The Hidden Link Between Eye Dominance, Performance, and Pain

More than the eyes can see: Ayla's Story

When we talk about fitness, we often focus on muscles, strength, and flexibility. But our visual system? Not so much.


From running gracefully, to excelling at volleyball, to going to bed without that one spot feeling tight… again, our eyes play a vital role that’s often underestimated.


We think of movement in terms of muscles, strength, and flexibility… but the eyes?


“I can see the ball, I can see the dumbbell, I can see the trail, so what else is there?”, you may be wondering.

A lot, it turns out.

Depending who you ask, there are anywhere from 17-26 visual skills we use in life and sport. For any given skill, you will often find one eye does a job than the other, and this can lead to imbalances.


A common imbalance that can occur is eye dominance, and this is exactly what my client Ayla, was suffering from when she came to see me. 


Ever heard of eye dominance? 


Imagine if both your eyes worked equally well, but whenever you got tired, your brain started ignoring the visual data from one eye (the dormant eye), and relied only – or heavily – on the other eye (the dominant eye).


This happens in all of us to small degree, but when the imbalance crosses a threshold, it causes problems.

Ayla's story

Ayla is fit, works out a lot, and stretches and foams rolls consistently, yet she couldn’t seem to break the pattern that eventually led her to our clinic.

  • her right lower-mid back & core kept getting really tight and tried taking over in most exercises.
  • her left lower-mid back & core always felt “asleep” or “empty” and she could never get it to engage during workouts.
  • By the end of most days, she would go to bed with tightness in her Right low-mid back, along with several other areas specifically on her right side. stretching and rolling out offered minimal relief.

By the time she got to us,  she had already tried massage therapy,  yoga and acupuncture but the issue never really resolved.


Now it was our turn.


After some massage and assessments, we confirmed what she felt: her right side was consistently taking over, and her left side was very slow to engage.


This, along with some other signs, tipped me off that eye dominance might be playing a role.

What Did We Do?

We got a baseline by performing two exercises that should have deeply activated her left back and core and tracked how it felt in her body:

  • Right side: tight, compressed, over-working
  • left side: empty, weak, doing nothing

We then had her cover her right eye (dominant eye), and do some saccadic motions with her left eye for about 15 seconds. Then we repeated the exercise.


Wala – Abra kadabra – magic


As if by the wave of a wand, the exercises felt very different. Her right side felt relaxed and calm during the motion, while her left side actively pulled the weight like it was supposed to. She actually burst out laughing with excitement and disbelief.


All that time spent stretching and rolling out just to get minimal relief, and here she felt deep relaxation in the span of about 15 seconds!


This relief was only temporary of course, because the eye imbalance would take time to correct, but at least now she had a path that felt hopeful.


We gave her drills to start correcting the eye imbalance and continued to meet once a week for two months.


At the time of this writing, she is rounding out her two months. Her left eye is much stronger, much more involved in daily life, and the results show in her pain levels and performance:

  • Exercises generally feel much more balanced, and therefor she feels stronger
  • Her mood is better and energy is higher, because no longer is she afflicted by nagging tightness
  • When she started, she was feeling tightness 4-6 nights/week with a stiffness/pain rating of 5-8.
  • Now she averages 0-1 nights/week with a stiffness/pain rating of 1-2!


If you are interested in seeing how visual imbalances might be affecting your pain levels, schedule a discovery call below!