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The Bates Method is often cited by people looking to avoid wearing glasses, or as an alternative to LAZIK surgery for improving/correcting eyesight.

Is the method at all effective? Can eyesight truly be improved/repaired through exercise and lifestyle changes?

  • The Bates Method is often quoted by practitioners of alternative medicine as proof that serious physical ailments and conditions can be treated by non-traditional medical means. – blueberryfields Feb 26 '11 at 19:53
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    There is a fairly entertaining post on Bates Method times, where medicine was at back then, and why Bates Method doesn't work, here: frauenfeldclinic.com/comedy-day-bates-method-eye-exercises – user16657 Dec 11 '13 at 13:21
  • While The Bates Method has not be shown to improve eyesight, at least one study showed that seemed to relieve eye strain and other symptoms related to poor eyesight. Source. – Django Reinhardt Dec 11 '13 at 15:45
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Unsurprisingly, it does not work.

As any other "alternative" medicine, it should be treated with the utmost caution, the general principle being "alternative medicine that works is called medicine."

The findings of Visual Training for Refractive Errors CTA - October 2004, a meta-analysis from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, are summarised below by Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

No evidence was found that [visual training] techniques could objectively benefit eyesight, though some studies noted changes, both positive and negative, in the visual acuity of nearsighted subjects as measured by a Snellen chart. In some cases noted improvements were maintained at subsequent follow-ups. However, these results were not seen as actual reversals of nearsightedness, and were attributed instead to factors such as "improvements in interpreting blurred images, changes in mood or motivation, creation of an artificial contact lens by tear film changes, or a pinhole effect from miosis of the pupil."

Wikipedia goes on to quote a second report:

In 2005 the Ophthalmology Department of New Zealand's Christchurch Hospital published a review of forty-three studies regarding the use of eye exercises. They found that "As yet there is no clear scientific evidence published in the mainstream literature supporting the use of eye exercises" to improve visual acuity, and concluded that "their use therefore remains controversial."

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The Bates Method relies on the idea that the eye focuses via accommodation using muscles which change the eye's shape. The accepted idea that the lens is primarily responsible for focus, and that the shape of the eye doesn't change much, if at all, to focus wouldn't be difficult to verify objectively. The idea that science might try to suppress the truth about this is merely a conspiracy theory.

Dr Phillip Pollack explains on QuackWatch:

It would be theoretically impossible for the extrinsic muscles to alter the structure of the eyeball so as to meet the requirements of accommodation. The outside, white coat of the eyeball (the sclera) is not resilient and elastic, as shown by tests in the laboratory. Furthermore, when pressure inside an eye is increased by more than 500 per cent, the volume of the eyeball hardly changes, as shown by measurements (the increase is only 0.007 per cent of the original volume). This proves that the sclera does not yield very easily to pressure. Finally, the sclera becomes even more rigid and less resilient with age, especially after the age of 40.

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    As a general principle (unrelated to this specific example) the idea that "science" might try to suppress the truth about something is a bit odd, but there's nothing the least bit unrealistic or unbelievable about human beings (scientists or otherwise) trying to suppress something true that damages their ego, contradicts their ideologies, or cuts into their profit margins. Be careful of writing off anything that doesn't fit accepted dogma too quickly as "merely a conspiracy theory." – Mason Wheeler Aug 2 '11 at 17:22
  • @Mason: Seconded. Aside from running into that myself, my favorite example is Robert H. Goddard, who spelled out the principles of modern rocketry, but was pooh-poohed for many years. – Mike Dunlavey Dec 11 '13 at 14:37
  • I actually used to be able to concentrate hard and focus my vision (I'm shortsighted) but it takes a lot of effort and I always end up with some pain around my temple and eyes. I can't do it anymore. The last time I tried was in my late 30s. – slebetman Aug 23 '18 at 5:54
  • @Mason Wheeler : True. But in this case the writeoff is legit (not approving of the technique, just trying to make sure people don't draw the wrong message) because it is anatomically inconsistent with how refractive errors in the eye are caused and the mechanics of the eyeball, as mentioned. – The_Sympathizer Aug 25 '18 at 9:37

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