A good friend of mine asked me to write an article or post about the phenomena of mid-upper back pain when running. She has been getting back into running and was talking about this with a running friend. Soon they realized they were both suffering from the same ailment. So, as new-ish runners, why were they getting this annoying pain?
I do my best thinking when I run, so during my next run, I pondered this question. Ironically, I, too, noticed some discomfort around my shoulder blades. I thought about my kinematics and came up with 3 possible reasons for this mid-upper back pain.
The position of your arms
Notice if you are holding your shoulders and elbows tight. Are you lifting your shoulders a lot or keeping tension in your very flexed elbows? Shake them out on occasion, and then let them hang relatively loose with a comfortable bend in your elbows.
Are your hands in front of your body? Try to swing your arms at your sides with your fists/hands facing forward.
Your breathing pattern
Notice how you are breathing. Basically, there are 2 primary ways to think about breathing, shallow and deep. When we run fast, we often breathe more shallow to get our air in and out quicker. If we do this for an extended period of time, we may strain several smaller neck and shoulder muscles that aid in this quick respiration process. This may be why you feel that upper back tension. If you notice this, slow down a bit and focus on taking several deeper breaths.
When you breathe deeper and use your primary breathing muscle, the diaphragm, it extends your rib cage in all directions. This is a good thing. However, if you are not used to this, it can stress several muscles in that area leading to discomfort. No worry, you are not hurting yourself - your body just needs to practice breathing in this way.
Runners often slouch or sort of round their backs when they run. Take note if this is you. There really is no perfect running posture. In fact, the best posture is the NEXT one. Holding one position too long can aggravate our muscles. If you find yourself sort of “stuck” in the same position, simply change it up a bit and see how that makes you feel.
I hope this answered my friend’s question and helped some of you out there! Bottom line, next time you run, spend some time noticing what you notice in your body.
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