Running is very common and while most people associate running with pain in the feet, knees, and legs, your shoulders and neck can get painful once you are done with your run. While your lower body might do most of the work while running, your upper body contributes a lot as well. Discomfort in the shoulders is often a result of poor posture, but there are other reasons that might contribute to this pain too.
1. Inadequate Stretching
Any form of exercise requires that you loosen up the body through a warm-up session. Stretching your shoulders, back and neck is the best way to get warmed up for a run. Nodding your head and rotating your neck right and left are great ways to stretch the neck as well as the muscles near the shoulders.
Next, move your arms backward and forwards as well as side to side to prepare your joints and muscles for the run. Once you are done running, stretch and massage any muscles that might feel tight or painful.
2. Clenching Your Fists
When you clench your hands or make a fist while running, the tension this action causes travels upwards through your arms to your neck and shoulders. If your shoulders hurt after running, try letting your hands hang at your sides. If you find this hard to do, try holding a loose object which allows your hands to be more relaxed while running.
3. Pumping Your Arms
Appropriate arm motion is important for your running posture and is a great way of maintaining momentum and saving some energy while running. When you move your arms excessively, you end up causing a lot of strain on your shoulders and neck which translates to pain over time.
To prevent these unwanted motions, move your shoulders back and down and hold your arms at 90 degrees at the elbow. When you do this, a smooth motion will occur at the shoulders and not at the elbows thereby reducing strain.
4. Poor Running Form
When running, your body will always follow your eyes. Looking at the ground when running affects the way you hold your neck and shoulders, causing you to bring your shoulders towards your ears, round them, or swing your arms too hard to maintain balance.
These movements can cause rotator cuff injuries over time. The inflammation at the shoulder joints caused by these injuries can get worse when the area is compressed, such as when you are sleeping. If you have shoulder pain that gets worse at night, you should consider changing your mattress. The best mattresses for shoulder pain provide a medium to soft comfort level, which helps reduce compression on the shoulders when sleeping, thereby helping to reduce shoulder pain.
5. Low Back Mobility and Flexibility
There are several reasons why your upper and middle back might not be as flexible and mobile as they should be. Common reasons include sitting throughout the day or not getting enough sleep. When you run with tightness in your upper and middle back, you are a lot more likely to experience shoulder and neck pain.
Stretching, massages and foam rolling help improve flexibility and mobility of the thoracic spine, which reduces tightness in the upper and middle back thereby helping reduce pain and discomfort in the neck and shoulders during and after a run.
Although runners expect some aches and pains in their lower body after a run, pain in your shoulders can indicate issues with your running posture or other aspects of your life such as being immobile all day or not having an optimal sleeping posture. Once you are aware of the reasons why you have shoulder pain during or after a run, you can begin taking measures to correct these issues.