Ruck March Shoulder Pain – How to Avoid It

Xray result of a shoulder
Photo Credit: Gary Owen

Shoulder Pain from ruck marching is common among ruckers and soldiers. It’s caused by constant compression of the shoulder straps that can stop blood circulation and injure your nerve.

Constant compression from the weight load of the rucksack when rucking can cause shoulder pain and injuries. According to Technical Information paper published by the Army Public Health Center, A common shoulder injury among ruckers is known as “ruck sack palsy” (or Brachial plexus palsy). It’s when the shoulder straps of the rucksack or backpack causes tension injury of the nerve roots of the neck.

This same article also noted a different reason as to what can cause shoulder pain when rucking. Gender differences play a part when rucking. Women are more likely to hyperextend their necks and bring their shoulder farther forward compared to men in an effort to bring the center of load over their feet. This is probably due to the fact that women generally having less upper body strength compared to women.

Learn more about rucking for women here.

What to Do If you have Shoulder Pain from Ruck March

  1. Rest
  2. Ice your shoulders
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Medication (prescribed by your doctor is preferred)
  4. Cut back on the weight.
  5. Don’t Forget to maintain proper posture, learn more.
  6. Loosen your shoulder straps if they’re too tight to help your blood circulation.
  7. If possible, take breaks every hour or hour and a half, but not too long. You don’t want your body to cool down.
  8. Consider leaning your back against a tree or any other flat surface to relieve your shoulders
  9. Wear a Hip Belt (INTERNAL LINK) that alone can help reduce the feel of the weight by 30%.
  10. Wear a rucksack with a frame. Rucksacks with frames help to redistribute the weight more evenly across your body and alleviate your shoulders from the constant compression.

If the pain persist, please seek medical attention

Recommended Gear to Prevent Shoulder Pain

1. Wear a MOLLE Rucksack

The army public health center recommends wearing a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment) rucksack. That’s because it’s a lightweight rucksack with an external frame, adjustable shoulder straps, waist belt, and a vest with several pockets and detachable compartments to allow unit-specific customization.

Check out a MOLLE rucksack on amazon if you’re interested. Check out our best rucksack options.

2. Wear a Hip Belt

Hip Belts are sometimes included with rucksacks, if not you can buy them separately. When carrying a heavy load, the hip belt helps to redistribute the weight across your body and as mentioned, it will help avoid the shoulder pain when rucking.

Check out this hip belt on Amazon if you’re interest.

Adam Sheriff

Adam is an experienced rucker and has been in the game for the past 5 years. He competed in a local ruck challenge and was hooked ever since. He has been actively helping people get into rucking and has set up local ruck events to help spread the word and encourage more people to get in on the action. When he’s not out rucking or setting up ruck events in town, he manages

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