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Woman, 74, found that her GLASSES were the cause of her aching pain

As a busy medical secretary, Barbara Smith spent many hours staring at her computer screen typing doctor notes and so, when her neck and shoulders grew stiff and painful, she assumed that the long hours at her desk were taking their toll.

As a busy medical secretary, Barbara Smith spent many hours staring at her computer screen typing doctor notes and so, when her neck and shoulders grew stiff and painful, she assumed that the long hours at her desk were taking their toll.

As a busy medical secretary, Barbara Smith spent many hours staring at her computer screen typing doctor notes and so, when her neck and shoulders grew stiff and painful, she assumed that the long hours at her desk were taking their toll.

‘Some days I was in front of my screen for 12 hours,’ says Barbara, 74.

A stiffness started at the bottom of my neck and spread down my shoulders, and it wasn’t long before I found normal, everyday movements difficult.

‘I couldn’t turn to talk to anyone – I should turn in my swivel chair. It was just as bad looking in the oven or checking my rearview mirror while driving. ‘

Barbara’s doctor diagnosed arthritis and prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug, but that didn’t help much. Because the pain interrupted her sleep, Barbara tried everything she could to fix the problem – for the next five years she tried physical therapy, switched jobs, and, at the suggestion of a surgeon, a breast reduction surgery – but even that didn’t solve the problem.

Nothing worked until Barbara went for a routine eye test – more than six years after her pain started – and eventually the cause was pinpointed to a highly unlikely source: her glasses. “By then my shoulders were so stiff that I couldn’t even lower myself to the chin rest when the optician wanted to test the pressure in my eye,” says Barbara.

He asked why I was struggling and I explained. He then asked me if I was wearing my varifocal glasses [glasses that correct vision both far away and close up] for computer work.

When I answered ‘yes’ he said that might be the cause, as I would constantly move my neck to get a good look through my glasses. I had been wearing varifocal drugs for about 20 years and it was incredible to think that these light movements had caused all this pain. ‘

The answer for Barbara was computer glasses - cheaper than varifocal lenses, at over £ 50 a pair you can see the screen with, but they are less powerful than the reading portion of varifocal lenses

The answer for Barbara was computer glasses - cheaper than varifocal lenses, at over £ 50 a pair you can see the screen with, but they are less powerful than the reading portion of varifocal lenses

The answer for Barbara was computer glasses – cheaper than varifocal lenses, at over £ 50 a pair you can see the screen with, but they are less powerful than the reading portion of varifocal lenses

Varifocal lenses are like having two sets of lenses in one pair. The bottom of the lens is made for close-up work, such as reading or writing a book, while the top part is designed for distance. The change in power across the lens is very gradual – unlike bifocal lenses where there are two different sections separated by a line across the center of the lens.

“ By the time we’re in our mid-40s, we often lose the ability to focus on close-ups and need reading glasses because in our eyes the lenses become less flexible as we age, ” explains Bhavin Shah. , a behavioral optometrist at Central Vision Opticians, in Finchley, North London.

‘If you already need glasses to see things in the distance, you may have trouble seeing things up close, such as reading a menu. Many people want one pair of glasses that performs both tasks, rather than constantly changing glasses. ‘

However, varifocal lenses can cause problems, especially for those who do a lot of computer work, he adds.

‘If you look straight ahead, you look through the top half of the lens. But if you want to read something, of course you lower your eyes and look through the bottom of the lens.

Her doctor referred her to a physical therapist months after her pain started, but her shoulders were so stiff that she struggled to do even basic exercises and feared she would have to give up the horseback riding she loved since her teens.

Her doctor referred her to a physical therapist months after her pain started, but her shoulders were so stiff that she struggled to do even basic exercises and feared she would have to give up the horseback riding she loved since her teens.

Her doctor referred her to a physical therapist months after her pain started, but her shoulders were so stiff that she struggled to do even basic exercises and feared she would have to give up the horseback riding she loved since her teens.

‘In the middle is an intermediate part of the lens, through which you can look through and read a computer screen, for example. But if your screen is not in the right position and you are too close, you often tilt your chin up, even slightly, to see through the correct part of the lens, ” adds Bhavin Shah.

‘When you sit at a computer all day, you constantly move your head slightly to see clearly. This movement can lead to eye strain, but will eventually cause neck and shoulder problems. ‘

An article published in 2007 in the journal Ergonomics looked at the effect of wearing varifocal lenses during computer work – 14 of 33 participants wore varifocal glasses, the rest had glasses with a single type of lens.

The study concluded that people on varifocal drugs moved their heads forward and their necks curved more, which increased the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and headaches.

Gary Jones, a physical therapist at Physio 206, in Bromsgrove and Solihull, has many patients whose glasses are a factor in neck and shoulder pain.

“ For some people who have developed bad habits with their posture anyway, there may be increased stress on the muscles at the base and top of the neck when they tilt their head to see through their varifocal means, ” he explains.

Over time, moving your head instead of your eyes to see your screen will have a cumulative effect, making the nerves around the joints more sensitive. This can also lead to an imbalance in the muscles between the shoulder blade and neck, and some become stiff. ‘

Had she known this, Barbara could have avoided years of pain, not to mention surgery – she even tried to switch wards at work. ‘I was wondering if a new work environment could help,’ says Barbara, who lives with husband Peter, 74, in St Breward, Cornwall. “But it didn’t matter much.”

Her doctor referred her to a physical therapist months after her pain started, but her shoulders were so stiff that she struggled to do even basic exercises and feared that she would have to give up the horseback riding she loved since her teens.

More than two years after the symptoms started, a breast consultant at the hospital where Barbara worked suggested that her large chest put extra stress on her shoulder and neck and she decided to have a breast reduction.

‘I had always been busty and hated it,’ says Barbara, who was a DD cup. “Taking off some of that weight pulling on my shoulder and neck seemed like a sensible way to go.”

But the operation, which reduced her to cup B, made little difference. “I don’t regret it, but I was disappointed it hadn’t stopped the pain.” It wasn’t until the eye test that she discovered why.

The answer for Barbara was computer glasses – cheaper than varifocal lenses, at over £ 50 a pair you can see the screen with, but they are less powerful than the reading portion of varifocal lenses. Since reading tends to be done closer it requires stronger focus, but computer screens are usually further away.

Bhavin Shah says: “The lenses of computer glasses have one fixed focal point, the distance between you and your computer screen. It means there is a wider area to see through than with varifocal products. So you are likely to move your eyes more than your head, which is better with any strain on your neck and shoulders. ‘

Within a week of the optician making a pair for Barbara, she noticed a difference. “The pain in my neck and shoulders started to ease and in about four months it was completely gone,” she says.

Experience has made her more cautious about using the right glasses. ‘When I do computer work – even reading books on my iPad – I make sure to wear my computer glasses. It’s amazing what an impact the right glasses have had on my life. ‘

Closet love

What’s the healthiest way to store your food? This week: blueberries

According to research from Lakehead University in Canada, blueberries are packed with cell-protecting antioxidants called phenols and anthocyanins – and the number of these increases by as much as 44 percent when stored in the refrigerator for 14 days.

This is because “metabolic processes are slow at low temperatures, preventing the breakdown of antioxidants, sugars and other compounds,” the researchers said in 2017.

The same team also suggested that the smaller the berries, the more nutritious they are, since most of the antioxidants are in the skin and smaller berries have proportionally more skin per berry.