Neck pain is a common problem that many people experience, especially those who spend a lot of time reading books, articles, or looking at screens. The way we hold our neck and head while reading can put a lot of strain on the muscles, tendons, and nerves in this area leading to pain and discomfort. Luckily, there are some simple adjustments you can make to your reading posture to help relieve and prevent neck soreness.
Causes of Neck Pain While Reading
There are a few key factors that contribute to neck pain during reading activities:
- Poor head and neck posture – Holding your head forward or angled down puts strain on the cervical spine. This forces the muscles to constantly contract to support the weight of the head.
- Lack of neck support – Reading in bed, on the couch, or without a chair headrest fails to support the neck properly. This can let gravity pull the head forward and down.
- Stillness – Reading requires you to stay in generally the same position for an extended period. Not moving your neck and staying static leads to muscle fatigue and joint strain.
- Improper lighting – Low or glare-y lighting conditions can cause you to crane your neck forward to see better. This adds tension.
- Stress – Mental stress and concentration while reading may lead you to involuntarily tense neck muscles or take on a poor posture.
Tips to Improve Reading Posture for Neck Pain Relief
Luckily there are some simple adjustments you can make to your reading posture that can help significantly reduce strain on the neck:
- Use a lumbar support cushion or rolled-up towel – Placing lumber support behind your lower back helps you sit upright and avoids slouching forward.
- Adjust your seat height – Your knees should be level or slightly lower than your hips. This takes pressure off your neck from having to look down.
- Sit with your back flush against the seatback – Avoid sitting on the edge of the chair. The back support helps align your spine and neck naturally.
- Roll your shoulders back – Opening up your chest and pulling shoulders back avoids rounding shoulders and a forward head position.
- Bring material up – Holding reading material above your lap helps you look straight ahead instead of angling your head down constantly.
- Take breaks – Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. This gives neck muscles a rest.
- Use a document holder – Positioning your book or tablet upright at eye-level avoids low angle viewing that strains the neck.
- Sit near light source – Reduce glare and eye strain by sitting beside a lamp while reading. Don’t position light sources behind you.
- Try a standing desk – If sitting too long is the issue, alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
- Perform neck stretches – Simple lateral, chin tuck, and forehead presses can relieve tension build up in neck muscles.
- Get a cervical pillow – An ergonomic neck pillow provides proper support whether reading in bed or while traveling.
When to Seek Treatment
For occasional minor neck soreness from reading, posture adjustments and home remedies may be all you need. However, if you experience any of the following, be sure to see a doctor or physical therapist:
- Pain lasting more than 1 week
- Pain disrupting sleep
- Radiating pain into shoulders or arms
- Numbness or tingling in arms or hands
- Severe stiffness or decreased range of motion
- Any neurological symptoms
- Prior neck injury
Getting an accurate diagnosis for persistent or severe neck pain is important to rule out underlying conditions. A physical therapist can also assess your posture, functionality and prescribe exercises to strengthen your neck, restore range of motion, and prevent future discomfort.
With some awareness and proactive adjustments, you can help avoid neck strain while enjoying your favorite books. Following proper ergonomic positioning while reading can make all the difference in relieving those common aches, pains and soreness. Give these tips a try next time you cozy up with a good book!