Neck/Shoulder Pain: The Problem With “Reading Before Bed” And Why It’s Likely To Be A Source Of Tension And Pain, NOT Pleasure.

One of the greatest mysteries of being 40+, is the sudden onset of neck pain and stiffness. It often creeps up on people with zero warning and usually offers NO explanation as to why you might all of a sudden wake up with neck pain that can torment the life out of you and make your enjoyment of life, very difficult!

Clients of mine suffering with neck or shoulder pain are often the most “confused” and will often find it difficult to remember anything that they’ve done, which has brought it on.

But asking a few simple questions usually gets to the root cause of the issue.

And what I nearly always find is that neck and shoulder happens due to an accumulation of things:

Like, sleeping with the incorrect number of pillows… or reading or watching TV right before bed, spending all day looking at a desk or computer screen, cleaning the house, ironing, preparing family meals and even reading the newspaper first thing on a morning are all on the face of it, simple activities and unlikely to cause any major problems.

Or so you might think……

Done on their own, and done once, any of these activities which I’ve just described are not going to cause a problem like neck and shoulder pain or stiffness. Do them all multiple times per day, every day, for 40+ years, and they are a problem.

Let’s look at reading before bed.

Who doesn’t love to read before they go to bed? It’s likely to be a habit that you’ve had since your Mother or Father started to read to you before bed when you were a child. And something no doubt you’ve done for your own children and will continue to do for any grandchildren you may or may not have. But think about the position that your head is in when you’re reading. It’s likely to be looking DOWN.

Now, what most people don’t know about their head is that it’s designed to be in a position where your “ears are level” with your shoulders. So, as soon as you begin to look down, as in when you’re reading a book, those ears are now not in line any more. Again, that’s okay if you only do it once. But if you’re doing it all the time, it is going to cause you a problem and your head will, after a few years, end up in a position that sees it put off “sync”. Then if that habit continues when you’re driving, watching TV, sat at a desk at work or in the kitchen and looking down to do the ironing or make tea, it’s easy to see why your ears may not now be level with your shoulders.

But there’s another problem with reading before bed and this is why lots of people end up with tight shoulder muscles and a neck that is very stiff and even suffer from tension type headaches throughout the night and first thing on a morning. When you are reading that book, you are having to hold it. And that means you’re adding tension to muscles and holing the book in place is going to put your neck into a locked and rigid position. Again, it’s not too bad at first, but doing it night after night isn’t helpful. My tip: if you do enjoy reading before bed, try not to do it any longer than for 20 minutes.

And here’s one more thing about neck and shoulder pain and bed times.. The number of pillows that you sleep with can also affect the position of your head. Think about it for a minute. If your sleep with two “thick” pillows it is going to push your head forwards meaning those ears are not in line with your shoulders. The same applies if the pillow is too low!

Not a problem at first, 10 years later and after spending 8 hours per night sleeping like that, it’s guaranteed to leave you with a less than healthy posture. And I know that these are “tiny little” changes that I’m offering up to you. But believe me, in the same way that lots of tiny little things add up to cause problems in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, it’s lots of time little improvements or alterations that will also collide and see you feeling less stiff, less tense and living with more energy and freedom than anyone else you know.

Here at Apple Physio, all of our team have vast experience dealing with Neck and Shoulder Pain so if you need any advice please don’t hesitate to contact us.

If you’d like more info on this, and some easy, actionable tips you can use now to start easing your neck and shoulder. We have a free neck and shoulder pain guide that we can send you. Connect with us on 01344 489398 (Bracknell) , 01753 866274 (Windsor) or email us on and tell us what’s going on. A member of the team can take your details and we can email you a copy.

About the Author: Leslie Abrahams and the Apple Physio team


Leslie is a Physio, Pilates Educator and Rehab Specialist who has a special interest in Spinal Treatments, lower limb injuries, and has vast experience dealing with patients post injury or surgery. Every week, for over 20 years, 100’s of people aged 30-64+ have consulted the Apple Physio team looking for answers to concerning questions about, and for, a fast end to their health worries and physical pains and stiffness.

 Leslie is a Master Trainer for the world renowned Australian Physiotherapy and Pilates Institute(APPI). He is regular key note speaker at conferences and travels internationally to present on modified exercise for rehabilitation. Leslie is the Director of Apple Physio Clinics situated in Bracknell and Windsor. Berkshire’s Specialist Private Physiotherapy Practice for People in their 30’s. 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, who want to keep healthy and active.

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