If your body is correctly aligned, your shoulders will be at the same height and facing forward.
Uneven shoulders occur when one shoulder is higher than the other. This can be a slight or significant difference and may be due to several causes. Luckily, there are steps you can take to bring your body back into balance and alignment.
Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for uneven shoulders.
Several factors can lead to uneven shoulders. Often the shoulder on the dominant side of your body is a little lower.
Misalignments can be caused by something as simple as:
- always using one hand or side of your body for writing
- carrying a heavy bag
- going about your daily activities
Uneven shoulders can also happen when you have structural issues or muscular skeletal imbalances in the body. This may include legs that vary in length or scoliosis.
Uneven shoulders can also be the result of an imbalance somewhere else in the body. Think of it as a domino effect. For example, if you hurt your ankle or hip, it will cause you to bring your body out of alignment as you adjust to how you hold and move your body.
Playing sports and certain injuries can cause muscular imbalances, especially in the upper body. Asymmetrical sports such as tennis, golf, and baseball are especially likely to cause uneven shoulders and postural imbalances.
Other common causes of uneven shoulders include:
- poor posture
- sedentary lifestyle
- uneven hips
- pinched nerve
- flat feet
- shoulder injuries
- weak or tight muscles
- overuse or misuse of the shoulders
- incorrect sleeping position or only sleeping on one side
- using one side of the body to hold objects
If you have uneven shoulders you may experience neck, shoulder, and lower back pain, especially if you have other imbalances in the body. You may feel tightness and pulling in the shoulder that’s higher. Your shoulders may be rounded and your head may not be in line with your pelvis. Headaches, bursitis, and tendonitis may also occur.
If your shoulders are uneven due to scoliosis, you may have an uneven waist and one shoulder blade that’s more prominent than the other. One hip may also be higher than the other.
There are many ways to treat uneven shoulders.
Regular therapeutic massages help to relieve muscle tension and increase flexibility. Make an appointment with a massage therapist who specializes in myofascial release or Rolfing. These specialties focus on bringing the body into balance and alignment. You can also have treatment sessions with a chiropractor, osteopath, or physiotherapist.
It’s a good idea to engage in regular exercise and participate in sports as much as possible. Yoga, swimming, and rowing can help to strengthen and realign your body. Martial arts such as tai chi may be beneficial as well.
Make it a practice to check in with your posture continually throughout the day. It may be helpful to use a mirror. Become aware of your posture not only while you’re standing or sitting, but as you’re completing your usual activities. Start using your nondominant arm as much as you can to balance out the workload.
Incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine can help you to relieve stress, tension, and tightness in the body. This may include meditation, breathing techniques, or anything else that helps you to relax.
Doing exercises will help you to stretch and strengthen your body and shoulders. This may promote symmetrical alignment and balance in your body, help to lengthen your spine, and increase mobility. Do these exercises at least three times per week to even out your shoulders. It’s best if you can do them in a few short spurts throughout the day. You’ll need dumbbells and a resistance band for a few of the exercises.
- Bring your arms to your sides and align your spine.
- Squeeze and lift your shoulders up toward your ears.
- Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax your shoulders back down
- Continue for 30 seconds.
Ear to shoulder stretch
- Sit or stand with your head and neck in a straight line.
- Keep your shoulders still as you tilt your head toward your shoulder.
- Use your hand to hold onto or massage your opposite shoulder.
- Or gently pull your head down toward your shoulder.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Do this stretch at least 2 times on each side.
Shoulder blade squeezes
- While standing, bring your arms alongside your body.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down.
- Hold for a few breaths.
- Release to the starting position.
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Reverse prayer pose
- Bring the backs of your hands together behind your back with your fingertips pointing down.
- Open your chest and bring your shoulders back.
- Flips your hands so that your fingers are pointing up.
- Bring your palms together, pressing into your hands and drawing your elbows back.
- Remain in this pose for 30 seconds.
- Do this stretch a few times throughout the day.
Resistance band shoulder squeezes
- Hook a resistance band around something sturdy and hold it in both hands.
- Turn your hands so your thumbs are up and your pinkies are down.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring your hands back. (This can be done with your arms at shoulder level and at hip level.)
- Then, turn your hands so your fingers are facing down.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades and pull your hands toward your hips.
- Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions for all three stretches.
Resistance band arm stretch sequence
- Stand with your feet as wide as your hips.
- Grab onto the resistance band and bring both arms in front of your body so they’re parallel to the floor.
- Squeeze your arms together, then release.
- Then, raise your arms straight up, so they’re touching your ears.
- Try to make a “T” with your arms by stretching the band as wide as possible and return to the original position.
- Next, lower the band so it’s behind your neck and hold this position for a few breaths.
- Then, lift it back up again.
Do 3 sets of 12 for all three stretches.
- Sit on the edge of a bench with your waist bent forward.
- Face toward the floor and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Lift your arms out and up as you contract your shoulder blades.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, keeping your arms parallel to the floor.
- Return to the starting position.
- Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Overhead external shoulder rotation
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and lift your arm so your elbow is at shoulder height and your hand is down.
- Rotate your shoulder to bring your arm up so your hand is up toward the ceiling.
- Return to the original position.
- Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each side.
Your shoulders won’t snap back into place immediately. However, if you commit to a course of action and are consistent in your approach, you should see results. It will probably take a few weeks to see improvements, and several months for your shoulders to be fully brought into alignment. Aim for steady progress instead of overnight success. Be consistent and patient as you make changes to bring about positive results.
See a doctor if your condition does not improve or if you have any questions about your condition and treatment.