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You are currently viewing Can Nordic walking help with shoulder pain?

Our shoulder joint is the most complicated joint in our whole body, with the greatest range of motion. You can move it in ten different ways. Ten!  It is no surprise therefore that shoulder injury or impingement is one of the biggest issues for those of you who walk with us (statistically three in ten adults will experience shoulder pain), outstripping even back ache.  

A poorly functioning shoulder is immensely frustrating and impacts hugely on everyday life and sleep quality.  I know this from experience as a few years ago I was knocked off my road bike with my right shoulder taking the full impact of my fall.  It was the best part of a year of dedicated rehab before I felt I’d fully recovered my strength, stability and range of motion.

Interestingly, Nordic walking was one of the few things I could continue to do without aggravating my shoulder.  I’ve noticed that this is true for many of you too.  The simple forwards backwards arm swing movement felt comfortable and I could generate power without triggering discomfort.  

Whilst my shoulder injury was the consequence of a specific event, many people’s shoulder problems seem to creep up on them, developing gradually over time.  Ask yourself these questions:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

  • Is my shoulder stiff?
  • Am I unable to move my arm in every direction (up/down, in/out/, full circles backwards and forwards)?
  • Does my shoulder feel a bit unstable, like it could pop or slide out of the socket?
  • Does my shoulder seem to lack strength when I try and lift things, especially above my head?

If the answer to any of the above is ‘yes’ then maybe your shoulders need some care and attention by a trained professional.

The good news is that one of the by-products of our Nordic walking classes is shoulder health.   In particular the Nordic walking technique improves posture and strengthens the muscles between our shoulder blades, which in turn support and stabilise the shoulder (there is a high correlation between shoulder pain and poor posture). 

Our warm-ups and cool-downs also encourage shoulder mobility.  Kayaking, lifting the poles up and behind your head and the ‘half-Nelson’ type exercise shown in the above photo are particularly useful.  We also regularly include rotator cuff exercises in our ‘Nordic walking with exercises’ classes. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles crucial for shoulder strength but which is notoriously weak in many of us.

Whilst Nordic walking provides many shoulder benefits, don’t forget that we are not shoulder experts.  If the Nordic walking itself or any of our mobilisation exercises cause you pain or discomfort, stop doing it and book yourself an appointment with your doctor or a physio to get your shoulder checked out.