Unfavorable visual conditions during computer work may affect development of both eyestrain and musculoskeletal pain in the neck and shoulder area. The aim of the study was to investigate how direct glare affects symptom development, muscle activity, and muscle blood flow in m. orbicularis oculi and m. trapezius during reading on a computer screen.
Fifteen healthy young adults with normal binocular vision read text on a computer screen at an optimized computer workplace, 30 minutes with glare exposure and 30 minutes with appropriate lighting. Postural angles were continuously registered. Development of eye symptoms and musculoskeletal pain in the neck and shoulder area were recorded using VAS scales. Muscle activity and muscle blood flow were measured continuously using electromyography and photoplethysmography, respectively.
Glare exposure resulted in significantly more pronounced eye pain, increased orbicularis muscle activity, and increased trapezius blood flow compared to reading with appropriate lighting. There were no significant differences in posture between the two light conditions. There were also significant associations between orbicularis oculi activity and both trapezius blood flow and neck pain during both conditions.
Results from the current study show that direct glare conditions cause increased eyestrain and orbicularis oculi contraction during reading on a computer screen. This study also indicates that exposure to direct glare affects the trapezius muscle, possibly by an interaction between the visual system, sympathetic nervous system, and head-stabilizing muscles. In addition, there were associations between the use of orbicularis oculi, trapezius blood flow, and development of neck pain independent of the lighting.