Just five months ago, natural vision correction was a new concept for me. At that time, I was seeking help for vertigo, a condition which I had experienced irregularly since a car accident in 1973. My vertigo has appeared for unknown reasons for 25 years. The last neurologist I visited predicted that it would become worse when I was in my 40's and that I would have to learn to live with it. This prediction was correct. There were times when I found it difficult to work or function in any way that required head rotation or changes in body position.
During one particularly bad period, I consulted a chiropractor. His manipulations of my neck and the stretch recommended produced some relief, although the problem still returned. I was subsequently referred to a NUCCA chiropractor who determined that my C1 vertebra, the atlas, was misaligned. Realignment did not last very long or prevent reoccurrence of the vertigo. It was during my Level II CHEK Internship that I consulted Paul Chek about a possible course of treatment. Three months later, I was evaluated. A major part of my treatment plan consisted of natural vision correction.
Natural vision correction is often referred to as the Bates Method, named for William H. Bates, M.D., who first published his ideas and techniques for correcting vision problems without glasses in "Better Eyesight" magazine in 1919. His book on the subject, Perfect Sight without Glasses, was published in 1920. Currently available is a revised edition of his book titled The Bates Method for Better Eyesight without Glasses, as well as many other books based on his work. Dr. Bates began using natural vision correction techniques because his clinical experience and research revealed that the eye is never fixed in shape.1
The eye accommodates throughout the day for near and far vision and is able to accommodate for good vision throughout life even if a person has a seemingly permanent decrease in visual acuity. The changes in the shape of the eyeball, which allow for the ability to see at a distance and close up are caused by the six extrinsic eye muscles exerting tension on the eye. Bates attributed near sightedness, also known as myopia, to elongation of the eyeball due to excess tension in the superior and inferior oblique muscles. He attributed far sightedness, also known as hyperopia (or hypermetropia) to flatness of the eyeball due to excess tension in the rectus muscles. Astigmatism was described as asymmetrical changes in shape of the cornea due to unequal muscular tension. He found that these conditions could be improved or eliminated by changes in muscular tension. In his research he used drugs or surgery to eliminate the tension. His treatment techniques were designed to produce this release of tension and improvement of weakness with eye exercise and relaxation.1
Bates' primary techniques can be summarized as follows.
- Palming. Palming is a method for relaxation of the eyes. It is done by lightly placing the hands over the eyes to eliminate outside light, then relaxing and visualizing total blackness.
- Swinging. Swinging is another method to relax the gaze and avoid staring. This is done by rotating the head and shoulders from side to side while lifting the heel of the hand opposite to the rotation. The eyes are open, but there is no effort to focus on any part of the visual field as it passes.
- Blinking or flashing. Blinking or flashing is another way to practice seeing clearly. It involves looking at a test chart or card clearly for a brief time after resting the eyes, then closing them before blur begins.
- Central fixation. Central fixation is a result of focusing light rays on a small part of the retina called the fovea centralis, where visual acuity is best. It is practiced by seeing only part of the visual field clearly at any one time while the rest is seen less clearly.
- Memory. Memory is another method for practicing clear vision by using known images to help the eyes focus.
- Sunlight. Lastly, Dr. Bates believed that exposure of the eyes to natural sunlight was highly beneficial to health of the eyes. He recommended exposing the closed eyes to the sun every day and working in natural light without sunglasses as often as possible. 1
Today, there are many books available which offer self-treatment plans for natural vision correction. The ones referenced here are variations based on Bates methods and other philosophies. In 1920, Bates recommended doing away with all corrective lenses while relearning to see. Today's authors suggest using glasses only when needed, using glasses that have a prescription less than 20/20, or even using opposite lenses.2 In the books referenced here, methods for releasing eye tension and improving weaknesses are presented in many forms using aids such as eye charts, pictures, line drawings and massage techniques. (see accompanying figures.) Bates and other authors agree that different methods work for different people, and that once successful methods are found they should be practiced for a few minutes daily to prevent relapse.1
All of the techniques presented by Dr. Bates were methods for achieving the goal "to secure rest or relaxation, first of the mind and then of the eyes." 1 "Perfect eyesight can be attained only by relaxation." 1 The need for both mental and muscular relaxation is emphasized by other authors as well. Postural muscular tension, especially in the neck, is associated with eye pain, stress, and poor vision. Relief of this tension is necessary for vision correction. 2 The association of eye stress with postural stress has been noted throughout centuries. The relief of these stresses is still practiced in yoga 10 and many Eastern philosophies. 14 Chaitow 4 reporting from Eeman states that the body retains unconscious muscular contractions as a result of past activity which plays a role in the inability of the body to relax. According to Eeman, until neuromuscular relaxation is attained, relaxation of the mind cannot be.
The connection of the eyes to many parts of the body is highlighted by the vestibulo-occular reflex which maintains the eyes on a target when the head turns, 13 and the occulo-pelvic reflex in which the changes in position of the eyes and the pelvis are related. 5 There are medical diagnostic tests, which involve eye movements in connection with gait, stance, head/neck position, and ear stimulation. The Romberg test, Hallpike test, positional and gait tests, and ENG tests all rely on the absence of or irregularity of eye movements to assist in finding the site of a lesion. 3 Chek 6 has pointed out the many areas of the body that associate pain with the eyes.
The kidneys and liver are also often associated with the eyes, perhaps because of their role as filters to remove toxins from the body which are evidenced in the eyes 7 or because of their relationship with energy meridians or chakras. 14 A common connection of the stomach with the eyes is motion sickness. Trying to hold objects still with the eyes against a moving background is the stress that starts the nausea. 8 Motion sickness occurs when the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine rise in the blood, and in response, another hormone, vasopressin, also rises. This causes stomach contractions which lead to vomiting. 3 The eyes can even be associated with the flow of cerebrospinal fluid 12. Because the eyes are affected by so many factors, there may be many approaches and various amounts of time necessary to improve vision.
When I approached Paul Chek for evaluation, my major complaint was of vertigo, but my assessment results indicated a complex set of problems which involved my neck, shoulder, stomach, liver, colon, teeth, cranium and eyes. I was wearing monovision contact lenses, which were exacerbating my inability to use binocular vision, thereby making my vision poorer. I also had poorly coordinated eye movements and trigger points in the extrinsic eye muscles. My treatment plan consisted of what Paul calls "surrounding the dragon" of vertigo by treating all the areas mentioned above. He particularly recommended natural vision correction because of the connection of the eyes with all the other problem areas, and because the eyes are the first control for the position of the rest of the body in space.
I have used many of the methods and techniques described in the books I read. Some of them produced better results for me than others, just as Bates said. Palming, flashing, and sunning have helped improve my vision, as have some other methods not mentioned in this essay. Range of motion exercise and reading small print in poor lighting have also helped. I have also learned to assess length and tension imbalances in muscles and treat them as well. Therefore, since eye muscles are striated tissue, I have tried to stretch the obliques and strengthen the recti in addition to the other techniques. I have had weekly NMT treatments for my neck and shoulder, and have tried to duplicate the eye muscle trigger point releases I had during treatment. My clearest vision has occurred after a neck treatment when I was relaxed and had previously done my eye exercises. I use an eye chart, and have noted days when my visual acuity has doubled in clarity. The times when it decreases are inevitably related to stress. At these times not only is my vision poorer, but the accupressure points around my eyes are very tender, and my extrinsic eye muscles are sore. I wear my glasses infrequently, usually only when driving at night. Since I started this treatment program five months ago, I have had one episode of dizziness. This was not vertigo, just dizziness when rotating my head. It happened only once and was very mild.
As we learn more about the functions and organization of the body, new treatment options open. The importance of eye function to the rest of the body is immense and should be considered when making recommendations for treatment. There are behavioral optometrists and natural vision correction specialists in many cities. References are available in many of the books about natural vision correction. Additionally, the specific abilities to connect eye and body function so that appropriate treatment is recommended are part of the Level III CHEK Internship.
- Bates, W. H., The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1981.
- Beresford, S.M., Muris, D.W., Allen, M.J., and Young, F.A., Improve Your Vision without Glasses or Contact Lenses, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996.
- Blakley, B.W., and Siegel, M., Feeling Dizzy., Macmillian, New York, 1995.
- Chaitow, L., Modern Neuromuscular Techniques., Churchill Livingstone, New York. 1996.
- Chaitow, L., Muscle Energy Techniques., Churchill Livingstone, New York., 1996.
- Chek, P., CHEK Certification Program Level III Manual., C.H.E.K. Institute, Encinitas, CA. 1992, 1997, 2000.
- Goodrich, J., Natural Vision Improvement., Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA, 1985.
- Quackenbush, T., Relearning to See., North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 1997.
- Roy, M., Eyerobics, Thorsons, Harper Collins, Hammersmith, London, 1999.
- Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, DK Publishing, New York,1998.
- Thie, J.F., Touch for Health, DeVorss Publications, Marina del Rey, CA. 1994.
- Weil, A., Spontaneous Healing., Ballantine Books, New York, 1995.
- Young, P.A. and Young, P.H., Basic Clinical Neuroanatomy, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, MD., 1997.
- Zuraw, R.A. and Lewanski, R.T., Perfect Eyesight, Taoist Publishers, Troy MI, 1998.