Millions of Chinese students perform daily acupressure eye exercises in order to prevent nearsightedness, although little evidence exists to suggest the eye massaging is effective.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the eye exercises, based on ideas from traditional Chinese medicine, are widely believed to prevent nearsightedness, or myopia. Each day one student from each class will usually direct their classmates to rub various pressure points around the eyes.
Rates of myopia among China’s youth have reached epidemic proportions, with a study carried out earlier this year finding that 80 percent of school-aged children in Beijing are near-sighted. It is however not clear whether the eye exercises play any role in combating the condition.
Results from the 2013 Beijing Myopia Progression Study, which studied 409 school children, found that the exercises offered modest relief for temporary vision symptoms, such as headaches and eyestrain, but no benefit to preventing myopia.
Further research into this topic is however hindered by Chinese attitudes toward the exercises. Ian Morgan, who conducts research at Sun Yat-sen University, said that withholding the practice from some children would be the best way to study their effectiveness, but because Chinese people place such value on the exercises, they would consider such a plan unethical.
Jost Jonas, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, also had doubts, saying that if the exercises really worked, the rates of myopia wouldn’t be so high. He added that there was a strong link between the amount of time spent outdoors and lower rates of myopia.
By Dominic Jackson