Stiff Shoulders and BVD

Binocular vision dysfunction, or BVD for short, is a fairly common eye condition that is caused by eye misalignment. Although many people haven’t heard of BVD, studies estimate that over half of us will be affected by the symptoms of the condition at some point during our lifetime.

We have two eyes and in order for them to produce a single, clear picture, both eyes have to be working in perfect synchronicity. Even the slightest misalignment could cause double vision, but instead, our brain sends a message to the muscles of the eyes, forcing them to compensate for the misalignment and create a single image. This requires significant effort, which results in the patient experiencing a number of debilitating effects. These effects create symptoms of binocular vision dysfunction.

Causes of binocular vision dysfunction

While BVD is caused by the misalignment of the eyes, meaning that patients with the condition can experience it all the time, there are certain movements and environments that can trigger significant episodes of BVD that result in more severe symptoms. Some of the most common BVD triggers include:

  • Driving around bends and curves

  • Driving with vehicles speeding past on either side

  • Large spaces with tall ceilings, such as theaters, malls, and airports

  • Moving your head up and down or from side to side quickly

  • Quickly sitting up or standing from a sitting or lying position

  • Laying looking up at the sky

Exactly what triggers BVD and how severe symptoms are experienced can vary considerably between patients.

Are my stiff shoulders caused by binocular dysfunction?

Binocular vision dysfunction can cause a wide range of different symptoms. Neurological symptoms such as headaches and dizziness are very commonly associated with BVD, as are issues that affect the eyes, such as blurred vision or losing your place while reading. However, many people are surprised to discover that binocular vision dysfunction can also cause some very real physical symptoms that affect the wider body too. One of these is stiff shoulders, which is often accompanied by pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.

Our brain primarily tries to compensate for our visual misalignment by sending a message to the muscles of the eyes to get them to alter their position. However, this isn’t all. Many people who experience BVD subconsciously tilt their head to the side whenever they need to concentrate; in attempt to compensate for their misalignment. When you are spending long periods of time concentrating, such as when driving or using a computer, this can put a strain on your neck, shoulders, and upper back that causes stiffness and soreness to develop.

Many patients with BVD also hold tension in the upper part of their body as a result of their condition. This can cause pressure that leads to headaches/migraines, stiffness of the neck, jaw, shoulders, and upper back, and discomfort in all of these areas. Again, these patients may not realize that they have been affected by BVD and instead may seek medication and help for their symptoms rather than the underlying cause.

If you are regularly experiencing stiff shoulders, you could potentially be affected by binocular vision dysfunction. This is particularly true if you are also experiencing other common symptoms of BVD such as:

  • Dizziness/feeling light-headed

  • Vertigo

  • Motion sickness

  • Persistent headaches/migraines

  • Anxiety/panic attacks

Still have questions? Contact our team today or take our self test to see if you're suffering from binocular vision disfunction symptoms. Visit The Dizziness and Headache Optometry Center in Santa Barbara, California, or contact us today at (805) 626-3400 .

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