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Glendale, CA 91206
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Eyes in the Back of Your Neck?

Posted on: 04/11/2002
About one in three people in the general population has neck pain at any given time. Neck pain commonly comes from whiplash injury. However, studies show there are just as many people with neck pain who have never had a car accident.

Neck pain can occur by itself, but often other symptoms go along with it. A sensation of being light-headed or dizzy is common. Blurred vision may develop. Vertigo can also occur. This is the sensation that the body is revolving or the world is spinning by.

Scientists have long known that the eyes and neck are closely connected. In fact, there are reflexes called ocular-neck reflexes that work together to keep vision and neck movements normal. Damage to the muscles, nerves, or joints of the neck can affect these reflexes. The result is difficulty moving through space and keeping an upright position.

One group of scientists measured the sense of verticality or upright position in people with and without neck pain. They used a specific test called the Rod and Frame Test. Each person had to put a rod in a frame in the vertical position (straight up and down). The position of the rod was measured and compared to the true vertical position.

The results showed that the group with neck pain had more difficulty judging where true vertical was. This suggests that awareness of body position comes partly from the neck. How this works remains a mystery. Researchers are continuing to study the connections between the neck, eyes, and sense of body position.

Jaroslaw P. Grod, DC, FCCS(C), and Peter R. Diakow, DC, FCCS(C). Effect of Neck Pain On Verticality Perception: A Cohort Study. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. March 2002. Vol. 83. No. 3. Pp. 412-415.

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