Why Do I Get a Stiff Neck When Reading Books?

It’s easy to lose yourself in a captivating book or article and not notice the passage of time. But if you find your neck getting stiff, sore, or painful during or after reading sessions, your posture is likely to blame. There are several reasons why poring over your favorite book or e-reader can cause neck discomfort, but luckily there are ways to prevent and treat the issue.

Causes of Neck Stiffness When Reading

Here are the main culprits behind neck pain and stiffness that happens when you read:

Poor Posture – Hunching over a book rounds the shoulders and strains the neck. Looking down compresses vertebrae and nerves, leading to muscle tightness and pain. Maintaining this posture for extended periods fatigues muscles.

Stillness – Lack of movement when reading causes muscles to seize up. Tight muscles then pull on the neck joints, resulting in stiffness. Regular fidgeting or changing positions can help.

Eyestrain – Squinting, staring, and concentrating to read strains the eyes. This tenses the neck and shoulder muscles as well, resulting in discomfort. Poor lighting, small text, glare, and uncorrected vision can worsen eyestrain.

Age – Degenerative neck conditions like arthritis and disc degeneration are more common as we age. These make the neck more prone to stiffness and strain when reading.

Pre-existing Conditions – Some health conditions affecting the neck can be aggravated by poor posture during reading. These include cervical spondylosis, whiplash injuries, pinched nerves, and muscle spasms.

Head Tilt – Frequently tilting your head to one side while holding a book strains the muscles on that side. This develops into one-sided neck soreness.

How to Prevent and Treat Stiff Neck from Reading

It is possible to read for enjoyment without ending up with neck stiffness or pain by:

Maintaining Good Posture – Sit up straight when reading, keeping your head level and refraining from hunching over. Use a pillow or lumbar support behind your lower back.

Positioning Materials Correctly – Place books, magazines, e-readers at eye level to avoid looking down. Sit properly at a table or use a book stand. If reading lying down, rest material on your chest.

Taking Breaks – Take short breaks every 30-60 minutes when reading to stretch and change positions. Gently stretch your neck during breaks as well.

Exercising – Do neck stretches and shoulder rolls to counteract stiffness. Practice chin tucks, neck rotations, and sideways bends. Light yoga can help too.

Using Cold/Heat – Apply ice packs or heating pads to tight neck muscles for 15 minutes at a time to relieve tension.

Massaging – Gently rub sore or stiff areas of the neck and shoulders to help muscles relax. Ask someone to massage your upper back too.

OTC Medication – For severe stiffness, over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can provide relief.

Visiting a Physical Therapist – If discomfort persists, seeing a physical therapist can be beneficial. They provide expert advice on correcting posture and prescribe exercises tailored to your needs.

Getting Chiropractic Adjustments – A chiropractor specializes in treating neck stiffness. They can provide adjustments and manipulations to improve range of motion and reduce pain.

Practicing Prevention – Building strength through regular posture exercises helps protect your neck. Maintain an ergonomic workspace and reading setup.

Reading is an entertaining and educational pastime that shouldn’t be cut short due to neck pain. Listen to signals from your body and stop reading if you feel strain. Awareness and prevention are key to enjoying books without developing debilitating stiffness. Take proactive steps to enhance your reading posture and habits.