Walking With Shoulder Pain: Tips for Relief and Recovery

shoulder pain when walking

If you’ve ever experienced shoulder pain while walking, you understand how it can disrupt even the simplest of daily activities. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the common causes of shoulder pain during walking, explore effective treatments to alleviate discomfort, and provide you with exercises to help you regain your stride and mobility. Don’t let shoulder pain hold you back; let’s take the first steps towards a pain-free walk.

There are several reasons for it. Let’s explore those reasons behind shoulder pain when walking one by one:

  • Poor Posture: Maintaining an improper posture while walking can put undue stress on your shoulder joints. Slouching or leaning forward can strain the muscles and ligaments around your shoulders.
  • Carrying Heavy Bags: Carrying heavy backpacks, purses, or bags on one shoulder can cause an imbalance in weight distribution. This can lead to overuse and strain in the shoulder muscles, resulting in pain.
  • Overuse or Repetitive Movements: Engaging in repetitive arm movements while walking, such as power walking or swinging your arms excessively, can strain the shoulder joint and its surrounding structures.
  • Rotator Cuff Issues: Conditions like rotator cuff tendinitis or tears can cause pain that radiates to the shoulder when walking. These injuries can be aggravated by arm movements during walking.
  • Nerve Compression: Nerves in the neck and upper back can become compressed due to poor posture or spinal issues. This can lead to referred pain in the shoulders while walking.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or bursitis can affect the shoulder joint. Walking may exacerbate the pain associated with these conditions.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Weakness or imbalances in the muscles supporting the shoulder joint can result in poor stability. This can lead to pain, especially during activities like walking that involve arm movement.
  • Trauma or Injury: Previous shoulder injuries, such as a dislocation, fracture, or sprain, can cause persistent pain, which may be triggered or worsened by walking.
  • Age-Related Changes: As we age, the shoulder joint may undergo degenerative changes, leading to conditions like osteoarthritis. Walking can exacerbate the discomfort caused by these changes.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Inflammatory conditions like bursitis or tendonitis can cause pain in the shoulder area. The repetitive arm swinging motion during walking may aggravate these conditions.

Understanding these factors can help you identify the root cause of your shoulder pain while walking, paving the way for effective treatment and relief.

Treatment for Shoulder Pain When Walking
Treatment for Shoulder Pain When Walking

Addressing shoulder pain when walking involves a combination of self-care, medical interventions, and physical therapy. Here are some treatment approaches:

  • Rest and Ice: If your shoulder pain is mild and related to overuse, start with rest. Apply ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation.
  • Pain Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation. Follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare provider if necessary.
  • Posture Correction: Focus on maintaining proper posture while walking. Stand or walk with your shoulders relaxed and your back straight. Avoid slouching or leaning forward.
  • Reduce Bag Weight: If carrying a bag is contributing to your shoulder pain, minimize the weight you carry. Consider using a backpack with two shoulder straps to distribute weight evenly.
  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can design a customized exercise program to improve shoulder strength and flexibility. These exercises can address muscle imbalances and improve overall joint stability.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: In cases of severe pain and inflammation, a doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections into the shoulder joint to provide targeted relief.
  • Ultrasound Therapy: This non-invasive treatment uses ultrasound waves to generate heat and promote blood flow to the affected area, aiding in the healing process.
  • Activity Modification: Adjust your walking routine to reduce strain on your shoulders. Avoid excessive arm swinging or high-impact activities that worsen your pain.
  • Massage Therapy: Consider massage therapy to relax tight shoulder muscles and improve circulation. A skilled therapist can work on specific areas to relieve pain.
  • Orthopedic Evaluation: If your pain persists or worsens, consult an orthopedic specialist for a thorough evaluation. They can identify any structural issues or underlying conditions requiring specific treatment.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary, especially if there’s a significant structural problem, such as a rotator cuff tear. Surgical options range from minimally invasive arthroscopy to traditional open surgery.

It’s essential to consult a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of your shoulder pain and create an appropriate treatment plan. Delaying treatment can lead to further complications or chronic pain, so seek medical attention promptly if needed.

Exercises For Shoulder Pain When Walking

Experiencing shoulder pain while walking can be discomforting, but specific exercises can help alleviate the pain and improve your shoulder’s strength and mobility. Here are some exercises tailored to address shoulder pain when walking:

Pendulum Exercise

  • Stand or lean over a table with your unaffected arm supporting your upper body.
  • Allow your affected arm to hang freely.
  • Gently swing your affected arm in small circles, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
  • Perform 10-15 circles in each direction.
  • This exercise helps relax and gently mobilize the shoulder joint.

Shoulder Blade Squeezes

Shoulder Blade Squeezes for ankylosing spondylitis in neck

  • Sit or stand with your arms by your sides.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to hold a pencil between them.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Repeat this exercise for 10-15 repetitions.
  • Shoulder blade squeezes help improve posture and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades.

Wall Angels

Wall Angels

  • Stand with your back against a wall, feet about 6 inches away from the wall.
  • Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, so your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly slide your arms up the wall as far as you can without pain, keeping your elbows and wrists in contact with the wall.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds, then slide your arms back down.
  • Perform 10-15 repetitions.
  • Wall angels improve shoulder mobility and strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.

Isometric Shoulder Exercises

  • Hold a small ball, rolled-up towel, or resistance band between your hands.
  • Gently press your hands together while keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  • Hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds, then relax.
  • Repeat this exercise 10-15 times.
  • Isometric exercises engage the shoulder muscles without causing excessive movement.

Rotator Cuff Strengthening

  • Using a resistance band, anchor it at waist height.
  • Stand with your side to the anchor point and hold the band in your affected hand.
  • Keep your elbow bent at 90 degrees and your upper arm against your side.
  • Rotate your arm outward against the resistance of the band.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side.
  • This exercise targets the rotator cuff muscles for improved stability.

Remember to perform these exercises gently and without causing additional pain. If your shoulder pain persists or worsens, consult a healthcare provider or physical therapist for a comprehensive evaluation and a personalized exercise plan. Proper treatment and exercise can help you regain pain-free mobility while walking.

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy Shoulder

Physical therapy for shoulder pain when walking is a specialized approach to address discomfort and limitations individuals may experience while walking due to shoulder-related issues. This form of physical therapy is designed to improve shoulder function, reduce pain, and enhance mobility to enable comfortable and pain-free walking.

Components of Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain When Walking:

  1. Assessment: The initial step involves a thorough assessment of the patient’s condition. The physical therapist examines the shoulder’s range of motion, strength, and any structural abnormalities. They also assess the patient’s walking pattern to identify any compensatory movements caused by shoulder pain.
  2. Pain Management: Pain relief is a primary focus of therapy. Physical therapists use various techniques such as manual therapy, soft tissue mobilization, and modalities like heat or cold therapy to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the shoulder.
  3. Shoulder Strengthening Exercises: Tailored exercise programs are designed to target the specific muscles and structures in the shoulder that may be contributing to pain during walking. Strengthening exercises help improve stability and support for the shoulder joint.
  4. Range of Motion Exercises: Patients are guided through exercises that aim to increase the shoulder’s range of motion. This is crucial for ensuring that the shoulder functions optimally during walking.
  5. Posture and Gait Training: Physical therapists assess and correct posture and walking patterns that may be exacerbating shoulder pain. They teach patients proper body mechanics to minimize stress on the shoulder while walking.
  6. Functional Training: As patients progress, physical therapists incorporate functional movements and activities that mimic walking. This helps individuals regain confidence and comfort while walking.
  7. Home Exercise Program: Patients are often provided with a home exercise program to continue their progress independently. Consistent exercises at home can complement in-clinic therapy sessions.
  8. Education: Patients receive education on self-management techniques, such as ergonomic adjustments in daily activities, and strategies to prevent re-injury while walking.

Conditions Treated with Shoulder Pain When Walking:

Physical therapy for shoulder pain when walking can address a variety of conditions, including:

  • Rotator cuff injuries or tears
  • Tendonitis or tendinopathy
  • Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)
  • Arthritis in the shoulder joint
  • Nerve compression or impingement
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation following shoulder procedures

The goal of physical therapy for shoulder pain when walking is to enhance shoulder function, reduce discomfort, and ultimately improve the individual’s walking ability. Through a combination of hands-on techniques, targeted exercises, and patient education, physical therapists strive to help individuals regain pain-free and comfortable walking habits.


Physical therapy for shoulder pain when walking is a comprehensive and effective approach to address the discomfort and limitations caused by various shoulder-related issues. By combining tailored exercises, pain management techniques, posture correction, and functional training, individuals can experience significant improvements in shoulder function and mobility. The ultimate aim is to empower patients to walk comfortably and confidently, free from the constraints of shoulder pain. If you’re experiencing shoulder pain during walking, consulting with a skilled physical therapist can be a crucial step toward a pain-free and active lifestyle.

If you’re experiencing Shoulder pain, physical therapy for shoulder pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.