Neck/shoulder discomfort due to visually demanding experimental near work is influenced by previous neck pain, task duration, astigmatism, internal eye discomfort and accommodation

PLoS One. 2017 Aug 23;12(8):e0182439. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182439. eCollection 2017.


Visually demanding near work can cause eye discomfort, and eye and neck/shoulder discomfort during, e.g., computer work are associated. To investigate direct effects of experimental near work on eye and neck/shoulder discomfort, 33 individuals with chronic neck pain and 33 healthy control subjects performed a visual task four times using four different trial lenses (referred to as four different viewing conditions), and they rated eye and neck/shoulder discomfort at baseline and after each task. Since symptoms of eye discomfort may differ depending on the underlying cause, two categories were used; internal eye discomfort, such as ache and strain, that may be caused by accommodative or vergence stress; and external eye discomfort, such as burning and smarting, that may be caused by dry-eye disorders. The cumulative performance time (reflected in the temporal order of the tasks), astigmatism, accommodation response and concurrent symptoms of internal eye discomfort all aggravated neck/shoulder discomfort, but there was no significant effect of external eye discomfort. There was also an interaction effect between the temporal order and internal eye discomfort: participants with a greater mean increase in internal eye discomfort also developed more neck/shoulder discomfort with time. Since moderate musculoskeletal symptoms are a risk factor for more severe symptoms, it is important to ensure a good visual environment in occupations involving visually demanding near work.

MeSH terms

  • Accommodation, Ocular*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Astigmatism / physiopathology*
  • Ergonomics*
  • Eye / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*

Grant support

This study was funded by internal funds from the University of Gävle and by external funds from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (reference number 2005-0488 and 2009-1761). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.