why do my shoulders hurt when i run

Why Do My Shoulders Hurt When I Run? How Can Recover It?

Do you sometimes feel a slight ache or pain in your shoulders when running? If you answered “yes” to this question, then it might be due to multitude of aspects, from naturally tense muscles to a problem with alignment in the bone and muscle region. Either way, it is an unpleasant situation.

That being said, we are here to help you out. In this article, we will answer the common question why do my shoulders hurt when I run?,” as well as offer you way on how to relieve and otherwise recover from the pain. Soon enough, you can return to running your best in no time flat.

Without further ado, let’s get started!


1. What are some causes of shoulder pain?

In essence, shoulder pain while running can be whittled down to a few main reasons:

  • Poor posture.

    If you have a tendency to slouch when running, then that puts a strain on the muscles in that area. As a result, it creates pressure on your upper body, which then leads to that familiar ache afterwards.

    In particular, it affects how you swing your arms when running, as they are used to propel you forward for momentum and, in general, more effectiveness as you move forward.
  • Tense shoulders.

    This goes hand-in-hand with having poor posture: when you tense your shoulders and back while running, it creates an unnecessary burden on other parts of your body as well. For instance, it affects the chest muscles which cause the shoulders to push inward and strain the muscles and tendons along and near the back.
  • Shoulder injuries.

    If you have a history of shoulder injuries, then it can be a cause of your shoulder pain now as you run. Depending on how severe the injury was and how long it took for it to heal, it might affect how you swing your arms, as well as how your posture is. Either way, it is not a pleasant feeling to experience, especially when you are doing what you love, namely, running.
  • Referred pain. This type of pain is associated with pain found in other parts of the body in which you are not even aware of. For instance, shoulder pain can be a sign of heart disease, even though they appear to be unrelated to each other.

    While extreme, it might help to consult with a doctor to make sure that it is not referred pain and that it is only a matter of tense muscles and bad posture.

2. What are the muscles affected in the process?

As briefly mentioned in the previous section, much of the muscle affected during this particular type of pain include, evidently, those found in the shoulder and back. However, they can also be found in other parts of the body, including the chest, neck, and lower back.

In essence, most of the upper body muscles are put under lots of pressure due to the shoulder pain, let alone tendons and bones, which can then lead to further injuries not necessarily associated with the shoulder itself (e.g. neck strain, headaches, arm pain, etc.).

3. How can I relieve and recover from shoulder pain?

Considering that the shoulder is one of the more complex structures found in the body (next to joints like the elbow and knees), it can be tricky to target that specific area for a solid, speedy recovery.

Granted, it will take time to heal, but by taking some of these measures listed below, you can assure that your shoulder pain can be alleviated, even if just a little bit:

  • RICE. Short for “rest, ice, compress, and elevate,” RICE is a common practice for alleviating just about any sports injury pain out there, from twisted ankles to shoulder pain.

    Essentially speaking, it is a matter of placing the injured area on an elevated surface while at the same time applying pressure from the ice to the affected region of the body.

    It is also important, though, to make sure that you do not over-ice, for it can do more harm than good on your body’s nerves. Aim for no more than twenty to thirty minutes per session.
  • Medication. Especially if your muscles are inflamed and/or swollen, taking over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medication can be a good idea to consider.

    Just like with icing, it can reduce the pain and swelling for a while, thereby making you more comfortable to go about your daily activities, e.g. running. Ibuprofen is a good one to consider taking for the pain.
  • Improve your posture. While it can be difficult, forcing yourself to stand up straight and lock your back will do wonders when it comes to getting rid of muscle and tendon pain in the shoulders.

    Even when you are not running, keeping your back straight and firm while walking or sitting up can make all of the difference. You will need to remind yourself every time you start slouching, but it is guaranteed that your muscles will be more relaxed and you can take in more oxygen from your chest muscles by doing so.
  • Stretch it out. Taking the extra few minutes to stretch before and after your run is not only very satisfying, but also relaxes your muscles in the process. Placing your arms in the air and holding over-the-head stretches will slowly take off that edge and as a result alleviate tension from your body.
  • Physical therapy. While not necessary for every single case, physical therapy can be an effective way for people to recover from shoulder pain, especially when seeking professional help.

    Not only will you be stretching out muscles, but you will also be performing activities to strengthen and enhance your body’s alignment for an improved running experience.

Take away message

Truth be told, much of our shoulder pain stems from improper running form and/or past injuries. While painful, taking these steps to recover from it can be a very rewarding process:

  • Ice when possible
  • If needed, take OTC anti-inflammatory medication.
  • ​Improve your posture
  • Perfom stretches and if necessary, seek professional help

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