Why Your Shoulders and Neck Hurt When You Run

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

You would expect any pain you experience while runningto be located in your lower body, but that’s not always the case. Pounding the pavement can also cause discomfort in your neck and shoulders, according to Mike Reinold, D.P.T., co-founder of Champion Physical Therapy and Performance in Boston, Massachusetts.

Bad posture from years of sitting—at a desk, in a car, on a couch—doesn’t magically disappear when you head out for a run, explains Reinold.

To compensate for a slouchy stature, you may subconsciously hold your shoulders close to your ears or you may pull your shoulder blades together, according to Ian Torrence, assistant running coach and ultra marathon guru for McMillan Running Company.

Related: musclemorphosis.com

Those positions may not feel uncomfortable at first, but they can cause tension and tightness in your shoulder and neck muscles if you run that way for a long time or distance, says Reinold. 

But you can stop discomfort before it begins. The key: Be loose.

The more fluidly you move, the less likely you’ll be to tense up, according to Torrence. And the less pain you have from head to toe, the faster and longer you’ll be able to run.

Start with your hands, says Torrence. He recommends that while you run, pretend as if you’re holding potato chips in your hands. Don’t crush them. 

This will keep your hands and forearms slack to prevent extra tension from traveling into your shoulders and neck. Make sure you only have a slight bend in your elbows, he says. Too much bend can contribute to tight, high shoulders. 

Related: musclemorphosis.com

And your arms shouldn’t be the only body parts moving above your waist. Let your shoulders get in on the action, says Torrence. There’s no need to keep them completely stiff. 

“Move them in sync with your stride,” he explains. While you don’t want a lot of energy to leak from your shoulders, you can let them sway a bit with each step. This enables you to stay relaxed, cutting down on your desire to shrug them up or pull them back.