Shoulder Pain When Running: Causes, Symptoms, and How to Prevent It

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Running is a fantastic way to stay fit and active, but it can also lead to various injuries, including shoulder pain. Shoulder pain while running can be caused by different factors, such as overuse, poor running form, or even previous injuries. In this article, we will explore four common shoulder injuries that runners may encounter and provide valuable prevention tips to help you stay pain-free and continue running.

Injury #1: Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

One of the most common shoulder injuries experienced by runners is rotator cuff tendinitis. The rotator cuff consists of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. When these tendons become inflamed or irritated, it can result in pain and discomfort.

The symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis include pain when raising or lowering the arm, weakness, and a limited range of motion. This injury often occurs due to repetitive overhead motions, such as swinging the arms while running, especially if performed with incorrect form.

To prevent rotator cuff tendinitis, it is essential to maintain proper running form. Avoid excessive swinging of the arms and ensure that your shoulders are relaxed and not elevated while running. Gradually increase your running intensity and duration to allow your muscles and tendons to adapt gradually.

Injury #2: Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome is another common cause of shoulder pain when running. This condition occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become compressed or pinched between the bones of the shoulder joint.

The symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome include pain on the top of the shoulder or the front of the arm, weakness, and difficulty reaching overhead. This injury can be aggravated by repetitive overhead activities, such as running with improper arm positioning.

To prevent shoulder impingement syndrome, it is crucial to maintain good posture while running. Keep your shoulders relaxed and avoid excessive rounding of the upper back. Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint through specific exercises can also help prevent this injury.

Injury #3: Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is located where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. An AC joint sprain occurs when the ligaments supporting this joint are stretched or torn. This injury is often caused by a fall or a direct blow to the shoulder.

Symptoms of an AC joint sprain may include pain at the top of the shoulder, swelling, and tenderness. Runners may experience this injury due to a sudden impact or fall while running on uneven terrain.

To prevent an AC joint sprain, it is crucial to be mindful of your surroundings while running. Stay focused and watch for any potential hazards that could lead to a fall. Additionally, wearing proper protective gear, such as shoulder pads or braces, can provide extra support and reduce the risk of injury.

Injury #4: Biceps Tendinitis

Biceps tendinitis is an injury that affects the tendon attaching the biceps muscle to the shoulder. It can occur due to repetitive overhead movements, such as those involved in running, especially when the arm motion is not coordinated correctly.

The symptoms of biceps tendinitis include pain in the front of the shoulder, weakness, and a clicking or snapping sensation when moving the arm. This injury is often associated with poor running form and excessive strain on the shoulder joint.

To prevent biceps tendinitis, it is essential to focus on proper arm positioning while running. Your arms should swing naturally and not cross the midline of your body. Strengthening the muscles around the shoulder joint through targeted exercises can also help prevent this injury.

Prevention Tips for Shoulder Pain When Running

In addition to the specific prevention tips mentioned for each injury, here are some general tips to help you prevent shoulder pain when running:

  1. Warm up before your run: Perform dynamic stretches and exercises to warm up the muscles around your shoulders and upper body.
  2. Maintain proper form: Pay attention to your running form, including arm positioning, shoulder relaxation, and overall posture.
  3. Gradual progression: Increase your running intensity and duration gradually to allow your muscles and tendons to adapt to the stress.
  4. Strengthening exercises: Incorporate exercises that target the muscles around the shoulder joint, such as shoulder presses, rows, and external rotations.
  5. Cross-training: Include cross-training activities that engage different muscle groups to reduce the repetitive strain on your shoulders.
  6. Listen to your body: If you experience any pain or discomfort, reduce your running intensity or take a break to allow your body to recover.

Conclusion: Stay Pain-Free and Keep Running

Shoulder pain when running can be a frustrating setback for any runner. By understanding the common shoulder injuries experienced by runners and implementing the prevention tips mentioned, you can reduce the risk of experiencing shoulder pain and continue enjoying your runs.

Remember, maintaining proper running form, gradually increasing intensity, and incorporating strengthening exercises are key factors in preventing shoulder injuries. By taking care of your shoulders, you can stay pain-free and keep running for years to come.


Q: How long does it take to recover from rotator cuff tendinitis?

A: The recovery time for rotator cuff tendinitis varies depending on the severity of the injury and individual factors. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months with proper rest, rehabilitation exercises, and medical treatment if necessary.

Q: Can shoulder impingement syndrome go away on its own?

A: Mild cases of shoulder impingement syndrome may resolve with rest, ice, and modifications to activities. However, more severe cases may require physical therapy, medications, or even surgery to alleviate symptoms and restore proper shoulder function.

Q: Can I continue running with an AC joint sprain?

A: It is essential to consult with a medical professional before continuing running with an AC joint sprain. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may need to modify your running routine or temporarily switch to low-impact exercises until the joint has healed.

Q: How can I prevent biceps tendinitis while running?

A: To prevent biceps tendinitis while running, focus on maintaining proper arm positioning and coordination. Avoid excessive strain on the shoulder joint and incorporate exercises that strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and biceps.

Q: Should I stretch before running to prevent shoulder pain?

A: Dynamic stretching before running can help warm up the muscles and prepare them for activity. However, static stretching before running is not recommended as it may decrease muscle power and increase the risk of injury.

Q: Can cross-training help prevent shoulder injuries while running?

A: Yes, cross-training is beneficial for preventing shoulder injuries while running. Engaging in activities such as swimming, yoga, or strength training can help strengthen different muscle groups and reduce the repetitive strain on your shoulders.

Q: When should I seek medical attention for shoulder pain while running?

A: If shoulder pain persists, worsens, or significantly limits your ability to run or perform daily activities, it is advisable to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options.

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