can you feel the difference between resting and staring eyes? can you feel what the muscles of your face are doing when your eyes are closed? Is your brow furrowed with your eye brows knit together? or is there a softness and space between them? Close your eyes and feel the eye lids gently pushing against the eyeballs, can you feel the eyes sink back into the sockets? How does this affect your balance.
Just try them out and keep finding ways to get the brain to consider the body!