What can I do about shoulder pain at the end of long runs?

Getty Images

When I do a long run I get pain in my shoulders during the latter stages. What can I do to solve this? - Marie Dwyer, via email

If the pain is achy in nature and it’s not experienced at a specific range of shoulder motion then it’s probably referred pain from your neck. There’s a bundle of nerves called the brachial plexus that travels from the neck down the shoulder and arm. It’s common for these nerves to become irritated or compressed. Your pain is occurring towards the end of a run, which means it’s likely to be a postural-type complaint. It’s also possible for the ache to lead to shoulder muscle weakness owing to interference with the nerve supply to the muscles.

To help alleviate the pain, try lying on your back with a pillow under your head, then gently push your head against the pillow, tucking your chin in but ensuring you don’t flex your head forward. Hold for five seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat three times. If you’re at work, this movement can be carried out either standing against a wall or sitting, making it possible to do the exercise several times a day. Massage would also be useful to get rid of muscle spasm that could be exacerbating it; and physio to work on gentle spinal movements may help, too.

I’d advise ending your long run at the point where the pain starts to come on and gradually build the distance back up as your condition improves.

Shoulder pain can be a sign of a more serious problem, so make an appointment to see your GP if it persists.