|Author's note: Each patient education article in this column is based on research documented in Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic: An Evidence-Based Approach, co-edited by Marion Todres-Masarsky, DC.
The following patient education article introduces the little-appreciated concept that vision is related to spinal function. Please feel free to use it on your bulletin board, for lay lectures, and for your practice newsletter.
A well-known saying informs us that the eyes are the windows of the soul. For the clinician, vision is a window into neurological function. For example, you do not actually "see" with your eyes. You see with your brain. Most of us have participated in a clear demonstration of this fact: You can see things in a darkened room with your eyes closed - in your dreams. Your eyes are not generating the visual images you are dreaming about; those "sights" have been assembled in your brain. Because the conscious experience of sight depends on the brain, vision is a window into brain function.
The spinal nerves also play a critical role in vision. Nerves from the cervical spine (neck) and upper thoracic spine (the upper back) help to dilate (widen) the pupil - the opening that allows light into the eye. These same spinal nerves also help to change the shape of the lens to make distance vision possible. They also control the muscles in the walls of the blood vessels supplying the eyes and brain.
If you are visiting a doctor of chiropractic for the first time or returning for a new incident, perhaps your health complaint is some sort of neck pain or back pain. Therefore, it may seem odd to you if the doctor asks you questions about blurriness, eye strain, double vision, and other visual disturbances. In fact, questions such as these - and even a visual screening using an eye chart - may be very much to the point. Misalignments or fixations (subluxations) in the cervical and upper thoracic spine can disturb the spinal nerves that affect vision in the ways just discussed. It is quite reasonable for a doctor of chiropractic to monitor vision - or any function affected by the spinal nerves - as part of the doctor's assessment of the impact of subluxation on your health. The choice of which specific biological functions to monitor is up to the individual doctor's judgment.
Correction of subluxations through chiropractic adjustments can help the body overcome related visual disturbances.1,2 Interestingly, a chiropractic research team in Missouri recently reported that even some people with 20/20 vision at their first visit have better than 20/20 vision after two weeks of chiropractic care.3 Apparently, some people have the genetically determined ability to see better than 20/20, if it were not for the fact that subluxation disturbs their vision. Correcting subluxations thus can help people more closely approach their full visual potential.
- Gilman G,Bergstrand J. Visual recovery following chiropractic intervention. Chiropractic: Journal of Chiropractic Research & Clinical Investigation 1990;6:61.
- Masarsky CS, Todres-Masarsky M. Subluxation and the special senses. In: Masarsky CS, Todres-Masarsky M (eds.) Somatovisceral Aspects of Chiropractic: An Evidence-Based Approach. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 2001.
- Kessinger R, Boneva D. Changes of visual acuity in patients receiving upper cervical chiropractic care. Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research 1998;2(1):43.
Charles Masarsky, DC
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