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The MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide - Part 1 - The Upper Body

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Welcome to the inaugural segment of the MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide. With a foundation of three decades of running expertise, this series is designed to uplift your running experience while reducing the risk of injury. In this kick-off piece, we shine a light on the often overlooked yet pivotal role of the upper body in running biomechanics. Although legs often steal the spotlight, your upper body is crucial in ensuring stability and efficiency during your run.

The arm swing in running is multifaceted, aiding in offsetting rotational forces induced by leg movement, setting the running cadence, assisting in forward propulsion, and mitigating the impact on foot strike. These functions are harmoniously managed by key muscles such as the deltoids, pectorals, and trapezius, along with the biceps and triceps. Additionally, your core muscles contribute an extra dimension of rotational stability, showcasing a holistic interplay of muscular coordination that enhances your running performance.

Article Index:

Anatomical Structures


Conclusion & References


Anatomy and Biomechanics

Running is akin to a well-orchestrated symphony, each part of our body playing a crucial role in producing the harmonious rhythm of movement. However, just like a single discordant note can unsettle a musical performance, irregularities in our body's functioning can disrupt the elegant mechanics of our running stride.

Our focus here is the upper body - a collection of key anatomical structures whose dysfunction can substantially alter our running dynamics. Let's explore these structures in detail, understanding their roles and the significant impacts their malfunctions can wield:


  • Swing Discrepancies: Ineffective deltoids could result in a restrained or overemphasized arm swing, disrupting balance and stride rhythm.

  • Shoulder Discomfort: Pain or unease in the shoulder area, a result of deltoid dysfunction, may interfere with arm swing and overall running posture.


  • Restricted Arm Advance: Pectoral dysfunction may hinder the arm's forward swing, potentially diminishing forward propulsion and body lift.

  • Chest Tension: Improper functioning of the pectorals may lead to tightness or discomfort in the chest, potentially impairing breathing and overall running efficiency.


  • Modified Shoulder Shrug: An exaggerated or minimized shoulder shrug during running, a possible result of trapezius dysfunction, may disrupt the arm swing and running rhythm.

  • Neck or Shoulder Unease: Discomfort in the neck or shoulder area, resulting from trapezius dysfunction, could impact head position and overall running posture.

Biceps and Triceps:

  • Restrained Arm Flexion and Extension: Impaired functioning of the biceps or triceps could limit the arm's full flexion or extension during the swing, potentially reducing running efficiency and rhythm.

  • Upper Arm Tension: Dysfunction in the biceps or triceps may lead to tightness or discomfort in the upper arm, which could interfere with the arm swing and overall running performance.

Latissimus Dorsi

  • Altered Arm Swing: A restriction in the latissimus dorsi can lead to a limited range of motion in the arm swing. This could disrupt the rhythm and balance of a runner's stride, affecting overall running efficiency.

  • Impaired Upper Body Rotation: The latissimus dorsi is vital in maintaining upper body stability during running. Restrictions in this muscle can impede the smooth rotational movements of the torso, possibly leading to compromised posture and stride mechanics.


Visual Cue Checklist for Runner's Upper Body


  • Uneven arm swing

  • Visible shoulder discomfort


  • Limited forward arm swing

  • Hunched shoulders


  • Excessive shoulder shrug

  • Neck tilt

Biceps & Triceps

  • Incomplete arm flexion/extension

  • Upper arm stiffness

Latissimus Dorsi

  • Constrained arm swing

  • Limited torso rotation


Motion Specific Release (MSR)

Using MSR manual therapy, runners can enhance performance and lower injury risk by treating fascial and joint constraints. These limitations often arise from habitual motion, bad posture, or past injuries, impeding movement and muscle effectiveness. MSR improves range of motion and muscle coordination, allowing for efficient training, balanced muscle and joint loading, and reduced tissue strain—resulting in improved performance and decreased injury risks.

Upper Body MSR Demonstration Video

MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide - Part 1 - In this video Dr. Abelson demonstrated how to release key structure in the upper extremity



In conclusion, the MSR Runner's Maintenance Guide opens the door to a world where improved biomechanics lead to transformative running experiences. This first installment sheds light on the underestimated, yet vital, role of the upper body in running dynamics. From the multifunctional arm swing orchestrated by key muscles to the foundational stability provided by the core, our upper body acts as a pivotal mechanism in running efficiently and safely.

Our visual cues serve as a quick checklist for diagnosing upper body dysfunctions that can hamper your performance and increase the risk of injuries. Implementing Motion Specific Release (MSR) therapy can correct these anomalies by tackling the underlying fascial and joint limitations. In doing so, MSR offers a way not just to mitigate injuries but also to reach new heights in your running performance.



Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.


Revolutionize Your Practice with Motion Specific Release (MSR)!

MSR, a cutting-edge treatment system, uniquely fuses varied therapeutic perspectives to resolve musculoskeletal conditions effectively.

Attend our courses to equip yourself with innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly integrate into your clinical practice and empower your patients by relieving their pain and restoring function. Our curriculum marries medical science with creative therapeutic approaches and provides a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment methods.

Our system offers a blend of orthopedic and neurological assessments, myofascial interventions, osseous manipulations, acupressure techniques, kinetic chain explorations, and functional exercise plans.

With MSR, your practice will flourish, achieve remarkable clinical outcomes, and see patient referrals skyrocket. Step into the future of treatment with MSR courses and membership!



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