Trifocal lenses causing neck pain

Q: Could wearing my new trifocals have anything to do with my recent neck pain? I didn’t have neck pain before wearing trifocal lenses.

A: Yes. Although trifocal lenses and neck pain may seem unrelated, the two are indeed linked. However, it is unlikely that your neck pain is due to a problem with the prescription of the lens itself. Instead, tilting your head up or down in order to see out of the appropriate portion of the lens can cause various neck problems including pain.

As a chiropractor, I’ve worked with several people who have developed neck discomfort after switching from single vision lenses to trifocals. The reason for this is simply that people wearing trifocals often change the way they position their head during certain tasks or activities. Examples include everyday events such as reading a computer screen or labels on a grocery shelf, walking up and down stairs, etc. Tilting the head up and back to look through the bottom lens causes bones in the upper neck (upper cervical vertebrae) to jam together and stay locked in that abnormal position. Conversely, tilting the head down and forward to peer out of the upper lens causes a reversal of the normal neck curvature. In either case, neck bones become misaligned, neck and shoulders muscles become tense, and nerves become irritated. These disturbances can result in neck discomfort or headaches.

As with other health concerns, the first step in solving the neck pain is determining the cause. Pay attention to the position of your head while you are engaged in activities such as reading, sewing, or computer work. Your head should be kept in the neutral position (neither tilted forward or backward nor turned to the side). It might be necessary to change the height of the computer monitor, raise or lower reading material or make other modifications to avoid neck damage. Keep in mind: even a slight amount of head tilting over time can result in considerable neck strain overall.

In situations when it is impossible to modify the position of what you are looking at, consider wearing another pair of glasses recommended for that particular task or activity. This will allow you to see clearly and maintain correct neck posture.