Best Exercises for Eye Strain

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on March 07, 2023
3 min read

Eye strain is a common condition where after heavy use, your eyes start to feel tired or sore. It’s common to experience eye strain after spending a long time reading, on the computer, or driving. Most cases of eye strain are temporary and disappear after you’ve taken a break and rested your eyes. In cases where eye strain bothering you, there are several exercises you can do to help relieve it faster.

Eye strain has several components. Looking at very bright or very dim objects can lead your pupils to work harder, while looking at a stationary object can cause fatigue in the muscles that aim and focus your eyes. You also tend to blink less while focusing on a single item, so your eyes can start to dry out and become sore. Exercises for eye strain can help reduce these types of fatigue and soreness.

Blinking and Yawning

The quickest way to reduce some symptoms of eye strain is to help your eyes relubricate themselves. If your eyes are dry from spending a long time looking at one thing, then blinking and yawning can help trigger your eyes to produce tears to moisten your eyes. Blinking quickly several times can also help spread the tears across your eyes, reducing burning or sore feelings.

Rolling Eyes

Rolling your eyes, also known as “rotational viewing” in yogic eye exercises practices, helps release tension in the muscles that aim your eyes. Rolling your eyes gently in one direction and then back again can help reduce tension and soreness in the muscles around and behind your eyes. You can do this three to five times in a row every hour to help relieve eye strain. 

Focus Changing

When the muscles that help focus your eyes become sore, practicing focus changes can help reduce tension and pain.

Step 1: Place a finger a few inches in front of your nose and focus on it, then slowly move your finger away from your face.

Step 2: When your arm is fully extended, look beyond your finger to something in the far distance. Focus there for several seconds, then look back at your finger.

Step 3: Bring your finger back towards your face until it is touching your nose, and focus on it the whole time. Then look at an object on the other side of the room and focus on it for several seconds.

Repeat this three times after completing a task that causes you eye strain.

Palming Eyes

Palming your eyes has two important effects: first, it requires that your eyes are closed for a while, which is good for eye strain on its own. Second, some studies suggest that it may help your eyes circulate blood and liquid better, helping your eyes recover from hard work more easily.

To palm your eyes, just close them and gently place the warm palm of your hands over both without placing pressure on your eyes themselves. Remain like this for thirty to sixty seconds, and repeat whenever your eyes start to feel tired. 

Vertical and Horizontal Movements

Similarly to rolling your eyes, moving your eyes vertically and horizontally can help stretch tired muscles.

Step 1: Close your eyes, then slowly “look” up towards the ceiling, then back down to the floor. Repeat three times.

Step 2: With your eyes still closed, “look” to your left, then to your right. Repeat three times. 

You can do this activity once an hour to help reduce eye strain and loosen tight eye muscles. The movement with your eyelids closed also helps spread tears across your eye to reduce dryness. 

Warm Compresses

A step beyond simply palming your eyes is using a warm compress instead. The warmth appears to help trigger tears while relaxing muscles. These effects combine to help relieve eye strain without putting any additional stress on delicate muscles. It seems to be effective whether or not you use other exercises as well.

Your eyes are fragile, so it’s important to take care of them. If you are regularly experiencing eye strain, you may want to reach out to your physician. Consistent or chronic eye strain may be a sign that you have other problems with your eyes, such as untreated astigmatism or eye injuries. In these cases, your eye strain will be better treated by fixing the underlying problem instead of practicing relaxation exercises.