Reading – a Pleasure or Neck Pain?

How can resting and reading be the cause of neck pain?

Have you got a good holiday book and looking forward to making the most of the summer break to read? Only to start to feel neck pain as you get to Chapter 3! We often think of the past time of reading as one of relaxation and switching off our muscles.  So why after 30 minutes of reading a book can our neck hurt?

This is because to sit and read, you are putting your joints, muscles and nerve connections all on a constant stretch. 

The head is often bent excessively forward on 1-2 pillows which stretches the muscles and joints.  If you are there for a brief period there would be no issue BUT getting immersed in a great book often means you will be there for 30 minutes or more.

If you are not lying reading, you may be sitting with your legs out in front of you in bed. This position puts a stretch down your legs on the nerves that attach to your spinal cord.  Nerves are usually tolerant to stretch but if you are there for a long time the nerves can get annoyed and more sensitive to stretch.  This can result in tingling, burning, referred pain or sometimes headaches.

As we get older our joints and muscles to aches and pains whenever the head is forward of the shoulder for any length of time.

How can I read without getting too sore?

  • Vary your posture! Limit reading in one position to 25 minutes at a time
  • Find a position that stops you having to look down at your book with your head forward of your shoulders
  • Avoid the position with too much forward bend of the neck (by having to many pillows)
  • Try sidelying with a pillow filling the space between the head and bed
  • Sit up against head of bed with lower back and back supported avoiding head forward posture. Keep your knees bent of crossed to avoid nerve stretching
  • Lie on your tummy with a pillow under your arms and read propped up
  • What about trying to listen to a book instead? Listen to audiobooks with a speaker or headphones
  • Kindles also are lightweight and are less difficult to control


If you need help to control your neck pain with reading, our physiotherapists are all experts at joint mobilisation, massage and postural advice. 

Click on the links below to book online for a physiotherapy assessment and treatment or give us a call on 0438 648 884.

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