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Treating Pain When Running: Shoulders, Chest and More

Feb 07, 2024 | 2 min read

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Pain when running can stem from a variety of issues, including poor posture, muscle strains, improper footwear, or overuse injuries. Each area of discomfort—be it chest, heel, shoulder, calf, or lower back pain—has distinct signs and symptoms. 

Identifying these causes and symptoms helps determine effective prevention strategies and appropriate treatment options.

 

Chest Pain When Running

Common Causes

  • Overexertion or poor conditioning
  • Respiratory issues like asthma
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Dehydration or electrolyte imbalance

Signs and Symptoms: Look out for pressure, tightness, sharp pain, or difficulty breathing, especially if it's prolonged or worsening.

Prevention Strategies: Warm up thoroughly, maintain proper hydration, and incorporate posture exercises into your routine to improve breathing capacity.

When to Seek Medical Attention: Seek medical attention immediately if you experience severe pain, dizziness, nausea, or difficulty breathing while running.

Shoulder Pain When Running

Common Causes:

  • Postural Issues: Poor posture during running can cause excessive tension in the shoulders. Hunching over or shrugging the shoulders while running strains the muscles.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Weak back muscles and overactive chest muscles create imbalances, leading to shoulder pain.
  • Overuse or Injuries: Repetitive arm movements, particularly in trail or long-distance running, strain the shoulders. Existing shoulder injuries may flare up with continued running.

Signs and Symptoms: Tightness, soreness, or sharp pain in the shoulder joint, especially when moving your arms during running.

Prevention Strategies: Maintain a relaxed posture, strengthen your upper back muscles, and do warm-up stretches targeting the shoulders.

Treatment Options: Rest, ice packs, and anti-inflammatory medications are helpful. Persistent pain may require physical therapy or professional advice.

Lower Back Pain When Running

Common Causes:

  • Weak Core Muscles: Lack of core strength puts extra stress on the lower back muscles.
  • Improper Footwear: Running with shoes lacking support leads to improper alignment and lower back pain.
  • Overuse Injuries: Running long distances frequently without proper recovery can cause chronic back pain.
  • Spinal Issues: Pre-existing spinal problems like herniated discs may worsen with running.

Signs and Symptoms: Dull or sharp pain in the lower back that may radiate into the legs, indicating potential nerve compression.

Prevention Strategies: Strengthen your core, maintain a neutral spine while running, and wear supportive shoes.

Treatment Options: Stretching, core-strengthening exercises, and massage therapy can help, but consult a healthcare provider for persistent or severe pain.

Calf Pain When Running

Common Causes:

  • Muscle Strains: Sudden increases in speed or distance cause muscle strains due to overexertion.
  • Overuse Injuries: Continuous running without adequate recovery can lead to chronic calf pain.
  • Tight Muscles: Lack of stretching causes tight calf muscles, leading to discomfort.
  • Tendonitis: Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, can result in calf pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, Achilles tendinitis most commonly occurs in runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs. Overuse or improper footwear also contributes to this condition.

Signs and Symptoms: Sudden or gradual pain in the calf muscles, stiffness, or a tight sensation during or after running.

Prevention Strategies: Stretch your calves regularly, wear supportive shoes, and gradually increase running intensity.

Treatment Options: Rest, ice, and compression may provide relief, while severe or recurring pain might require professional guidance or physiotherapy.

Heel Pain When Running

Common Causes

  • Plantar fasciitis (inflamed tissue in the arch)
  • Achilles tendonitis (inflamed tendon)
  • Stress fractures due to overuse
  • Inadequate or worn-out footwear

Signs and Symptoms: Sharp pain under the heel or along the Achilles tendon, particularly in the morning or after running.

Prevention Strategies: Wear supportive shoes, stretch your calves, and avoid sudden increases in running intensity.

Treatment Options: Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications can provide relief, while persistent issues may require physical therapy or orthotics.

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