Don’t Let Reading Wreck Your Neck!

11292069 - group of young people texting on their mobile phonesDon’t Let Reading Wreck Your Neck!

While reading is enjoyable, and often educational, it can also be surprisingly harmful. I have treated thousands of patients with neck pain complaints over the past 30 years and most of them have “fed into their pain” by reading in postures that wear down the discs in their necks.

Your neck takes an awful lot of abuse throughout the day, and sometimes the simple act of “careless reading” can be enough to push it over the pain-edge. So allow me to share some physical therapy wisdom with you so that you can preserve your own neck for a pain free future.

Reading in bed- Looking over to my left in bed I will often catch my husband slumped down against his pillow with his neck bent forward at nearly a 90 degree angle from his body. UGH! How many times…? Listen, while your neck can bend that way, it shouldn’t be held in that position for long periods. Can you say disc bulge? Sit up straighter and prop your trunk and head upright on a vertical lying pillow so your discs can rest easy. Place another pillow over your knees and use it to prop the book/tablet up higher as well.

Reading at the computer- The more time you spend staring your computer screen, or the poorer your reading vision has become, the more you will allow your head to slide forward relative to your neck so that you can comfortably focus. Rather, sit up straight (head “block” aligned atop your shoulder “block”) and move the monitor closer to you. Also, keep the text you are reading at eye level (i.e. use your mouse to scroll the page, not your neck).

Reading in a chair- Many of us place a book, e-reader, or tablet on our laps and then drop our heads forward to achieve a perpendicular line of sight to the page. Improve these ergonomics by either lifting the book higher or by piling a pillow or two on your lap. Then place the book (and your arms) on top of the mound you’ve created. Finally, look down by tipping your chin in towards your throat (head tip), rather than by hinging your head forward from your shoulders (neck flexion).

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