Poor posture and tensing your shoulder muscles can lead to aching shoulders and inefficient jogging mechanics or arm swings. Upper body misalignments and shoulder injuries can contribute to shoulder pain and aching as well. Treatment includes rest, ice and anti-inflammatory drugs to control pain and inflammation, and stretches to improve posture. For further guidance, consult your physician.
Your arms move opposite of your legs during jogging when your right arm swings forward with your left leg and your left arm swings forward with your right leg. This helps to provide stability and a smooth gait pattern. For example, a 2008 Washington University study found that muscles of your upper back, neck and shoulders stabilized the upper body during jogging and arm swings, preventing excessive side-to-side shoulder rotation.
Posture and Alignment
Misalignment of your upper spine or weak and tight muscles can cause poor posture such as slouching forward and can increase the stress placed on your shoulders during arm swings. For example, tight chest muscles can pull your shoulders forward, straining the muscles and tendons behind your shoulder. Overtime this causes inflammation, muscle spasms and achiness. A misalignment of your upper or cervical spine can also impinge nerves, which may lead to shoulder pain and numbness or tingling. Untreated cervical misalignment can develop into cervical arthritis or a herniated disc, impairing shoulder function and further aggravating your shoulders.
Overuse of your shoulders and surrounding muscles may lead to injury and achiness as well. Injuries include tendinitis, bursitis and impingement syndrome, which is when tendons are pinched around your shoulder. Injuries and wear and tear can also lead to shoulder arthritis or degeneration of your shoulder’s cartilage. As you move your arthritic shoulder, the bones rub together causing bone spurs and shoulder pain. Although arthritis may be present in both shoulders, shoulder injuries are more likely to afflict only one shoulder at any given time.
In some cases, shoulder pain or achiness is referred pain and indicates a serious problem unrelated to your shoulder. Heart disease or a heart attack, gallbladder disease and other conditions affecting various organs can result in referred pain in your shoulders. With referred pain, movement of your shoulder does not solicit more pain. Instead, the stress placed on your cardiovascular system and the jarring movements of jogging may aggravate these conditions or problems.
Treatment and Prevention
If referred pain is suspected, seek immediate medical attention. Otherwise, rest, ice, and take anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen to alleviate aching. Perform stretches for your chest, shoulders, upper back and neck to improve joint alignment and posture. A physical therapist, massage therapist or chiropractor can also help improve the function, flexibility and alignment of your shoulders. Surgery may be necessary for severe arthritis and injuries. When you return to running, focus on maintaining proper upright posture with your back straight and keeping shoulders relaxed during arm swings to avoid shoulder pain.
- “The Journal of Experimental Biology”; Control and Function of Arm Swing in Human Walking and Running; Herman Pontzer, et al.; November 2008
- “Stretching”; Suzanne Martin, P.T., D.P.T; 2005
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Shoulder Impingement and Rotator Cuff Tendinitis; February 2011
- Frozen Shoulder Workbook; Clair Davies