How To Eliminate Neck, Back, and Shoulder Pain When Reading or Typing

December 13, 2017

By Heena Patel, PTA

Notice this person’s shoulders and head position

Think about how much time you and your family members spend sitting at a desk. Students are probably sitting for the majority of the day in classrooms, and when they get home, they are likely spending time at some sort of computer desk, doing homework for several hours. Even after a long day at work, most of us come home and spend some time catching up with friends online, paying bills, or doing even more work, usually in front of a computer.

When you add up all the time we spend at a desk, on computers, looking at our phones or reading, we spend a lot of time with our heads down, forward and at an angle- which creates a significant amount of stress on your neck, shoulders and back- if you don’t maintain proper posture.

Typical head forward and looking down posture when people are using technology

We also tend to take social networking breaks in between everything, which, again, puts yourself in a forward head posture. After all these different activities throughout the day, your neck and shoulders must be getting stiff, erasing much of the benefit you might be getting from going to the gym, or just taking a jog. The percentage of time we all spend sitting with our heads down is still high. Studies show sitting posture creates the most amount stress in your spine and increases by double when combined with forward bending of your head/trunk and slouched posture. 

Your spine and its natural curves


So,  when you slouch or stoop, your muscles and ligaments strain to keep you balanced, which can lead to back pain, headaches, neck pain, and other problems. In order to maintain good posture, you basically have to maintain the natural curvatures of your spine as shown in the picture below. (See, your Mom was right when she nagged you about slumping over!)



Four essential strategies to maintain good posture include the following:

1)  Make sure your feet are flat on the ground for equal weight distribution and avoid crossing your legs, it compromises your circulation.

2)  Sit up straight! You can use a towel roll behind your low back to maintain a “C” curve and for general support to promote upright sitting.

3)  If at a computer desk – keep the monitor at about eye level, adjust your keyboard so that the letter “B” is pointed at your stomach,  elbows bent at 90 degrees supported on the armrests, and wrists slightly bent – see the diagram below.

4) While reading, use several pillows for elbow support and to raise your book up to eye level.

The first few weeks, while you are adapting a new approach for your posture, will be a challenge, and the new positions may seem uncomfortable, but you will get used to it.

Don’t give up!! Your back, neck and shoulders will be thanking you!