Ahead of National Reading Day on the 23rd of January, we want to salute the bookworms out there and answer the question: How bookworms can avoid neck pain? 🤔 There are many advantages to reading books – They spark our imagination in a way that TV and films do not, get our brains working, reduce screen time, and there’s even studies to suggest that reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic.
So, here are our tips for engaging in the joy of reading, without sacrificing your spinal health!
Tip 1: Choose your location wisely 🪑
Reading in a chair is a good idea for your posture – and sometimes much more preferable to reading in bed. With all our hand-held devices, it can be easy to start the habit of craning your neck down and looking into your lap as you read from either a book or a screen – this can put pressure on your neck and upper back muscles and can even lead to a trapped nerve.
By sitting in a chair, you can make sure your feet 🦶 are flat on the floor. Have a prop to hold your book at just below eye level and ensure your arms can bend easily at 90 degrees in the seat – no leaning on elbows! This can cause nerve compression in your elbow.
If you do want to read in bed, make sure you’re propped up, with your back angled at above 45 degrees. Rest your book on some pillows on your lap. Do your best to keep your neck in a neutral position whenever possible, so that you try not to bend or lean your neck forward for long periods.
Tip 2: Take breaks 😴
While your book may be very enthralling, it’s important to take breaks. Reading for 45 minutes at a time can help as, after this time, muscles begin to stretch and fatigue losing their ability to hold you in a healthy position. Set yourself some reminders on your phone or set a timer, and then get up, have a drink. This gives your eyes a bit of a rest as well as your back and neck. Just a few minutes reset and you are ready to go again.
Tip 3: Be aware of your head and neck position 💆♀️
Try to keep your neck in the centre of your spine, so that you are not hunched over with rounded shoulders. This can help avoid trapped nerves in the neck and tingling or pain in the arms or hands. It may take time and repetition to teach yourself how to improve your reading position. Try using your eyes more than your neck to look down at your page 👀 – and keep that book as high as is comfortable to avoid straining too far forward and down.
Tip 4: Keep those shoulders relaxed 💆♂️
Those shoulders can creep up around your ears 👂 – keep the shoulders down and relaxed, to avoid unnecessary tension or strain in your shoulder muscles or your neck. This is a habit to develop, though you can add in some daily simply stretches to relax and release your shoulders and neck
Here are some stretches you can try:
· The Forward Head Tilt
You can do this either seated or standing up on your feet. Keep all your movements steady and smooth. Start with your head in neutral and your back straight. Lower your chin toward your chest and hold for 15-30 seconds. Relax, and slowly lift your head back to neutral.
· Side Head Tilt
Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms down by your sides. Gently tilt your head towards your right shoulder and try to touch it with your ear. Stop when you feel the stretch. Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds, then return to the start position. Repeat on your left side. You can do several sets. For an extra stretch, put the hand on the same side of your tilted head on top of your head, and press lightly with your fingertips.
· Side Head Rotation
You can do this either seated or standing. Keep your head neutral and your back straight. Slowly turn your head to the right until you feel a stretch along the neck and shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds, and then slowly turn your head forwards again. Repeat on your left side.
· Shoulder Rolls
Best performed standing up. Raise your shoulders straight up towards your ears and move them in a slow circle going backwards only 10 times. Return to the start position and make another set of circles. Repeat 3 times in total.
Note: If you find any of these exercises painful please stop and speak with one of our team.
Tip 5: Make sure your posture is protected at other times of the day ⏳
It’s important to maintain a good posture during the day. Make sure you have a good chair 🪑and computer monitor setup 🖥 and avoid sitting down for too long – breaks are always key. By protecting your posture during your daily activities, you will be able to be more comfortable when it’s time for your favourite book!
If you’re currently suffering from neck pain, come in and see us or give us a call and we can assess how your habits and lifestyle might be impacting your neck and shoulders. Read mindfully and set yourself up in the right way to get more enjoyment out of this fantastic pastime, without sacrificing your spine!