5 Causes of Shoulder Pain After Running Plus 5 Easy Ways To Prevent It

As a runner, you’re prone to feeling sore in different regions of your body after a hard run. It’s quite normal to feel tightness in your legs, lower back, and even your shoulders. But is it alright to experience sharp shoulder pain after running?

The answer to your question is that runners might face shoulder pain during and after their runs if their form isn’t correct. Other times, it’s due to holding too much tension in their upper body muscles or not gradually increasing their weekly mileage.

However, these causes aren’t the only ones responsible for why you’re ending up with shoulder pain after your jogs. This is why we’ll discuss each scenario behind this problem in more detail in this article.

We’ll also discuss how to deal with the soreness in your shoulders and share tips to help you keep upper body pain at bay in future runs.

5 Causes of Shoulder Pain After Running

What’s more annoying than walking with a constant ache in your shoulders is not knowing why it happens in the first place. This section is here to give you a few ideas on what you’ve been doing wrong to experience shoulder pain.

1.   You Have a Poor Running Posture

The most common cause of shoulder pain while running is poor form, which a lot of beginner runners may struggle with. If you’re doing the following things every time you go out for a jog, you’ll likely end up with soreness in your upper body muscles:

  • Lean your head forward
  • Round your shoulders
  • Raise your shoulders toward your ears

These positions put a lot of pressure on the muscles in your neck, and they’ll soon become overused and begin to hurt. After starting in your neck, the pain can simply spread to your shoulders and back.

2.   There’s Too Much Tension in Your Upper Body

5 Causes of Shoulder Pain After Running:upper body tension

Another reason why your shoulders feel too uncomfortable after your runs is that you might be tightening your upper body muscles more than you should. This sometimes happens without your realizing it as you try to up your pace or start to feel tired.

The increased tension in your neck and shoulder muscles then leads to fatigue, causing soreness in your shoulders. More often than not, too much tension in your upper body will result in neck pain, too.

3.   There’s A Sudden Boost in Physical Activity

Sometimes, having shoulder pain during and after your runs can be a normal reaction if you’ve taken up running only recently.

See, your muscles aren’t used to so much exertion as part of your daily routine. So, they’ll burn just a little bit after you push your body beyond its usual limits.

Typically, in this case, you won’t just feel pain in your shoulders, but it’ll be in every muscle you’ve moved during your jogs. You’ll mostly end up with sore legs, hips, back, arms, and neck.

Remember that feeling this discomfort all over your body, and especially in your shoulders, is also expected if you’ve suddenly increased the intensity of your runs.

Your body will take a while to adjust to the change in your running program, causing your shoulder muscles to hurt in the process.

4.   Your Upper Body Isn’t Strong Enough to Hold Proper Form

Maintaining the perfect running posture during a five-mile run can be challenging because of the long time and distance. This can especially be the case if your upper body muscles are weak and unused to exertion.

As a result, you might find yourself involuntarily leaning forward or swinging your arms across your chest without you noticing.

Once you’re done running, you might start to feel pain in your shoulders and neck and not realize that you’ve slipped into poor form in the middle of your run.

5.   You Hit the Ground With Your Heels Too Hard

It’s hard to see what your heels have to do with your shoulders at a first glance, but we’ll explain how this works.

If your heels are the first point of contact with the ground while you run, and they hit it hard, the resulting shock will travel all the way up your legs and to your upper body.

Then, the muscles that keep your shoulders in place will automatically contract as a response to every strike to absorb the shocks.

With repetitive strikes to your shoulder muscles, the area will soon get exhausted and become sore. This might explain the pain you feel in your shoulders after jogging.

When Should I Visit a Doctor About Shoulder Pain After Running

patient touching his shoulder

Thankfully, shoulder pain isn’t a sign of trouble as long as it only lasts for a while after your runs and disappears with enough rest and home remedies.

However, if this pain remains long afterward to prevent you from running comfortably or doing your daily activities, it might be an indicator of an injury. In this case, you must see a doctor to understand the real reason behind your pain and get the right treatment.

Here are a few scenarios where we advise you to seek medical help as soon as you can:

  • Intense pain in the shoulders that increases in severity over time
  • Persisting pain despite trying different home treatment options
  • Already having faced an upper-body injury (even if it’s been a while since the incident)

How to Deal With Shoulder Pain After Running

Now, if the pain in your shoulders is due to improper form or an increased tension in your shoulders, it’s quite easy to alleviate using many tried-and-true methods.

The most effective way to treat shoulder pain at home would be to use a pack of ice. Wrap it in a towel so that your skin doesn’t come in contact with it, then press it against the sore areas of your shoulder.

Your best bet is to keep the ice against your shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes and wait for about two hours. If the pain is still there, reapply the ice and repeat the entire process if necessary.

Stretching your upper body muscles can also help you minimize the pain in your shoulders. By working to smooth out the knots and tight spots in your shoulder muscles, you should start feeling more relaxed.

One way to stretch your shoulder muscles is to hold one arm behind your back and reach out for it with your other hand. Pull it down and move your head away from your shoulder.

After applying ice to the sore areas in your shoulders and doing several upper body stretches, you should get some rest. Lie low for at least 48 hours before doing any high-intensity physical activity.

Remember that you should still stick to your running routine as much as you can after your break. If the ache in your shoulders persists, you could take things down a notch with the intensity of your training.

If you’re still in too much pain, it’ll be time to visit a physiotherapist.

How to Prevent Shoulder Pain After Running in the Future

Of course, knowing exactly what might be causing you pain in the shoulders is the first step you should take so that you don’t fall into the same trap.

Once you determine whether it’s poor running form, weak shoulder muscles, extra tension in the upper body, or more, you can finally fix whatever you’ve been doing wrong.

1.   Make Sure Your Form Is Correct

Proper running form

Having the right body alignment while running is crucial to keep muscle strain and injuries at bay. But how do you know if you have a poor form problem in the first place?

Well, such tiny mistakes are easy to detect once you stand in front of a mirror and take a good look at yourself while you run as you normally do. This way, you should be able to see if you push your head forward or aggressively swing your arms across your body.

If you’re a beginner and aren’t sure what the proper running form is, your best bet is to consult a professional trainer so that they can set you on the right track. But just so you have an idea, the optimal posture to have while running includes:

  • Relaxing your pelvis
  • Keeping your spine straight
  • Bending your arms at 90 degrees to your torso
  • Leaning forward slightly with your body (not with your head)

2.   Relax Your Muscles While Running

Keeping your muscles a bit loose is always advisable while running not to end up with too much tension in them.

Just bear in mind that you shouldn’t relax your upper body muscles more than you should. If you do this, your shoulders will bounce with every step you take and end up sore.

The best way to release tension in your arms, neck, and shoulders is by:

  • Dropping your shoulders just a little bit
  • Shaking out your arms
  • Moving your arms and shoulders in a fluid, relaxed motion with each stride

3.   Strengthen Your Upper Body

We’ve previously discussed how having weaker upper body muscles can eventually lead to shoulder pain. This is why it’s a wonderful idea to incorporate strength training workouts into your schedule so that your muscles can endure more action.

Thankfully, there’s a wide selection of exercises you’re welcome to pick from, such as:

4.   Fix Your Aggressive Heel Strikes

If you tend to hit the ground with your heels hard, you’ll need to look for ways to keep that from happening. The best thing you can do here is to try and make adjustments to your running stride. You must ensure that your forefoot or midfoot is the first point of contact with the ground.

It might take some practice to achieve that goal after a long while of being a loyal heel striker. Yet, you should get there eventually with a good amount of determination.

Another way to help minimize the impact on your heels is to shop for a new pair of running shoes that are specially made to reduce shock.

5.   Increase the Intensity of Your Training Gradually

Our final piece of advice to reduce the chances of ending up with shoulder pain after running is to take things slow with your weekly mileage.

We know there’s a certain thrill in pushing yourself harder, especially if you’re getting ready to run a 10K, a half-marathon, or a full-fledged marathon.

However, putting more pressure on your body than what it’s prepared for can lead to undesirable consequences, including:

  • Getting overuse injuries and sore muscles
  • Needing longer and more frequent rests, which could hinder your overall progress
  • Facing sleeping issues
  • Struggling with mood swings
  • Feeling constant fatigue

Therefore, your best option is to use the 10-to-15% rule, which simply says that you should calculate 10 or 15% of your goal weekly mileage.

Then, increase your mileage each week by that amount and no more to gradually build up your endurance without getting hurt in the process.

Wrapping Up

Having shoulder pain after running isn’t a rare occurrence with runners, but it’s not something you should overlook. Whether it’s because of poor form or quickly increasing your weekly mileage, you should identify the cause and correct your mistakes to prevent injury.

Hopefully, after reading our article, you now have a better understanding of what might be causing you that annoying ache in your shoulders. You should also know how to treat sore shoulder muscles at home.

However, one of the most important things you should remember is that acute pain long after you’re done with your runs requires a visit to the doctor. You mustn’t ignore signs of trouble not to end up with more complicated injuries.

Happy running!