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December 1928 

                                                                                    Practice Methods – Myopia – Stories From The Clinic; 106. Christmas 1927 by Emily A. Bates




Practice Methods

Many people have asked for help in choosing the best method of treatment for their particular eye trouble. A woman aged sixty complained that she had never been free of pain; pain was very decided in her eyes and head. She also had continuous pain in nearly all the nerves of the body. The long swing when practiced 100 times gave her great relief from pain. The relief was continuous without any relapse. At the same time a second woman of about the same age complained of a similar pain which, like the first patient, she had had almost continuously. She was also relieved by practicing the long swing. The long swing was practiced by other people with a satisfactory result.
It seemed that the swing was indicated for pain; it seemed to bring about better results than any other treatment. Later on, however, some patients applied for relief from pain which was not benefited by the long swing. Evidently one kind of treatment was not beneficial in every case. A man suffering from tri-facial neuralgia which caused great agony in all parts of the head was not relieved at all by the long swing. Palming seemed to be more successful in bringing about relief. Furthermore, there were patients who did not obtain benefit after half an hour of palming who did obtain complete relief after palming for several hours.
Patients with cataract recovered quite promptly when some special method was tried.
The experience obtained by the use of relaxation methods in the cure of obstinate eye troubles has proved that what was good for one patient was not necessarily a benefit to other patients suffering from the same trouble, and that various methods must be tried in each case in order to determine which is the most beneficial for each particular case.


By W. H. Bates, M.D.

Myopia or near-sightedness is usually acquired. In myopia the vision for distant objects is much less than for objects at the reading distance. Rest of the eyes and mind is the cure for myopia. Any effort to improve the vision always fails. How can people with myopia be conscious of a strain? This is a very important question. When methods are practiced in the wrong way or practiced unsuccessfully, a strain or effort to see better can usually be felt, demonstrated, or realized by touching the tips of the fingers lightly to the closed eyelids of one or both eyes.
Quite frequently it is difficult for people with imperfect sight to believe that perfect sight requires no effort and that any effort to improve the sight is wrong. It has been so habitual to strain, and the habit of straining to improve the sight, the memory, or the imagination, has been practiced so long that it requires much time and patience to stop.
Recently a schoolboy, aged twelve, boasted that he could stare at one letter of a test card with his eyes wide open without blinking or closing them and for a longer time than most children could stare. He also produced a greater amount of myopia than other scholars of his school.
Mr. Priestly Smith says: “To prevent myopia we must prevent young people from using their eyes too closely and too long on near objects. This principle was established long since by the labors of Donders, Arlt, and others, and has been practically developed by Cohn and other reformers of school hygiene.”
It is not true that myopia is caused by too much use of the eyes at a near point. On the contrary, near use of the eyes in a poor light lessens myopia. This fact has been demonstrated frequently with the aid of the retinoscope, while the eyes were being used too closely for long periods of time on near objects. It is difficult to understand how or why so many eminent ophthalmologists like Priestly, Smith, Donders, Arlt, Cohn, and others should have neglected the aid of simultaneous retinoscopy in solving this problem.
It was a great disappointment to find in schools that although the desks and seats were mathematically correct, myopia was not prevented any more than before. In some schools iron braces adjusted to the head and face prevented the scholars from leaning forward when doing their schoolwork. Myopia was not prevented. One eye doctor who was convinced that the braces were useless continued to use them because he said that he did not know what else to do.
In order to measure the brightness of the light of the schoolroom the light was regulated by a photometer, invented by Professor L. W. Weber. He also invented an instrument called the stereogoniometer to measure quickly the amount of light from parts of the visible sky. Professor H. Cohn recommended that much money be devoted to the building of better school houses and also recommended that the school rooms be properly lighted. It was a great disappointment. No more myopia was acquired in a poorly lighted school room than in a well lighted one. A great deal more might be written describing the failures of these scientific men, who finally had to admit that they had not discovered how to prevent myopia from being acquired by school children.
The treatment of myopia which I have found best is as follows: The vision of each eye is tested and the patient is then directed to sit with the eyes closed and covered with the palms of each hand in such a way as to avoid pressure on the eyeball. At the end of half an hour or longer, the patient is directed to stand with the feet about one foot apart and sway from side to side as he reads the Snellen test card at five or ten feet. When the myopia is more than 5D. the patient may make better progress by practicing at a lesser distance than ten feet - five feet or nearer.
Some cases obtain a decided improvement in their vision in the course of about fifteen minutes. Other cases require additional methods. One of the best methods is to have the patient look directly, for five seconds, while blinking frequently, at one letter of the Snellen test card which has been committed to memory. When the eyes are closed, the memory of a known letter is usually better than when the eyes are open. By alternately regarding a letter, closing the eyes and remembering it better than with the eyes open, the vision of this letter will improve in most cases.
Those persons with a high degree of near-sightedness may not improve until the memory or the imagination of one known letter has improved to a considerable degree. It is interesting to demonstrate that the more perfectly a letter is remembered or imagined, the better becomes the sight. When a letter is remembered or imagined as well with the eyes open as with the eyes closed, a maximum amount of improvement in the vision is obtained. Some cases are benefited after other methods have failed by teaching the patients how to make their sight worse by staring, straining, or making an effort to see. When the cause of the imperfect sight of myopia becomes known, the vision oftentimes improves to a considerable degree. When myopic patients learn by actual demonstration the cause of their trouble, it makes it possible for them to improve their sight.
Myopic persons who desire a cure should discard the use of glasses permanently. Just putting glasses on for an emergency for a few minutes may bring on a relapse whereby what has been gained before is lost.
Some children with myopia may be unable to stand bright light. Many doctors prescribe dark glasses for the benefit of such cases. In my experience, the wearing of dark glasses or the use of other methods to reduce the glare of strong daylight or artificial light is an injury rather than a benefit. One of the best methods to relieve or prevent the intolerance of all kinds of light is to encourage the individual to become accustomed to strong light.
A convex glass of about 18 D. is very useful in these cases. One way to use the glass is to have the patient look far downwards while the instructor lifts the upper lid of the eyeball with the help of the thumb. This procedure exposes a considerable amount of the sclera. The strong light of the sun is now focused on the white sclera for only short periods of time to prevent the heat produced by the strong glass from causing discomfort.
This ends the routine treatment. For low degrees of myopia the results are usually very good. Imperfect sight without glasses has been temporarily or more permanently cured in a few visits.
One of the best treatments for a high degree of myopia is suggested by a few truths. All cases of myopia are temporarily cured by looking at a blank wall without trying to see. The retinoscope used at the same time has always demonstrated in flashes or for short periods of time that myopia was never continuous. When the best vision of fine print is obtained exactly at ten inches, the retinoscope always demonstrates under favorable conditions that the eye is not at this time myopic. But if an effort is made to see better by a strain the retinoscope demonstrates flashes of myopia. It should be emphasized that the strain which produces myopia is different from the strain which tends to produce other causes of imperfect sight.
When the memory or imagination is perfect, the retinoscope used at the same time demonstrates that myopia is absent. When a letter or other object is remembered or imagined imperfectly the sight is always imperfect and the retinoscope demonstrates that myopia has been produced.
Shifting the gaze from one point to another point may be done in such a way as to rest the eyes by lessening or preventing strain. Staring or shifting with an effort always produces myopia. Moving the head and eyes from side to side produces an apparent movement of stationary letters or other objects (oppositional movement). A complete rest of the eyes with improved vision may be obtained in this way or it may be done wrong with consequent bad results.

The Thumb Movement
One of the best methods of obtaining complete relaxation of the eyes and mind is to move the ball of the thumb lightly against the ball of the forefinger in a circular direction in which the circle has a diameter of less than one-quarter of an inch. Just moving the thumb in this direction does not always succeed unless one can count one, three, five, or more odd numbers, when the motion is downwards, and an even number when the thumb moves upwards. A great amount of relaxation is always obtained by practicing the movement of the thumb against the ball of the forefinger. It is not necessary for the patient to watch the movement of the thumb in order to keep up the practice.

The movement of the thumb on the finger also activates eye movement (shifting) and the sensation of oppositional movement, activates and integrates the left and right brain hemispheres (especially when alternately done with left and right hands; left hand for a while, then right… and moving the thumb in a small counter-clockwise and clockwise circle on the finger), takes the mind away from worries, negative thoughts, brings the mind to a relaxed positive state. Relaxes mind, body, eyes, improves clarity of vision.
Thumb can also be moved a small movement on the finger left and right, up and down.

Many patients complain that when walking about the house, walking up and down stairs or when they are lying down, the movement of the thumb is not kept up continuously. Relaxation may be obtained by practicing the memory of the movement of the thumb and forefinger. Dizziness which is caused by strain of the eyes and mind has been relieved most successfully, continuously, or perfectly when an incentive is used. For example, many patients with symptoms of eyestrain, pain, or fatigue were encouraged to practice the movement of the thumb when it was found that at those times when the thumb was stationary, the symptoms of eyestrain became permanent or disagreeable. One patient found that when he walked up a steep flight of stairs that the movement of the thumb was forgotten. When he again practiced the movement of the thumb, all the symptoms of discomfort caused by eyestrain disappeared.
A patient told me that at one time a prominent physician of New York made a diagnosis of walking pneumonia and said that if he did not retire or go to bed and obtain complete relaxation or rest, he would most surely die. Too have pneumonia at that time and to have to go to bed would have been a great inconvenience because he had many things to look after, and so he practiced the thumb and finger movement. After practicing it awhile, to his delight and the astonishment of his friends, all the symptoms of pneumonia disappeared and did not return. Having a case of walking pneumonia was a great incentive to him to practice this movement of the thumb and obtain just as much rest at his work as he would have obtained if he had gone to bed.
Another patient with a case of walking pneumonia was also suffering from a high degree of progressive myopia. The movement of the thumb, besides acting as a cure for the pneumonia, was also a great benefit to the progressive myopia from which this patient was suffering. On many occasions, while walking along the street, he would notice that the movement of the thumb had stopped - he had forgotten about it. After a while he became able to remember it almost continuously with great benefit to his progressive myopia as well as the pneumonia.
Another patient was suffering from heart disease, angina pectoris. His eyes bothered him very much and he was very much pleased to note that when the movement of the thumb had improved his heart trouble, the myopia from which he was suffering also improved. It was a problem for him to find out how to keep up this relaxation of the nerves continuously. By practicing the movement of the thumb continuously he acquired the conscious habit. Later the conscious habit became an unconscious one with benefit to his eyes and heart.

Myopia has many complications. In some cases detachment of the retina may occur suddenly without warning. Cataract, Glaucoma, and other serious diseases of the eyes are often found as a complication in myopia. In glaucoma the eyeball becomes increased in hardness. The practice of relaxation methods usually relieves tension and brings about relief.

Conical cornea
is a form of myopia which causes much pain and loss of vision. The cause of conical cornea is a strain or an effort to see. It can be cured by practicing the long swing or other methods of resting the eyes.

Inflammation of the iris, retina, or choroid
is always benefited by the same treatment which improves or cures myopia.
The cause of myopia in school children has been discovered. Its cure is now known, and I believe that in time no child will be found wearing glasses.

Christmas – 1927

By Emily A. Bates

(Military Story)

Our office surely was a busy place last December and a large number of poor people were made happy at Christmas. There were not very many patients in our clinic at that time, but each patient was invited to come to the Tree and bring his or her whole family along. One blind patient, a young man, who before the World War had good sight, was so grateful for the help he had received that he wanted to give and give. He had the spirit all right and even though his pockets were empty and he could not give in that way, he gave in the best way he could.
His way was to bring other blind patients from the Blind Men’s Home to Dr. Bates. It never dawned on him that there was a limit to the poor souls the Doctor could treat, while he was taking care of his regular practice. No one in the office had courage enough to stop him and so they came. His enthusiasm was so great that he himself worked more earnestly than ever in his own case. Later on he wrote an interesting article in this magazine about himself and the help that he received from Dr. Bates.
After many months of steady treatment, which was given him without any charge, he became able to see again. Sightless eyes, made so by the ravages of war, again saw light after several years of darkness and no hope. Other physicians who had examined him said his sight was destroyed. This was not true, for if it were, even Dr. Bates with all his knowledge of the human eye, could not have given him his sight again.
He had been gassed during the war and many operations had to be performed. All of one lung was removed. It is true that his case seemed hopeless. Operations and treatment of all kinds failed to help. The constant strain he was under, which was brought about by shell-shock and much suffering, caused depression, which could only be relieved by morphine and other drugs. After he was treated for a short time by Dr. Bates, he stopped this bad habit, but it had to be done gradually. It was pathetic to watch him struggling to do the right thing. In trying to stop using drugs he acquired the habit of smoking many cigarettes every day. In some way he was well supplied with them all the time and preferred to smoke rather than eat. One day I talked with him for a long time and he finally promised me to smoke a smaller number of cigarettes each day. The poor fellow tried hard and won out.
His vision at the present time is 10/10. He can read diamond type at less than six inches; if the occasion warranted it, he is able to read diamond type at two inches.
The light and heat of the sun was a great factor in bringing about a better condition of his eyes, and the added sun glass treatment, focusing the sun’s rays upon the eye as the lids were raised, and also using the sunglass on the closed eyelids, was given every time he came. When there was no sun a strong light called a Thermo-lite was used for hours at a time and then the test card practice was begun. Little by little each day the blood circulation of the eyes became better and the nystagmus condition from which he was suffering also improved. For the first time the eyes looked healthy to the observer and the pupil of each eye, instead of being very small, became almost natural size. This was not accomplished in a day but in a few years time.
Many times we are asked why some patients are cured and others not. The only answer is that if the patient will practice as earnestly and as often as the Doctor advises and does not become discouraged, a better condition of the eyes and vision occurs in time. The question “How long does it take?” is asked many times. This young man of whom I write had no such question to ask. He came with the hope of getting some relief but he was not quite sure before the treatments were started. He was willing to wait, although it was hard on him and meant patience and labor on the Doctor’s part. This patient had to be led when he first came to us and now he leads others who are afflicted!

One of the elevator operators in our building had been taking daily treatment from us, slipping into the office whenever it was possible for him to do so during the day. The condition of the eye being treated was getting worse and Dr. Bates feared that in time his good eye would become affected. He had been receiving treatment for a long time before we ever knew that he was married. I guessed that his age was about 23 or 25, so I was shocked to learn later that he was indeed a married man, having been married for quite a few years, and that he was much older than I had thought. He said he had four little ones whose ages ranged from four months to four years.
How the poor fellow and his family managed to even exist on the small wages that he received is something I cannot understand. He told me that they lived in a basement where the sun seldom shone and that their greatest difficulty was to keep warm during the cold winter months. If my clinic fund had been large enough I should like to have had a ton of coal under the Christmas tree for his family, but he is only one of the many patients who receive our help, and things must be shared evenly if possible.
At no time during the year do I wish I were rich as much as I do at Christmas time. There are so many who are too proud to go to charitable institutions for help and who suffer silently and go on without the outside world really knowing their plight. When I invited our elevator operator to bring his family to the Christmas tree he was delighted and they were there bright and early. Every one of the children were spick and span and as I relieved the little mother of her precious baby and held him close to me I could tell how much pains the mother had taken day by day to keep things in a sanitary condition, for the baby had an odor about it that was as sweet as the best cared for baby ever had. The eldest child was a girl and she was quite small for her age. Next to her was a boy just one year younger than herself. In disposition he was exactly opposite to the little girl for he smiled but once as I can remember it now, and that was when he was given a toy automobile which he managed to operate all by himself by moving the wheel and seeing it run from him. The little girl hugged her doll so tightly that there was a disaster, but this was quickly corrected when she was given another doll.
Both the boy and the girl looked very much undernourished, and seemed very much in need of good pasteurized milk and lots of it. The next youngest was a sturdy little boy who did nothing but smile all the time. The Christmas tree seemed to be the most beautiful thing he had ever seen; the colored lights just dazzled his eyes and his mother had a hard time taking him away when it was time leave.
The children also received their share of candies and oranges and their arms were laden with bundles. The baby had received the usual rattle, and the mother, instead of receiving the ton of coal that I had wished she might have had, received a new warm coat instead. The only one she owned was almost in rags. She had pieced it together as much as she could and it seemed to have been a coat that belonged to someone else at another time.
Even though we are very busy in our office we make time to fulfill the duties that must be performed at that season. I was ill myself at that time and appreciated very much the co-operation I received from those at our office.
Harold, our shipping clerk, who also does other things which help in running our office, obtained the tree and also helped in the trimming of it. Miss Baron, our bookkeeper, arranged her work so that she could assist in getting things ready, and Miss Hayes, who has been a faithful assistant in the treatment of clinic patients, took the time to purchase the coat for the little mother.
Since this young married man started treatment, the condition of his eyes has improved considerably, but his improvement would be much more rapid if he could devote more time to practice.
Two sisters who had been coming for more than a year were also present at our clinic party. One was near-sighted and the other was presbyopic. The one who was near-sighted seemed to make better progress than the other. The sister with presbyopia obtained relief and better vision each time she came but we soon found out why she did not hold the better vision; she wore her glasses from time to time. This interfered with the practice and for that reason it took her longer to be benefited permanently than her sister who left off her glasses entirely. These two women, as did other women who attended, received warm stockings, besides oranges and candies. The men received ties as well as candy.
Not only eye patients, but others who had never heard of the Bates method or our clinic, were made happy at this time. While I was still under the doctor's care, my surgeon selected from his list of charity patients the two cases which he thought needed Christmas cheer most.
He gave me two names and addresses of families who received their share of the things we had to give and Dr. Bates and I went to their homes and delivered the Christmas packages ourselves.
In one of these Christmas packages was a doll slightly larger and a wee bit better in quality than those which we placed under the tree. I was told that the little girl who was to receive the doll would perhaps be a cripple for life. For her, there was little hope that she would ever walk again without braces and her condition was most pitiful. While she shared in the joy there was to give, the money used was not taken from the clinic fund but was given to me by Dr. Bates himself. The doll looked like a fairy I used to dream about when I was a little girl and I arranged her just as beautifully as I could, and the extra box which I had was filled with a large portion of nuts, fruit, and candy.
The mother of the little crippled girl was janitress of the large tenement house where they lived and we had to climb a long flight of stairs to reach her. There was an answer to our knock at the door and there stood before us a very sad looking mother who was busy arranging her household for the Christmas holiday. We soon found out what her sadness was all about. The little girl was not there at the time but the mother explained afterwards how just a few days before, the brace which helped the child to walk was broken and could not be mended at that time because there was no money.
It just seems as though this world is full of such sad cases and that it is necessary for those who have full and plenty to look around just a little bit and at least help one poor soul at Christmas time.
We had introduced ourselves, saying that the doctor who was helping her little girl was the great surgeon who was responsible for my life. I explained how he had performed a skillful operation and that I was on the road to recovery and that I was grateful to him. I explained that even though we had each had a group of poor people to help that there was always enough left for just one more.
When we asked for the little girl, the mother said she would bring her to us. She seemed to be in a daze, not knowing what it was all about or what we had to give the little one. The mother left the room to go to her next door neighbor where the child was staying. She soon appeared in the arms of her mother. She was a girl nine years of age, old enough to walk but not able to because of the tubercular condition she had in one of her limbs.
The little girl looked at Dr. Bates and then at me, wondering whether we had good or bad news to tell her, when her eyes spied the packages. The mother placed the little girl on the stationary tubs in the kitchen and as there seemed to be no chairs, we stood all the time.
We placed the boxes beside her and told her that Santa Claus had whispered in her doctor's ear that we should come to her. She really believed In Santa Claus and thought that Santa had not the time to come and so we came to her instead. First she opened the largest package, imagining what it might be, (and I think she imagined it was a doll). It happened to be the box containing candies, nuts, and fruits which she opened first. She was so excited about what she saw that she offered everyone in the room part of her gift. I asked her to lay it aside and then open the other package because we wanted to see whether she would like it or not. When the package was opened there was the beautiful doll with her arms outstretched to the little girl. It is impossible for me to explain the joy that came to the child, but the mother wept with joy at the thought of her child being made so happy.
From there we went to another part of the city to see a little boy. The child had been troubled with rickets since birth. He was a puny little boy who did not seem more than three years old. I was told that he was almost five but that he had not been growing very fast because of his trouble. For this little fellow we had the regular size package containing fruit and candy, and in the other box was a toy automobile. It was built like a racer and was about eighteen inches in length. He screamed with delight and was soon creeping all over the floor following the automobile as fast as it would go.
I never saw a more tidy household than this one which was in a cellar. We had to go down a steep flight of stairs to get to this little place called home and when we reached it we found the mother standing at the ironing board ironing a big wash for someone else in order to earn a few pennies. The only light and air which was received from the outside world was through one single window which was partly concealed by the staircase. She had curtains on her windows made of cheap material, but they were laundered and arranged in the neatest possible way. There was a cloth on the center table which undoubtedly was converted into a dining table at meal time. There was linoleoum on the floor which was much worn but was clean and the little mother was cleanliness itself.
She was expecting another little one most anytime and she looked as though she needed rest and good food. As I watched her face while the child was enjoying what we had brought for him, I saw tears in her eyes. I asked her about her health and she said she was never better in her life. Yet I knew that she was in the first stages of tuberculosis.
I think I would know what to do with a million dollars if I had it. I would hire competent people to make a house to house canvass in the different districts of the poor of my city and I would reach the needy ones in that way. Anyway, there were a few made happy with what was contributed by Dr. Bates and those who have given to the Christmas fund. And I must not forget to extend my thanks to those who have again made it possible for us to make the poor of our clinic and others happy this Christmas time.