Better Postures and Positions for Reading

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As the weather continues to worsen, we are forced to do more activities indoors. Hopefully, one of these activities is brushing up on your reading! Most of us love curling up with a good book and relaxing at the end of a hard day or during a snow storm, but it can be really hard to maintain good posture the entire time. Here are some tips to allow you to increase your reading time without increasing your pain:

1) Sit as much as you can. This is the most friendly position to read a book. Try sitting in a comfortable, but supportive chair. The chair should have a good back support without pressing into your lower back and exaggerating its curvature. Also, the seat needs to be short enough that only your thighs rest on it. If the seat extends beyond your knees onto your calves, use a large pillow to essentially bring your backrest forward and your knees can bend over the edge of the seat. Again, be careful not to exaggerate the curvature of your lower back when using this pillow. 
  In order to comfortably raise the book closer to eye level (so that you don't look down and assume a forward head position over time), place the book on a table, desk, or even a large pillow on your lap. This will allow your arms to rest on the surface and place less stress on your neck. 
  Remember that our bodies are not designed for sit for more than 20-30 minutes, so remember to take quick breaks in between chapters to switch positions, get a drink, or even go to the bathroom. Your body will thank you!
  *This position can be easily adapted to sitting in bed if you pad your lower back with a specially designed cushion or a few pillows. Remember to be sure you can feel your lower back rounding into the padding. Place a small pillow under your knees to keep your hamstrings and back of your knee joint pain free. Use a pillow or two on your lap to elevate the book. 

2) Choose good “lazy positions.” The above position will eventually begin to tire your body. In order to continue to sit comfortably without wrecking your body, try curling your legs up onto the chair seat so that your feet are located near your left hip. It will look like your side sitting or “mermaid sitting.” Be sure that your trunk is bent toward the left and more rounded on the right. Essentially, your left shoulder and hip should be closer together than your right shoulder and hip are. You can use pillows to support you in this position if needed. Continue to keep your book elevated with your table/desk/pillow. If you feel neck tension in this position, please get out of it right away. 

3) Lie Down. If you’re reading before bed, you are probably lying down. Lie on your left side with a pillow between your legs and lower left ribcage. Then, fluff your pillow up (or use multiple, thin pillows) so that your neck is bent slightly, and comfortably, up toward the ceiling. Your neck should now be slightly bent to the right. Using your arm to help stabilize it, lean your book on a pillow in front of you. Your eyes will be nearly horizontal so it’s much easier to read in this position than it may seem. 

4) Avoid bad positions. Do not lie on your back or stomach when reading. Either position will cause excessive stress to your neck and/or back. 

Happy reading!

Written by Lesley Callaham, MPT, PRC November 14, 2018